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Trip report: Nov. 2016

Potano Paddling Trail... Paddling near Gainesville

The Potano Padding Trail is a Florida State designated trail, getting its name from an Indian tribe that inhabited the area until the late 1600’s. The trail consists of two distinct sections: (1) a circumnavigation of Newnans Lake (a mostly easy paddle), and (2) Prairie Creek (which can be a more technical paddle), from the southwest corner of the lake to the trail endpoint at the SR 234 bridge. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Potano Padding Trail, kayak, canoe

Distance: 11.5 miles around Newnans Lake plus 4 miles on Prairie Creek
Location: Alachua County (Gainesville)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: Earl P. Powers County Park, Palm Point City Park, Owens-Illinois County Park, Kate's Fish Camp (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park (Cross Creek), University of Florida

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Kate's Fish Camp

Support and Advocacy:

Alachua Conservation Trust

Potano Padding Trail... Comments and Photos

For most paddlers, Prairie Creek is the main attraction of the trail - from the Earl Powers launch the entrance to Prairie Creek is to the right, about 3/4 mile.


Potano Paddling Trail Launches

The State's Potano Paddling Trail map (link below) indicates 8 "access points," we were able to document six. One (the rowing club) was not open, and we couldn't locate the one shown in Prairie Creek Preserve.


Earl P. Powers County Park

Easy on and off, closest to Prairie Creek. Parking, restrooms, fishing, picnic, playground.


Palm Point City Park

From parking, about 200 feet on path to launch. Parking, no facilities. Popular with fishermen.


Hackett Creek Bridge

Steep sandy bank, many pullovers. Best at high water (or not at all).


Owens-Illinois County Park

Easy on and off. Parking, picnic, fishing, playground.


Kate's Fish Camp

On Prairie Creek. Canoe and kayak rentals. Small fee to launch.


CR234 Bridge

Take-out point for end of paddling trail on Prairie Creek. Limited parking, no facilities.


Paddling on Newnans Lake

Newnans Lake, almost completely undeveloped and lined by cypress, is about 7,500 acres at normal levels and is a popular fishing lake. It's about 11.5 miles to circumnavigate, open to the elements, and is not the type of water a recreational paddler typically seeks out although channels along the shoreline do offer some shelter and birdwatching opportunities.

Tha lake has some interesting geological features. It sits atop the Hawthorne Formation, a layer of phosphate rich clay, which gives the water a cloudy, grayish tint. While the water is not as pretty or reflective as most Florida lakes, it is rich in natural nutrients which support a food chain attracting a large number of aquatic birds. Wildlife include eagles, ospreys, and great blue herons among many other birds. Alligators and otters can also be seen.


Paddling on Prairie Creek

As it leaves the lake, Prairie Creek passes under Hwy 20 and a bike bridge of the Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail. Here, water levels are important: too low and the creek becomes a series of downed logs and pullovers; too high and you will not be able to pass under the bike trail bridge. At normal water levels, the creek is narrow and shallow with many twists and turns. The bank is lined with cypress knees and shaded by cypress, pine and oak. Numerous small gators, waterbirds and deer can be seen.

From the Hwy 20 Bridge, it is a little less than 4 miles to the take-out at CR234. For about the first 2.5 miles the creek remains in its natural state. Then about 1.2 miles before the CR234 take-out, you will see a steel water control gate. Here the creek becomes a dug-out canal leading to the take-out. Camps Canal ultimately empties into Orange Lake, but it becomes impassable shortly beyond the take-out.

Archaeology

During a drought in 2000, the remnants of over 100 Indian dugout canoes ranging from 500 to 5,000 years old were discovered in the dry lake bottom. As it turns out, this is the world’s largest discovery of ancient watercraft. Consisting of remnants and fragments too fragile to move, they remain in the lake. Read more about this archaeological find .

 

For biking near Gainesville, also visit us here: Gainesville-Hawthorne State Trail

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