Suwannee River

(Review added 10/12/13, last update 04/17)

Suwannee River, Alapaha River, kayaking

Suwannee River at the Alapaha

The Suwannee is THE river in Florida for kayak touring.  It is about 246 river miles from “The Sill” on the Okeefenokee National Wildlife Refuge to the Gulf of Mexico.  206 of those miles lie within the state of Florida although the first access point is about 4.5 miles south of the state line.  There are numerous public and private boat ramps along the river so trips from a half day to a couple of weeks are possible.  A good portion of the land on either bank in Florida is preserved through public ownership making for a great “natural” experience, interspersed with enough towns, launch sites, parks and campgrounds to make kayak touring relatively easy.  

When we first started investigating the possibility of kayak camping on the Suwannee we had some perception problems.  We were thinking more along the lines of “designated campsites” and no one could provide us with information about exact locations for campsites.  Well, it didn’t take us long paddling the river to realize why that is.  First, the camping opportunities change tremendously depending upon water level and the changes wrought by the most recent big flood.  Second, there are so many places you can camp that to track all of them would leave no time for kayaking!  

So here are the basic rules.  You are allowed to camp on the sand bars and banks at water level on the Suwannee since the river is “owned” by the State.  If you want to camp on top of the banks, or need to camp there due to high water level, then you should get a free special use permit from the Suwannee River Water Management District by calling 800-226-1066 (FL only) or 386-362-1001.  This permit will allow you to camp on all their land along the river.  (They will also advise you if there are any closures due to hunting, flood damage, etc.)  The sand bars and WMD land, added to the state parks, the River Camps, and private campgrounds, should handle all your camping needs most of the length of the river. So you don’t need to worry about finding someplace nice to set up tents for a small group except on the lower Suwannee where the river borders become swampy.  The one thing you need to avoid is camping on private property (not always easy to determine from the river) and causing problems for yourself and the kayakers coming after you.  If there is a house or signs indicating private property, then  stick to the sand bars or go on a little further to make camp.  Also, be careful if you build a fire wherever you camp (the best place for any campfire is on a sand bar) and if camping near private property keep the noise levels down.

Suwannee River, Peacock Slough River Camp, kayaking

Unloading at Adams Tract River Camp

The state-sponsored Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT) runs from Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, FL (River Mile 169) to Anderson Landing in the town of Suwannee (river mile 4).  In addition to public and private campgrounds (called “Hubs”) the SRWT provides five “River Camps” along those stretches of the river which have few services.  The River Camps are accessible only from the river or via hiking trails.  Vehicles are allowed only through special permission, such as for handicapped access. And even then it is sometimes difficult to access the camps with a private vehicle.

Holton Creek River Camp

Sleeping platform at Holton Creek River Camp

SRWT River Camps consist of five small screened platforms for sleeping with a ceiling fan/electric light, a lighted state-park style picnic pavilion with grills for cooking, restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, and a group fire pit for campfires.  (If you plan to use the grills, bring your own charcoal.  Like most state parks, the surrounding area may be picked clean of usable firewood.) There is usually also plenty of room close by for tent campers.

Suwannee River, River Camp

Cooking dinner in a River Camp pavilion

Most importantly, the River Camps offer potable water for paddlers on multi-day trips.  From late fall through early spring there is usually a campground host on site to make sure things are kept clean and orderly.  Small hand trailers are provided to help you get your gear from the water to the camping area and there are canoe racks at the top to hold your boats or you can leave them on the river, either beached or tied up to the stairs, if necessary. Each screened platform will sleep 5-6 adults comfortably.  (Altho SRWT says they sleep 8, that’s either adults shoulder-to-shoulder or kids.)  It’s a good idea to reserve your spot 4-6 weeks in advance if you plan to use the river camps over spring weekends or holidays when large Scout and college groups seem to fill them up.  Otherwise, there is usually room on a first-come, first-served basis – especially if you bring your own tents.  You can reserve platforms by calling 800-868-9914.  As of  June 2016, the permits for use of the River Camps are free.

Note:  If paddling over a weekend, the extremely nice rental cabins in the State Park “Hubs” of the SRWT require a minimum 2-night stay – not very helpful to people paddling linear sections of the river unless doing day trips with shuttles.  Nor are most of the Florida State Parks laid out in a way very accommodating for river paddlers.   In Lafayette Blue Springs State Park the camping (tents only), restrooms and fee station are within easy walking distance of the boat ramp.  In all of the other state parks along the Suwannee you should plan on a VERY long walk from the river up to the pay station at the park entrance gate (to pay for your camp site) and back, then long carries of all your gear from the river to the camping area and back to the river the next morning.

