Stage 11 of the Suwannee Quest – the YakPak’s attempt to lead the Sandhill Chapter of the Florida Trail Association in paddling all 206 miles of the Suwannee River in Florida – one piece at a time.
There were 10 of us on this segment of the Suwannee Quest from Suwannee River State Park to Boundary Bend boat ramp – about 12 miles. After the shuttle and putting in at the State Park boat ramp the first thing we investigated was Suwanacoochee Spring, about 500 feet up the Withlacoochee (North) River. Suwanacoochee is a 2nd magnitude spring with a single vent that was walled in during the 1800’s to make a swimming hole. The walls are in ruins now but the spring was gushing, even at low water. Our second spring was just south of US 90 bridge – Ellaville Spring – another 2nd magnitude spring. It pours out from between high limestone rocks . According to Florida Springs, divers report that the spring depth reaches 150 ft (45.7 m) within an extensive cave system. The cave system extends underneath the Suwannee River eventually connecting with the Suwanacoochee Spring cave system. The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.84 – low low.
The water level was very low which led to two sets of shoals we had to negotiate. The first one was at about the 1.5 mile mark, just north of the discharge canal. The second one was around the 2 mile mark. The first set of shoals looked formidable from upstream. The middle and left side were clearly no-go’s, but there was a clean chute on river right. Everyone made it through easily although the Sit-on-Tops shipped quite a bit of water. I watched the faces of the kayakers as they entered the chute, many with eyes narrowed in concentration. But it was all smiles when the Wheeee! factor kicked in and they realized they were not going to slam onto the rocks.
The second set of shoals about 1/2 mile further downstream was shorter and easier with a clear chute on river left.
After our adventures with the shoals we passed under I-10 and just past Anderson Landing (not recommended for launching due to height above water) we stopped for lunch on a huge sand bar. As we ate lunch the clouds rolled in and our blue-sky day became overcast and threatening, but it never did rain on us. Below this point there were many interesting limestone rock formations and we were treated to some rich fall color.
And just at the end, with the Boundary Bend boat ramp almost in sight, we were able to watch a kettle of vultures coming in to roost for the night.