While the Suwannee’s fame began because of Stephen Foster’s famous song, “Old Folks at Home,” it is holding onto its fame because of its relative “wildness.” “Along its entire 235-mile length,” the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Paddling Guide reports, “only a handful of small communities overlook her waters; the largest having populations barely exceeding 1,000. Away from towns, homes are relatively scarce. In some places, you can travel for miles without seeing any sign of civilization. There are also a few campgrounds. It was this shortage of designated camping areas and facilities that inspired the formation of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.”
The Conference & Retreat Center at Advent Christian Village partners with both the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT) and the Florida Park Service to provide canoe and kayak outfitting for those who wish to experience the Suwannee River and the SRWT. Starting at White Springs, Florida, and following the river for 171 miles to the Gulf of Mexico, the SRWT travels private and public lands. It’s a wild and wonderful trail over land and river with eight “hubs” along the way. These hubs are mostly state parks and towns that offer respite to those enjoying the SRWT. “While the trail is primarily geared toward paddlers,” notes the Paddling Guide, “the hubs offer trail users the opportunity to expand their exploration of the area by bicycle, horseback, or on foot.”
Overnight accommodations can be found in hub towns — White Springs, Dowling Park, Branford, Fanning Springs and Suwannee — at hub parks — Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, Suwannee River State Park, Lafayette Blue Springs State Park and Fanning Springs State Park — and at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. Between hubs, “river camps,” which can only be accessed from the river, have been built to serve those paddling the SRWT: screened sleeping platforms with electricity and ceiling fans, restrooms with hot showers, potable water, picnic areas and fire rings.
The Suwannee River has three distinct sections — the upper, middle and lower. The upper Suwannee — the area between the Okefenokee Swamp where the river begins, and the Withlacoochee River confluence, which is not part of the SRWT — is a meandering course through a remote, sparsely populated area.
In the middle, between White Springs and Suwannee Springs, the river descends a low ridge, or “escarpment,” called the Cody Scarp. The Suwannee’s passage over the Cody Scarp is marked by massive outcroppings and sheer rock faces of limestone. The Paddling Guide notes that “in periods of low water, the rocky riverbed develops many fun shoals and quick-water chutes for the thrill-seeking paddler. However, in very low water, these shoals become a series of exhausting pullovers. Be sure to check with a local outfitter if you’re unsure of conditions.” Also of interest in the middle Suwannee are the many freshwater springs. “Spring hopping” is a favorite pastime of locals.
The lower Suwannee begins near Fanning Springs. According to the Paddling Guide, “some aspects of the lower river make it less suited to paddling than other sections. Wide-open water (which means more chance of winds), along with changing tides, can make very difficult paddling conditions that should only be attempted by strong, experienced paddlers. Boat ramps and access roads are rare, so getting help in an emergency could be difficult. But, with careful planning and all due caution, you’ll find that the lower Suwannee offers some of the finest paddlings. Exploring some of the many side streams, you’ll find a fantastic swampy world of bald cypress [and other trees]. This rich environment hosts a wonderful variety of birds and other animals”
The Conference & Retreat Center at Advent Christian Village is equipped to provide canoers and kayakers what they need for an enjoyable trip down the Suwannee, whether it’s for only a few hours, a full day, or for several days in a row. Let us handle the stress of planning and take care of the shuttling. Tours are self-guided.
|4 Days/3 Nights3||$200||TBD||TBD|
1Transportation price per boat. 2Price per canoe (add $5.35 for kayaks). Includes tax. Village members, their guests, and guests of the Lodge and Camp Suwannee can rent canoes at a discounted rate of $5 off each trip. For groups that stay for a week or more, the canoes are included in your price. 3Trip includes 2 days of canoeing or kayaking, cooked meals for breakfast (3) and dinner (3) with a box lunch provided for each day on the river. Lodging provided in our Smith or Walker cottages.
The prices listed are per canoe and the transportation fee is figured on a 60 cents per road mile rate. The Conference & Retreat Center’s trailer carries 8 canoes. Groups needing more than 8 canoes will require 2 trips and should plan accordingly. (Only 2 1-person ocean kayaks are available at this time.) Life jackets and paddles are provided at no additional cost; the price is the same even if the guest has his/her own paddles and/or life jacket. Each canoe has 2 seats and room in the center which can accommodate 1 or 2 seated on life jackets; the weight limit per canoe is 700 lbs. All launches are subject to a safe water level at each location. Refer to this link for boat ramps that are available along the entire Suwannee River.
Canoe and kayak rental must be arranged through the Lodge office and confirmed with the Camp Director (386-647-6624) at least 4 hours prior to the time of departure. For longer trips (e.g., day trips), arrangements must be made at least 48 hours in advance. Payment is taken at the Lodge office prior to use.
Seasonal tubing is available May–September. The price is $5 per tube and the route is from White Sands beach (N30° 14.880′ W83° 14.965′) to Camp Suwannee beach (N30° 14.722′ W83° 14.684′) only and takes approximately 1 hour.