There are several good on-line resources for kayaking the Suwannee.

1) The Suwannee River Water Management District has a downloadable map in pdf format which lists all the boat launches along the river.  You can get this map HEREThis is a tremendous help in planning all your put-ins and take-outs.

2)  A few years ago the state published a booklet called “Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Paddling Guide”.  It’s a water-proof flip book of maps that covers the SRWT and includes interpretive information as well as boat ramp locations, campgrounds, parks, etc.  It seems to be out of print now, but you may be able to pick one up if you keep your eyes peeled for it.  However, an updated version of this booklet is now available HERE as a pdf download.   

3)  The Suwannee River WMD maintains a website showing the current river levels.  Knowing whether the river is running high or low can help you determine which stretch to paddle or whether or not to paddle the stretch you’ve picked out. Find it HERE.  Note that almost all boating info on the Suwannee River uses the White Springs gauge as a reference, so scroll down to Suwannee > White Springs to read the water level.

 

Suwannee, Suwannee River, Shoals

Suwannee Shoals at low water

Of special note in the Suwannee River is the section immediately above the town of White Springs.  Big Shoals and Little Shoals are places where the limestone rocks are very close to the surface of the river.  As measured at the White Springs gauge, if the water is above 60 feet Big Shoals will be Class III whitewater – definitely not for the novice kayaker or even for an experienced paddler with a loaded touring boat.  Fortunately, there is a portage available on river left with a nice campsite/lunch break area.  Little Shoals can be dangerous around 52-54 feet (per the White Springs gauge) because of hidden rocks.  Also note that at low water levels (below 51 feet on the White Springs gauge) both shoals may be walkable, but the sharp edges of the limestone and the deep solution holes call for extreme caution.  There is no portage around Little Shoals, at low water levels you have to get through it as best you can.

You can watch a video we took from the portage trail of Big Shoals at high water HERE

Suwannee River, shipwreck

Parts of a wrecked river boat at low water

Also note that at various water levels the river looks and feels totally different.  At low water the current will be lazy so you will have to work harder but you will find many springs, caves and submerged items (such as ship wrecks and huge cypress trees) in the water that you will never see otherwise.  Also there will be numerous sandy banks for breaks, picnics, swimming and camping.  There may also be shoals that (except for Big Shoals and Little Shoals which should always be scouted and respected) create some really fun water chutes giving you 30 seconds or so of Wheeee!  

At high water levels you have greater access to the river bluffs for camping, but need to be very aware of the strainers created by trees in the water as well as the increased current, especially on the upper Suwannee.  However, you can really fly down the river, covering great distances in a day.   Know your own limits and check water levels before paddling.  You can also call one of the local outfitters along the river (see our Resources section) to check on local conditions.

The Suwannee can be loosely broken up into 3 sections:  Okefenokee Swamp to White Springs, White Springs to Branford and Branford to the Gulf – each with their own look and feel.

Suwannee, Upper Suwannee, CR 6, Cypress Creek launch

Suwannee near CR 6

Okeefenokee to White Springs
The river is typlified by low banks studded with cypress and tupelo trees.  Fairly shallow, the water level fluctuates greatly depending upon rainfall in GA filling the Okefenokee.  The river banks in Georgia are protected – you will not see a home along the river until you are several miles into Florida.  Because of the shallow water, the only other boaters you are likely to meet are local fishers in small boats, although on hot weekends you will likely see people swimming and camping at road access points.

 

 

Suwannee River, Holton Creek, kayaking

Suwannee near Holton Creek

White Springs to Branford
By White Springs the tupelo are gone but cypress remain along with hardwoods and pine.  The limestone banks are higher and sandy river banks are more numerous as the river twists and turns.  Other boats are more numerous, but are still mostly limited to fishers in small power boats or, on weekends, many canoeists and kayakers using one of several local rental outfitters.  This is also the springs area of the river with most of the 300 documented springs rising in this section.  The Suwannee also receives the waters of the Alapaha River and the Withlacoochee (north) River.

