Prairie Creek

(Review added 09/01/13, last update 12/15.)

Prairie Creek

Prairie Creek view

Prairie Creek is a short paddle that belies the fact that it is right in Gainesville.  It is part of the new Potano State Paddling Trail which includes the circumnavigation of Newnans Lake.  Water level is critical in determining whether to paddle the Creek.  Too low and you will be climbing and crawling over downed trees and limbs.  Too high and you won’t be able to pass under the low Gainesville-Hawthorne bicycle path bridge just south of State Rd 20.  Like Juniper Creek, this is an adventure, not a “paddle in the park” trip.  Mind the water levels and have fun.

Prairie Creek, Camps Canal, kayaking

Camps Canal

The creek runs from Newnans Lake and historically drained into Paynes Prairie providing the basin with needed water.  In the 1930s a dam was constructed on Newnan’s Lake to control flooding and in the 1940s Camp’s Canal was built which diverted most of the water into Orange Lake via the River Styx.  By the 1980s the ecological damage of this diversion, especially to Paynes Prairie, was understood and the dam was removed.  However, most the water still flows down the canal due to many factors including flooding of private property in the area and fear of damage to the bass fishing in Orange Lake.   You will pass the metal water control structure at the point where the river stops its natural twists and you enter the ruler-straight canal, a little over 1 mile from the end.

Prairie Creek, Newnans Lake, water lily

Water lily on Newnan’s Lake

You may notice that the water in Newnans Lake and Prairie Creek is full of algal bloom and is a greenish color usually associated with agricultural or industrial runoff.  However, in this case it is due to the Hawthorn Formation – a clay layer sitting on top of the bedrock which is a gray/green color and full of natural phosphates. Sitting close to the surface in Alachua County, the lakes and streams here cut through the formation and pick up these natural phosphates which support a wide diversity of aquatic plants which in turn support vast numbers of fish and wildlife.

Prairie Creek, kayaking

Winding through the trees on Prairie Creek

The stretch between SR 20 to CR 234 gives the impression of wilderness even though the surrounding area (the vast majority of which is now protected) has been heavily impacted by over 12,000 years of human habitation.  Once past the Gainesville-Hawthorne bridge the only sign of this impact you are likely to see from the water is a transmission line you will parallel for a short distance.  Most of the time you will be winding through beautiful hardwood forest and then cypress trees.  You will usually see a wide variety of water birds, owls, song birds, and small gators.

Prairie Creek, Newnans Lake, Earl P. Powers Park, Powers Park, Powers boat ramp

Earl P. Powers boat ramp

If the water is not too high you can put in at Kate’s Fish Camp located right on State Rd 20 and Prairie Creek.  For a fee Kate’s may arrange a shuttle for you.  However, Newnan’s Lake has much to offer in the way of wildlife and plants and we like to put in at Earl P. Powers Park (a free city park) just to the west on SR 20 and skirt around the southwest end of the lake for about a mile.  A nice double boat ramp, plenty of parking, restrooms and picnic tables enhance the put-in.  The take out is where the Camps Canal crosses under CR 234 to the southeast.  There’s room for 2-3 cars on each side of the road there without blocking the gate.


Mileage One-Way
(Remember, “river left” is the left side of the river headed downstream.)

0.0       Earl P. Powers County Park
0.8       Leave Newnans Lake and enter Prairie Creek
0.9       Pass Kate’s Fish Camp, pass under SR 20 & the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail
1.3       Join transmission line
1.4       Leave transmission line
4.0       Pass water control structure, river right, and join Camps Canal
5.0       Small stream, river left
5.2       Take out before CR 234


Prairie Creek, Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail, Gainesville-Hawthorne bridge, kayaking

Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail bridge

Prairie Creek, gator, alligator, Newnans Lake

Little gator on Prairie Creek

Prairie Creek, water control structure, Camps Canal

Water control structure that diverts Prairie Creek into Camps Canal

Prairie Creek, Snowy Egret, Egretta thula

Snowy Egret










Click HERE to download Prairie Creek Fact Sheet with mileage chart and directions to launch sites.

Click HERE to download Prairie Creek gpx file for your GPS unit.

Double-click to zoom in or use mouse scroll to zoom in and out. Drag to change location. Click on icons or river route for more info.

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One thought on “Prairie Creek

  1. John S Blom

    Jean and I put in at 234 (just cause there was water, and we’ve never been there), and paddled upstream. Up around the bend you come to a straight stretch, where you can see for quite a ways. Alligators lined the banks, bubble trails criss-crossed everywhere, and as far as we could see, alligator heads were rising up to check us out. Fish were jumping everywhere, like they were trying to escape this alligator soup we discovered. Nice looking place, but Jeans was freaked out, and we turned around and went back down.


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