Canoe or Kayak Way Down Upon the Suwannee River, Florida and Georgia

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14207A, Kayak, Canoe


  • Swim in clear springs bursting from the aquifer
  • View natural limestone rapids in Florida
  • Stay in river camps and cabins, no tents required


  • Canoes or kayaks
  • Basic paddling instruction
  • All meals served by the river


DatesOct 5–11, 2014
StaffPatrick Nichols

This trip has already run. Here are a few others you may enjoy:

To search our full lineup by destination, date, activity, or price, please visit our Advanced Search page. Or give us a call at 415-977-5522 to find the trip that's right for you.

Trip Overview

The Trip

Created in 1937, Okefenokee Refuge covers more than 600 square miles and contains nearly 354,000 acres of designated wilderness. A number of freshwater springs feed the refuge, which in turn gives birth to two well-known rivers, the Suwannee and the St. Marys. Though pure and clean, the refuge's waters are dark due to the tannic acid in decaying vegetation. Species abundance is breathtaking: black bears, otters, sand hill cranes, ospreys, alligators, bald eagles, yellow-fringed orchids, and pitcher plants all find homes in the Okefenokee. The Suwannee runs unbridled from Fargo to the Gulf of Mexico for more than 200 miles. With the state's highest protection, it is one of the cleanest waterways in the U.S. It’s no wonder many have returned here again and again to paddle this dark mysterious water.


Day 1: We meet at Stephen Foster Cultural Center/State Park at 4 p.m. We spend the first night in very nice cabins. Directions and a list of suggested items (gear list) will be sent to all participants.

Day 2: As we launch our boats on this first day on the water, the leaders will talk about what you can expect from the river and help you get comfortable with your boat. The trip on the first day offers us a fantastic backdrop of twisted tupelo, ancient cypress, live oak, and perhaps a few swamp inhabitants. The Suwannee is flat and smooth on the section we are paddling. Depending on the water level, it may bounce a bit. As we drift downriver, subtle changes occur. The riverbanks become steeper and white sand beaches seem to appear around each bend. Each day we stop to eat lunch, swim, and take time to explore. This night on the river, we'll stay at the first in a series of well-organized river camps. It will have screened-in sleeping platforms, ceiling fans, and hot showers. No tents required on this trip!

Day 3: Today we stop by Suwannee Springs for a dip. This spring, advertised as "good for what ails ya," will still leave you with a tingle if you are bold enough to jump in!  We spend the night in another river camp tonight.

Day 4: A long morning paddle through deeper water with steeper banks drops us at the most extraordinary location on the river. This is a magical place. We'll have time to swim, play, and hike. Tonight we are back in cabins at the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee. A secret spring nearby creates a waterfall and a magical setting.

Day 5: After we paddle away from our cabins, we have few small shoals (bouncy water) to ride. The rest of the day is spent drifting and paddling to out next river camp.

Day 6: Today is a fun, easy day with lots of drifting, dreaming, and picture-taking. We'll notice higher banks that begin to form -- remnants of the ancient coral reef that once stood here. Fossilized sea fans, brain coral, and sea biscuits can be found at every turn. Our last night is spent at cabins adjacent to a beautiful spring.

Day 7: The trip ends at 10 a.m. Shuttle arrangements can be made with a local outfitter (not included in the trip price). It will cost about $30 (it varies, depending on the gas prices) to get a ride back to Stephen Foster, where we began our adventure.



Getting There

The closest airport is Jacksonville. It would be best to carpool with other participants. Rental cars and public transportation is available from the airport. If you are coming into Orlando, it is about 3.5-hour drive to Stephen Foster Cultural Center.

Accommodations and Food

The leaders will prepare all meals, but everyone is expected to help clean up. Meals included in the trip fee begin with lunch on the first day and end with breakfast on the last day. Meals served on the trip will reflect local cuisine. Count on something chocolate for dessert. Our backcountry accommodations will have hot showers, ceiling fans, and screened-in platforms or cabins.

Trip Difficulty

Some canoeing or kayaking experience would make your trip more fun. If you have not canoed recently, take some time to get some practice and review in. The leader is an experienced canoe and kayak instructor. Help and instruction along the way is always included. As in any outdoor activity, you will enjoy it more if you are healthy and fit. You do not need great deal of experience for this trip -- just be familiar with a canoe and know how to paddle. A willingness to learn and a positive attitude will get you there.

Cool, clear nights this time of year eliminate virtually all of the annoying insects. We will be stopping every few hours for swimming and stretching. There are many places for quick pit stops along the way.

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be provided to registered participants.



  •  Knox, Rose and Graham Schorb, Canoeing and Camping on the Historic Suwannee River.
  •  Logan, Bill, Canoeing and Camping the 213 Miles of the Beautiful Suwannee River.
  •  Larson, Gary, There Is a Hair in My Dirt.


As the Southeast grows, water usage grows. Who owns the water and how will it be best allocated? We are entering a new decade of demand on our ever-shrinking water supply. Use less, enjoy more.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



It's not Patrick Nichols' 35 years of wilderness experience or his extensive background as an outdoor enthusiast and wilderness educator that distinguish his tours from the ordinary. It is the exquisite attention to detail: from gourmet cuisine to the intricacies of paddling on quiet waters propelled by kayak. He is an ACA instructor, has trained with Red Cross water safety and is a wilderness first responder. His calling is to use the quiet skills of his lifetime to benefit every traveler, to ensure his skills and knowledge are shared by every voyager with an open heart and a curious mind.

Assistant Leader:

Joe Gallelli is a lifelong outdoorsman, active Outings leader, and certified Wilderness First Responder who enjoys sharing has woodcraft skills, native orchid passion, conservation pursuits, wildlife knowledge, and Native American interests with others. He paddles, swims, wades, hikes, backpacks, rambles, and scrambles to be in wildland and wilderness settings. Joe keeps himself fit and is particularly well adapted to camping and paddling in the southeast USA aquatic and marine environments.

Contact the Staff

Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.

Try Another Trip

By Date