(Review added 08/20/13, last update 06/17)
The Santa Fe River is a beautiful place to spend a day within an hour’s drive of Gainesville. With numerous access points it’s easy to get out and paddle. Unless the river is running really high it is a great river for beginning kayakers. And with numerous springs to explore it’s well worth the visit. Above the confluence with the Ichetucknee River it’s generally frequented only by small fishing boats so it’s great for canoeing and kayaking. Santa Fe Outpost is on the river at US 441 and Adventure Outpost is in High Springs, Rum138 is just outside of Rum Island County Park and Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures is inside Gilchrist Blue Springs park and at FL 47. All offer rentals and shuttles. North of US 27 can be difficult to impossible in low water periods and the Santa Fe is subject to flooding, so check with one of the local outfitters before driving out there to do this section. The best paddling is at moderate river levels when the springs and river will run clear until the Ichetucknee joins and the river becomes wider and more tannic.
Santa Fe Rise to US 441 (High Springs Ramp) – 5.4 miles round trip
Since there is no ramp near the river rise it’s an up and back trip from US 441 (High Springs boat ramp). Nevertheless, this is a much recommended day trip. Almost all of the river on both sides is publicly owned and heavily wooded. At River Rise the stream comes up from underground forming a large pool. About 0.3 miles north of the High Springs ramp is the run for Darby Spring – definitely worth a little side trip.
US 441 to US 27 (River Rise ramp) – 3.0 miles
Below US 441 the river is wide and the current is fairly slow. During low water shoals can provide some fun riffles or make it almost impossible to get a paddle in the water. Columbia Spring is almost immediately on the right bank and worth a little side trip. At the half-way point is a drain aptly named “Suck Hole”. At low water much of the Santa Fe drains underground into the hole, rejoining the river a few hundred yards downstream. Past the Suck Hole are several shoals that at low water can provide some thrills. Note: Since this stretch is only 3 miles it’s very possible to start at US 27 and paddle upstream then back down. However, at low water levels the shoals are so shallow you will not be able to get your paddle into the water enough to paddle upstream against the current. So check the water level before attempting to do this.
US 27 to SR 47 (Santa Fe County Ramp) – 8.9 miles
This is the most popular stretch of the river due to the parks and springs along the way. You can break the trip in half by using the ramp at Rum Island Park. Along the way you pass Allen Spring and Poe Springs Park. Poe Springs is a lovely county park with a great swimming area. Best of all, it’s free admission and one of the least used spring parks in the area. Beautiful picnic pavilions and restroom.
The next spring to visit is Lily. Lily is a gorgeous little spring run on private property, formerly looked after by Naked Ed. It can be a hard (but fun) paddle up the narrow, twisting run against the current but so worth it when you get to the top. If you can’t make it the run due to shallow water, you can get out at the bottom, tie up your yak so it doesn’t float away, and walk up to the springs. Naked Ed retired May 2017 and most of his signs have been taken down, but you can still see his shack on the springs. (Remember Naked Ed with the Naked Ed Pale Ale next time you eat at the Great Outdoors in High Springs.) You can take a dip in Lily’s shallow pool featuring at least 5 spring vents.
Just above Rum Island you can find Jonathan Spring run on river right. At high water is simply looks like a another little creek, but at low water levels it is one of the most beautiful spring runs in the area. Well worth a 1/2 hour break to explore and wade. (Note that while it is Jonathan Spring in the state database every local I have spoken to on site refers to it by a different name.
Just below Rum Island, you reach Rum Island County Park where you can get out and stretch your legs, swim and have lunch. It’s a tiny park with a small parking area, 2 picnic tables, port-o-lets and boat ramp and it’s all free. Note however, that it is heavily used on hot weekends and during the summer. If you want to use it as a take-out be sure to get a car parked in there early (by around 9:30 am) or use one of the shuttle services.
Just below Rum Island County Park is another gorgeous spring run on your left. It’s about 0.2 miles up to Gilchrist Blue Spring against a good current, but it is worth all the effort except on busy summer weekends when the springs will be full of swimmers. This spring has been privately and lovingly owned for years so you’ll have to stay in your boat unless you want to pay the admission fee, but the water is so clear you’ll be glad you brought your waterproof camera. Since the campground and spring area has been for sale for several years it was so heartening to learn that in June 2017 the state of Florida purchased the property so it will be preserved for public enjoyment for many years to come.