 

 

Suwannee River, Suwannee, kayaking

Suwannee River near Suwannee, FL

Branford to the Gulf of Mexico.
By the time the Santa Fe River joins about 10 miles below Branford, the Suwannee has grown from a twisting stream to a major river.  Banks get lower and lower, becoming swampy borders by the time you hit Fanning Springs.  Campsites along the river are harder to come by and camp sites at most of the SRWT State Park “Hubs” are a long distance from the water.  Private campgrounds and fish camps offer better accommodations since they cater to river users rather than day visitors with vehicles.  The river has also broadened to the point where it is frequented by larger motor boats and jet skis.  Especially on holiday weekends you can be easily swamped by water skiers and ocean-going power boats – stick near the banks.  Contrary winds can also be a factor.  But those swampy borders on either side contain a myriad of life and it’s on this section of the river you are most likely to see alligators, turtles, jumping mullet, and leaping sturgeon.

The Suwannee is such a long river that we have broken it up into day trips.  While some of the mileages may seem long, remember that you usually have a nice current working for you.  So if you want a fairly easy trip, use our day trip breakdown. If you want to work a little more then do two or three sections at a time.

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

NOTE: Because the Suwannee varies so much due to water level and in order for our mileage figures to mesh with other published Suwannee River mileage charts, unlike the rest of our river mileage tables for the Suwannee we are showing RIVER miles, rather than averaged ACTUAL PADDLE miles.  So we suggest you add add 10%-15% to reflect actual paddling miles, especially if you enjoy exploring as we do.

Roline Landing to Cone Bridge Rd ramp
00.0   Roline Landing launch – first river access in Florida
02.3   First house on the river since Fargo, GA
04.0   Rocky Creek, river right
04.5   Turner Bridge boat ramp, covered picnic tables, river right
05.5    Shoals at low water
06.5   Cypress Creek (CR 6) launch, river right, shoals at low water
08.1   Bay Creek, river left
09.7   Hunter Creek, river right
10.3   Little waterfall, river right
15.9  Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp, river left

Cone Bridge Rd ramp to US 41-Suwannee Wayside Ramp
00.0    Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp, river left
00.2    Roaring Creek, river right
03.9    Little Lime Creek, river left
07.4    Deep Creek, river left
08.5    McAlpin Landing, river left
09.5   Big Shoals State Park launch, river right (the “launch” is like a ladder, not recommended)
10.6   Top of Big Shoals, portage route river left, campsite at top
10.7   Bottom of portage route for Big Shoals
10.9   Robinson Branch, river left
11.3   Bell Springs Run, river left
13.3   Waldron Landing at Falling Creek, river left.  Good camping area at low water.
14.4   Little Shoals – use caution
15.6   Pass under US 41, Suwannee Wayside boat ramp, river right. No overnight parking.

US 41-Suwannee Wayside Ramp to PCA/Swift Creek launch
0.0    Suwannee Wayside boat ramp, river right.
2.3     Cross under State Rd 136 in White Springs.
2.4     White Sulphur Spring (inside old bath house), river right
3.0     Stephen Foster State Park boat launch, river right
3.2     Stephen Foster S.P. group campsite (reservations required), river right
6.2     Sal Marie Branch, river right
7.9     PCA/Swift Creek launch, river right

PCA/Swift Creek launch to Spirit of the Suwannee Park
00.0    PCA launch, river right
01.0    Swift Creek, river right
01.3    Poucher Branch, river right and Louise Spring, river left
01.4    Cross under I-75
01.7    Rocky Creek, river left
04.3    Woods Ferry River Camp, river left
06.1    Jerry’s Branch, river right
07.3    Camp Branch, river right
08.4    Mattair Spring, river left
09.1    Crooked Branch, river right
10.2    Small spring, river right
11.2    Sugar Creek, nice break area
12.7    Cross under double transmission line
13.4    Suwannee Springs Landing, river left
13.5    Suwannee Springs, good swimming, river left
13.6    Cross under railroad bridge
13.8    Cross under US 129
14.2    Small spring, river right
15.1    Suwannee Outpost boat ramp at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park

Spirit of the Suwannee Park to Gibson County Park
00.0     Suwannee Outpost boat ramp at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park
00.3     Cross under railroad bridge
01.0     Deese-Howard boat ramp, river left
05.9     Blue Spring, river center
06.2     Guinea Creek, river left
07.4     Holton Creek River Camp, river right
08.6     Nice picnic area, river right
08.9     Holton Creek, river right
10.0    Nice picnic area on Trillium Slope, river left
12.8    Alapaha Rise, river right
12.9    Cross under County Rd 249/751
13.0    Gibson Park boat ramp, river right

