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Trip report: Nov. 2011

Upper Suwannee River...

Paddling in North Florida

The 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 Swamp in Georgia 240 miles to the Gulf of Mexico at Suwannee (north of Cedar Key). Originating at White Springs is the 170 mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail - on this page we focus on 40 miles along the Upper Suwannee, from White Springs to Suwannee River State Park. (Map and photos below.)

paddle Suwannee River, kayak, canoe

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Upper Suwannee River

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Distance: 40 miles (Stephen Foster State Park to Suwannee River State Park)
Location: Hamilton and Suwannee Counties
Difficulty Easy to Difficult (water levels are key)
Tidal: No
Launch points: White Springs (US 41 bridge), Stephen Foster State Park (bring wheels!), Suwannee Springs (bring wheels!), Suwannee River State Park (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground


American Canoe Adventures  (tours, sales)

Suwannee Canoe Outpost  (tours)

Support and Advocacy:

Stephen Foster Citizen Support Organization

Suwannee River... Comments and Photos

On the Upper Suwannee, the current is generally moderate and an easy paddle, though it can get more treacherous at high water. During periods of low water some areas may not navigable, others may need some portage over exposed rocks. Whitewater areas are at Big Shoals, Ellaville, and Little Shoals; inexperienced paddlers are urged to portage around the shoals. Abundant wildlife and fishing (Florida freshwater fishing license is required).

Paddling at White Springs

One of the most beautiful sections of the river, and with recreational kayaks, one of the easiest launches. Here the river is narrow with high banks lined with pine and cypress; the 22 springs feeding the river increase its size and volume as it continues downstream. We launched at the US 41 bridge and paddled upstream a short distance to the rapids (water very low, rocks exposed - too shallow to continue), then downstream where, though shallow, we were able to continue.



White Springs

White Springs, once a popular resort with 14 hotels, still maintains a Victorian charm including a Historic District (listed on the National Register of  Historic Places) with its shops and folk art shops, homes and churches.


Stephen Foster State Park

Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park has parking and restrooms, plus a museum, craft square, educational programs, picnicking, playground, hiking, camping and more. The Carillon Tower has the world's largest tubular bell instrument with concerts scheduled daily. The Florida National Scenic Trail is along the river through the park


Suwannee Springs

Suwannee Springs Recreation Area is the site of an old sulfur spring that was once a premier tourist attraction. The old spring house remains, visitors can picnic and swim in the spring or along the river bank.

Suwannee River State Park

Suwannee River State Park in Live Oak, Florida, has boat ramp, launch, cabins, camping, fishing, nature trail and hiking, and picnicking. Remnants of a Civil War fortification remain, as well as an old cemetery.


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