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Updated: November 2019

Paddling on the Suwannee River

First 3 Things You'll Want To Know, Plus 100's of Photos (in-sequence)

The iconic Suwannee River - made famous by the Stephen Foster song "Old Folks at Home," now Florida's state song - is a federally designated wild river flowing from the Okefenokee in Georgia over 240 miles to the Gulf of Mexico just past the town of Suwannee, FL. The 171 mile Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail begins at White Spring, FL. Most stretches of the River are protected through State/Government/Privates Partnerships. Wildlife and fishing abound. For paddling purposes, we've divided the River into three sections - Upper, Middle and Lower - each with its own nature of paddling. All one-page sections contain in sequence photos from launches to show how the nature of paddling on Suwannee gradually changes on its way to the Gulf. (Map and sample photos below.)

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Suwannee River


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Distance: 242 "river miles" (see definition below). Designated Trail is 171 river miles.
Location: Hamilton, Suwannee, Gilchrist, Levy and Dixie Counties (FL); Clinch County (GA)
Difficulty Easy to Difficult (water levels key in Upper and Middle, wind and tide in Lower)
Tidal: No in Upper and Middle sections; Yes in Lower section (nearing Gulf)
Launch points: Numerous, documented by section (See map)
Nearby points of interest: See individual sections, links below

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

See by sections served, links below

Support and Advocacy:

North Florida Springs Alliance

Paddling the Suwannee River - 3 Key Items

Whether by kayak or canoe, here are the first 3 things you'll want to know when planning to paddle on the Suwannee.

  1. Most Suwannee River Maps use the "river mile" system to measure distances. In the United States, a "river mile" is a measure of distance from the mouth. River mile numbers increase going upriver. Yet most paddling is done downriver, so this system may seem backward at first, but as planning proceeds, you'll quickly get used to it. For paddlers, the "first" launch is at mile 242 in Georgia. The Wilderness Paddling Trail "begins" at mile 171 and "ends" at mile 0 on the Gulf of Mexico (though most recreational paddlers end their trip well before this).

  2. For the vast majority of paddlers, water levels are key. By using the USGS gauge at White Springs (mile 171) as a guide, we get a useful estimate for paddling the Suwannee on both the Upper and Middle sections. (Note: on the Lower section, wind and tide become the key components.)

  3. This is a remote area, so proper planning is key. Mobile service is spotty at best, no Uber, no 24-hour drugstores, pop-up showers in warm months, shoals, leaping sturgeon. A dry bag, sunscreen, wide brim hat, some good sources of calories, and about twice as much water as you thing you'll need. (No single use plastic containers please; not illegal but frowned upon.) For most area visitors, and especially for groups, local outfitters are the people who best make it happen. These are private businesses that provide canoe/kayak rentals and shuttle services.

 

To provide a more useful view of paddling opportunities, we've divided the River into 3 sections; Upper, Middle, and Lower. Other publications divide the river according to geology. Here we divide the river according to the nature of paddling available. Click on the links below for quick details on each section, with photos galore.

Suwannee River - Upper

Okefenokee WR (in GA) to White Springs

Wild, very remote, some nice out-and-back options. Few attempt straight through. Good for small kayaks or aluminum canoes. Suwannee-Upper

View More - Upper River, 9 launches

Suwannee River - Middle

White Springs to Branford 

Getting wide, fed by Withlacoochee etc..... Springs are defining feature.....

Suwannee-Middle

View details

Suwannee River - Lower

Branford to Gulf of Mexico

Wider, deeper, more motorboats. Wind a factor. Becomes tidal towards the Gulf. Best for experienced paddlers with sea kayaks.

Suwannee-Lower

View details

Many public launches and private/public land partnerships make long distance paddling trips practical and more comfortable, especially for groups. "Hubs" are small towns that provide river access with full facilities. Camping and/or other accommodations are available at public and private parks along the River. The State maintains 5 "River Camps" in remote areas along the Trail - these have screened shelters, picnic pavilions with grills, restrooms with showers, and tent camping (reservations required).

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