Gibson County Park to Suwannee River State Park
0.0     Gibson Park boat ramp, river right
0.2     Alapaha River joins, river right, nice campsite on top of point
3.2     Nice sandy beach, river right, Suwannee River State Park
4.5     Nice picnic area, river left
4.8     Stevenson Spring, river left
4.9     Seven Sisters Spring, river right
5.2     Rd 141 boat ramp, river right
7.6     Lime Spring, river left
7.9     Suwannee River State Park ramp, river left

Suwannee River State Park to Dowling Park Ramp
00.0    Suwannee River State Park ramp, river left
00.2    Junction Withlacoochee River on river right, upstream 500 ft is Suwanacoochee Spring.
00.3    Ellaville Spring, river left
00.4    Cross under old US 90 bridge (now pedestrian bridge)
00.5    Cross under US 90
00.9    Pass power plant intake canal, river left
01.3    Pass power plant outflow canal, river left
02.9    Cross under I-10
03.3    Anderson Spring, river left
03.4    Nice picnic area, river right
09.8    Nice break area, river right
10.8    Fara Spring, river right
12.0    Boundary Bend boat ramp, river right
14.3    Pass Advent Village, river left
14.6    Dowling Park River Camp, river right
14.9    Dowling Park boat ramp, river left

Dowling Park Ramp to Hal Adams Ramp
00.0    Dowling Park boat ramp, river left
00.1    Cross under County Rd 250
01.5    Sims Landing – North (Sand Pond) boat ramp, river right
02.6    Christian Tract launch, river left
02.8    Shirley Spring, river left
06.5    Charles Spring boat ramp and park, river left
06.6    Ezell Landing boat ramp, river right
07.5    Allen Mill Pond Spring Run, river right
09.7    Lafayette Blue Springs State Park boat ramp, river right
09.9    Lafayette Blue Spring, river right
10.2    Transmission line crossing
13.5    Perry Spring, river right
14.2    Shoals at low water
14.7    Cross under County Rd 51, Hal Adams boat ramp, river right

Hal Adams Ramp to Ft Macomb Ramp
00.0    Hal Adams boat ramp, river right, at County Road 51
00.1    Shoals at low water
00.7    Telford Spring, river left
00.8    Telford Springs boat ramp, river left
01.0    Shoals at low water
02.6    Peacock Slough River Camp, river left
04.1    Shoals at low water
04.4    Running Spring, river left
04.6    Hidden Spring, river left
04.7    Drew Bridge
04.6    Hidden Spring, river left
05.5    Hardenbergh boat ramp, river right
06.3    Bathtub Spring, river left – one of our favorite lunch spots!
06.6    Convict Spring and Suwannee River Rendezvous Campground (private)
07.9    Hollingsworth boat ramp and Royal Springs Park, river left
08.2    Suwannee Blue Spring, river left
08.9    Cross gas pipeline
10.0    Shoals at low water, 2 small springs, river right
11.2    Shoals at low water
11.7    Ft Macomb boat ramp, river right

Ft Macomb Ramp to Branford
00.0    Ft Macomb boat ramp, river right
00.8    Mearson Springs, river right
01.4    Adams Tract River Camp, river right
01.8    Ship wreck visible on bottom at extreme low water
03.0    Walker Tract launch, river right
03.6    Small spring, river right
04.0    Troy Springs State Park, ship wreck on spring run, river right
04.7    Brantley Spring, river left
04.8    Ruth Springs launch, river right
06.4    Little River Springs Park, river left
07.9    Patrician Oaks boat ramp, river right
10.6    Cross under US 27 bridge
10.7    Branford Spring and Ivey Memorial Park boat ramp, river left

Branford to Hirsh Landing
00.0    Ivey Memorial Park boat ramp, river left
01.5    Shingle Spring, river left
02.7    Stuarts Landing, rest stop, river left
09.3    Dorothy Land boat ramp, river right
10.1    Junction with Santa Fe River, river left, Wanamake (G.C. Butler) boat ramp upstream on                Santa Fe 0.2 miles
12.8    Sims Landing – South boat ramp, river right
13.3    Turtle Spring, river right
15.7    Calloway boat launch, river left
16.5    Hirsh Landing boat ramp, river right

Hirsh Landing to Eula Landing
00.0    Hirsh Landing boat ramp, river right
01.5    Pot Hole Spring, river right
02.3    Rock Bluff boat ramp, river right
02.8    Rock Bluff Spring, river left
03.2    Cross under County Rd 340, Rock Bluff Ferry Landing boat ramp, river left
04.8    Gornto Spring boat ramp and spring, river right
07.3    Suwannee Cottages Campground (private), river left
07.8    Log Landing boat ramp, river left
09.2    Rock Sink Spring, river right
10.0    Wannee Park boat ramp
12.9    Lumbercamp Spring and Sun Springs, river left
13.2    Eula Landing boat ramp, river left

