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Withlacoochee River (South) #1

Withlacoochee River (south) #1 :  Trails End – Outlet River   Group size: 1 – 24 people Trip length: 3.5 – 4 hours Skill level: Intermediate – advanced Cost: This one is $50 per person ($39 for “wanna go” members). With your own boat it’s $40 per person ($29 for members). The launch site is about 1.5 hour drive south from Gainesville. Description This is a nine mile stretch on relatively quiet waters. We’re usually on the water about 3.5 – 4 hours (including lunch stop in a long abandoned orange grove that still yields lots of  fruit).   The Withlacoochee River has been designated one of the State’s “Outstanding Waterways” and this section is about as outstanding as it gets. The only houses we see for the entire trip are those at the small fish camp at our launch site. I call this the “Trails End” section of the Withlacoochee River, in honor of the Trails End Camp where we launch. Our trip ends about nine miles downstream at Marsh Bend Park on Outlet River (a mile long stream connecting Lake Panasofkee to Withlacoochee River).   For much of it’s hundred mile length, the Withlacoochee carries itself with a subtle beauty that is unlike any other Florida river. The section we’ll be exploring on this trip is one of the finest. Sandwiched between two large wetlands, Wahoo Swamp to the south and the Tsala Apopka wetlands to the north, time and civilization have never stood a chance here.   In addition to being relatively devoid of human enterprise or habitation, this part of the Withlacoochee has a great diversity in appearance, ranging...

Lower Suwannee River NWR Paddle Trail

Lower Suwannee River NWR Paddle Trail  “Chapman’s Lost World of the Ivory-Bill” Group size: 1 – 24 paddlers Trip time: 3 – 4 hours Skill level: Great for beginners and experts alike The meeting site is in the Town of Suwannee, about 1.5 hours W of Gainesville.      Description This tour follows a network of beautiful back creeks and side channels along the lower Suwannee River. Our entire trip is within the bounds of the 53,000 acre Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge. Here, low tidal creeks and coastal swamps are home to a fantastic array of bird, reptile, amphibian and insect species. While the main channel of this last leg of the Suwannee is relatively wide (averaging 600 – 800 feet across), the backwaters we follow on this trip rarely span more than 100 feet and are partially shaded near the edges by overhanging bald cypress, water elm, tupelo, ash, maple and oaks. The shrub layer is dominated by swamp dogwoods, Walter viburnum, buttonbush and climbing asters.This tour is part of our “Wild Florida Chronicles” series, in which we follow the routes of some famous explorations. On this segment of the series, we follow the Chapman/Brewster expedition of 1890. While this team of famous naturalists only spent a couple of weeks exploring this area, their combined knowledge, along with with detailed notes and journal entries, left us a great snap-shot of life along the lower Suwannee in the late 19th century. Most of the species they described are still here, including great blue, tri-colored. little blue herons, great and snowy egrets, prothonotary and parula warblers, swallow-tailed kites (in...

Suwannee River Spring Hop #2

   SUWANNEE SPRING HOP #2:  Hwy 51 – Mearson Spring      Group size: 1 – 24 paddlers Trip time: 3 – 4 hours Skill level: Great for beginners and experts alike   The meeting place for this trip is on the Suwannee, about 1.5 hours NW of Gainesville.     Description   There are few places, in Florida or elsewhere, where you can find as many beautiful and unique springs as are found along the middle Suwannee River. On this trip, we’ll visit Telford, Bathtub, Convict, Running, Royal and Mearson springs.   This is a relatively wide section of the Suwannee, averaging 300 – 400 feet across, that flows lazily in long, sweeping curves. Stained dark brown with tannins, much of it having come from the swampy headwaters of the Okefenokee swamp, contrast sharply with sandy white beaches and sloping bluffs. Perched above the river bank and stretching unseen for miles in all directions, mixed forests of pine and oak dominate the setting. It’s a higher, drier terrain than we experience on our “swampier” rivers, with nice, expansive vistas – plenty of Kodak moments.   The width of this section can make it sunny and hot or breezy at times. It’s a fairly long stretch too (about 11 miles) and usually takes us about 4.5 – 5 hours, including swim and lunch stops at the springs.     Wildlife   At this time of year, Middle Suwannee is the stomping grounds (or rather, splashing grounds) of the amazing Gulf sturgeon. Unlike some wildlife encounters, spotting sturgeons takes no skill at all. Just keep your eye trained to the open water...