Further downstream you pass Devil’s Eye Spring and Devil’s Ear Spring on river left and July Spring on river right before coming to Ginnie Springs. Ginnie Springs is a private campground and for the next mile if you are paddling during the summer or on a warm weekend the river will bank-to-bank with tubers. There are several shoals below Ginnie that can provide some fun. About a mile upstream from SR 47 there’s a series of unnamed springs and a man-made cutoff route called Siphon Creek on river left.
SR 47 to US 129 – 13.2 miles
This section can be divided into 4.9 miles and 8.3 miles by using Ira Bea Oasis boat ramp. Numerous private homes are visible along this stretch of the river, but it’s a very pleasant paddle with lots of stately cypress trees. Around 2 miles Wilson Spring run comes in from river right and is worth a side trip. At about 3 miles a series of shoals can be fun to run, then the Ichetucknee River joins and the Santa Fe widens even more. Above these shoals power craft are pretty much limited to small fishing boats. Below these shoals be prepared for large motor boats, water skiing, and jet skis, especially on the weekends.
US 129 to Suwannee River – 2.7 miles
There is no access at the confluence of the Santa Fe and Suwannee Rivers, so either paddle back upstream about 0.3 mile to Wanamake Ramp or continue on down the Suwannee River to one of several boat ramps or launches. (See our Suwannee River page HERE.) This stretch is wide, with swampy areas on either side with plenty of water birds. Large motorboats are evident on the weekends, so we suggest paddling this section during the week, if at all possible. There are several springs along the way, especially Campground Spring and Trail Spring near the Ellie Ray ramp.
00.0 Santa Fe Rise
02.4 Darby Spring, river left
02.5 US 41 bridge
02.6 Santa Fe Outpost (rentals)
02.7 High Springs (US 41) boat ramp, river left
02.8 Columbia Springs, river right
04.8 Suck Hole, river right
05.7 River Rise (US 27) boat ramp, river right
05.8 US 27 bridge
06.6 Transmission Line
07.2 Allen Spring, river left
07.8 Poe Spring County Park, river left – free, good swimming, picnic area, restroom
08.1 Poe Springs boat ramp, river left
08.6 Lily Spring, river left, must see!
09.5 Rum Island County Park boat ramp, river left behind island
09.6 Rum Island Spring, good swimming and break area, portolets
09.8 Gilchrist Blue Spring, river left – beautiful spring but private park, stay in boats
10.1 Transmission Line
10.7 Devils Eye and Devils Ear Spring, river left, July Spring, river right
10.9 Ginnie Springs, river left – private park
11.2 Ginnie Springs boat ramp (private park, fee)
11.4 Sawdust Spring, river right
11.8 Eddins boat ramp, river left
13.0 Transmission Line
13.6 Unnamed springs in river bend
13.7 Siphon Creek east, river left
13.9 Siphon Creek west, river left
14.5 Santa Fe River (SR 47) boat ramp, river left
15.0 Hollingsworth Bluff boat ramp, river right
17.5 Wilson Spring, river right
19.6 Ira Bea Oasis ramp, river left
20.7 Jamison Spring, river right
20.9 Sunbeam Spring, river right
21.6 Oasis Spring, river left
23.4 Ichetucknee joins from river right
26.5 Betty Spring, river right
26.8 Troop Spring, river left
27.9 Lemmons Memorial Park (US 129) boat ramp, river right
28.2 Sandy Point Campground boat ramp, river right
28.8 Campground Spring, river left
29.0 Ellie Ray’s Campground boat ramp, river left
29.1 Trail Spring, river left
29.5 Unnamed spring in swamp, river right
30.0 Unnamed springs In swamp, river left
30.2 Wanamake (G.C. Butler) boat ramp, river left
30.3 Confluence with Suwannee River
Click HERE to download Santa Fe River Fact Sheet with mileage chart and driving directions to launch sites.
Click HERE to download Santa Fe River gpx file for your GPS unit.
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