Eula Landing to Fanning Springs State Park
00.0    Eula Landing boat ramp, river left
00.9    Small stream and spring, river right
01.8    Turner Point Landing boat ramp, river right
02.3    McCrabb Spring, river right
03.1    Hart Springs, river left, county park with camping
03.2    Hart Springs boat ramp, river left
03.4    Iron Springs, river right
05.4    Purvis Landing boat ramp, river right
06.3    Little Otter spring, river left
06.6    Sapp (Shingle) Landing boat ramp, river left
06.8    Little Copper Spring, river right
08.6    Copper Spring, river right
08.7    Transmission line crossing
08.9    Cross under Nature Coast State Trail (paved bicycle trail)
10.5    Suwannee Gables boat ramp, river right
12.0    Bell Spring, river left
12.1    Cross under US 19
12.3    Joe Anderson, SR boat Ramp, river right; Fanning Springs State Park launch, river left

Fanning Springs State Park to Manatee Springs State Park
0.0     Fanning Springs State Park launch, river left
0.1     Fanning Springs run, river left
0.3     Little Fanning Spring run, river left
2.6     Hinton Landing boat ramp, river right
2.8     Andrews WMA dock, river left, nice rest stop
5.2     Old Pine Landing boat ramp, river right
5.5     New Pine Landing boat ramp, river right
6.6     New Clay Landing boat ramp, river left
9.3     Manatee Springs State Park boat launch, river left

Manatee Springs State Park to Fowlers Bluff
0.0     Manatee Springs State Park boat launch, river left
0.5     Usher Landing boat ramp, river left
1.9     Camp Azalea boat ramp, river left
2.8     Yellow Jacket boat ramp, river right
8.5     Cedar Branch, river left
8.9     Fowlers Bluff boat ramp, river left, restaurant and camping

Fowlers Bluff to Town of Suwannee
00.0     Fowlers Bluff boat ramp, river left
00.7     Weeks Landing launch, river right (submerged at high water)
02.0     Pass Little Turkey Island
03.3     Pass Turkey Island
04.9     Turkey Creek, river right
05.1     Fletcher Landing, river left, nice break spot
06.2     Flag Creek, river right
06.4     Sandfly Creek, river left
07.8     Wisher Creek, river right
08.6     Munden Creek, river right (boat ramp approx. 1 mile upstream)
08.8     Gopher River, river left
09.0     Shingle Creek, river right
09.7     Dead Boy Creek, river left
10.2    East Pass, river left
10.9    Locke Creek, river right
11.6    Demory Creek, river right
12.1    Anderson Landing boat ramp, river right, town of Suwannee.  Bill’s Fish Camp at landing.

Town of Suwannee to Suwannee River/Gulf of Mexico and Back via Bradford Island and Cat Island
00.0    Anderson Landing boat ramp, river right, in town of Suwannee
02.9    Bradford Island, river right
04.6    Cat Island
05.4    Hamilton Island, river left
07.2    Goodson Island, river right
07.5    Odulund Island, river right
09.7    Rejoin main channel of Suwannee River
10.1   Anderson Landing boat ramp

Suwannee River, Drew Bridge, kayaking

Drew Bridge

Suwannee River, manatee

Manatee mother & calf on lower Suwannee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suwannee River, sunrise, kayaking

Suwannee Sunrise at Peacock Slough River Camp

Suwannee River, Bathtub Spring, kayaking
Enjoying Bathtub Spring

 

Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico, Cat Island, kayaking

Beach on Cat Island, Suwannee at Gulf of Mexico

Suwannee River, kayaking

Taking a break on upper Suwannee

 

Click HERE to download Suwannee River Fact Sheet with mileage chart and directions to launch sites.

DOWNLOAD GPX FILES
The gpx file got pretty large for the Suwannee, so we broke it up into the three regions.  To download the complete Suwannee River gpx files for your GPS unit
Click HERE for The Sill to White Springs
Click HERE for White Springs to Branford
Click HERE for Branford to the Gulf
Click HERE for the approximate Mile Markers for the whole Suwannee River (centerline of river measurement, and since the river constantly changes it is always an approximation)

INTERACTIVE MAP
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.


View Larger Map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *