Stage 1 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.
Today we began our quest with the short stretch from Roline Landing – the first access point in Florida – to Cypress Landing on County Rd 6. The access to the water at both locations is not bad, but the roads to and from need a lot of work. Go slow or you’ll tear up your front end. Not much wildlife, but beautiful old Tupelo trees, low limestone ledges, white sandy beaches, and a bit of shoals for some fun. The water level at the White Springs gauge was 52.35 – low normal.
Typical scene along the upper Suwannee, above White Springs. Narrow, winding, dark tannic waters, low banks with sandy beaches at the bends, Water Tupelo and Cypress along the banks with pine inland.
A nice Water Tupelo (Nyssa aquatica) tree. Like the cypress it has adapted to a life subject to periodic flooding. On the Suwannee it only occurs down to around White Springs.
The Water or Swamp Tupelo ((Nyssa aquatica)) have a lot of character. The pollen collected by bees from the spring blossoms provides famous Tupelo Honey – the only honey that does not crystalize into sugar. The hollow boles frequently serve as homes for wild bees.
A couple of miles below Roline Landing you start to see limestone ledges that further downstream will become high limestone bluffs.
Shoals about a mile upstream from County Road 6 provides some fun at low water.
Shoals can be fun, but you have to watch the water level. A little bit lower and we would have had to walk the kayaks through or risk tearing out the bottoms.
A Sunday trip was on the upper Suwannee River with a group of friends. The first section of the river inside Florida – Roline Landing to Cone Bridge Rd boat ramp.
An absolutely gorgeous day for paddling – blue skies contrast against brilliant white sand bars, creamy limestone bluffs draped with ferns at seep springs, massive Ogeechee tupelo with their snaking roots and stately cypress lining the banks.
The Ogeechee Tupelo trees can be found along the Suwannee down to White Springs, then they disappear. In April and May their white blossoms are covered with bees – so many you can hear a low hum all along the river. In Florida the tree can also be found along the Apalachicola, Oclocknee, and Chipola rivers. Ogeechee (white) tupelo honey is highly prized as it is the only honey that will not crystallize. And because of the specific ratio of different sugars, it’s the only honey diabetics can eat. Biologists estimate it takes two million Tupelo tree flowers to produce one pound of honey and one honeybee produces about 1/12 of a teaspoon in its lifetime. The mature fruit, known as Ogeechee lime, is made into preserves.
We paddled a short distance up a few side streams as well, ran one set of shoals – Whee ! – and stopped on many sandbars for quick swims to cool off.
Upper Suwannee River near Roline Landing.
Limestone bluffs line the shore
Ogeechee Tupelo trees
Paddling down a feeder stream back to the Suwannee
Ferns on the limestone bluffs.