Kayaking Florida's Greatest Rivers and Springs
- Swim in clear springs bursting from the aquifer
- View natural limestone rapids in Florida
- Camp on white sand beaches
- Canoes or kayaks
- Basic paddling instruction
- All meals served by the river
|Dates||Jun 1–7, 2014|
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 will all meet at Suwannee River State Park at 4 p.m. Basic kayak instruction will be given after dinner on the first night.
Day 2: After a spectacular sunrise we break camp. 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.
Day 3: Today is our first sign of civilization as we float under the Highway 6 bridge. This quickly fades as we paddle downriver. Soon a seemingly magical limestone wall appears on river left. Little waterfalls and crystalline droplets seep from the stone and drop to the black water below.
Day 4: Whitewater! Yes, believe it or not there is whitewater in Florida. A long morning paddle through deeper water with steeper banks drops us at the most extraordinary location on the river. Big Shoals is a place where the reef that created Florida protrudes to the surface. Here the river is turned into a bouncy class III rapid. Our camp is on the portage on river left. Yes, we will be portaging the rapid. This is a magical place. Time to swim, play, and hike. A secret spring nearby creates a waterfall and a great place to get a shower. It is easy to drift off to sleep with the visions from the day and the sound of Big Shoals in the distance.
Day 5: After we paddle away from our camp, we have a few small shoals (bouncy water) to ride as we make our way into the historic town of White Springs. Today's lunch is a classic southern buffet at the Teleford Hotel. Full of good home cookin', we'll drift a short distance to the Stephen Foster Cultural Center. This State Park was donated by a group of Steven Foster music enthusiasts. It is unique in many ways, from a carillon tower to a gift shop filled with locally made folk art and food.
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.
Day 7: On the trip's last day, we will have breakfast, perhaps go on a short hike, and depart by 10 a.m.
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 a 3.5-hour drive to Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park.
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 be primitive.
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 a 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 at 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.
- Carr, Archie, A Naturalist in Florida.
- 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.
Notes for Sierra Club Outings
- Carbon Offsets
- Electronic Billing and Forms
- Electronic Devices
- How to Apply for a Trip
- Leader Gratuities
- Liability Release and Assumption of Risk
- Medical Issues
- Non-discrimination Statement
- Participant Approval
- Reservation and Cancellation Policy
- Seller of Travel Disclosure
- Travel Insurance
- Trip Feedback
- Trip Price
- Wilderness Manners