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Northern Florida trip planning help needed

Happy new year, paddlers!
I need your help if you have paddled in north Florida. We have a long-planned Suwannee River trip coming up in 7 weeks. The problem is that the river has been high for a good while. Today it's 75-plus feet at White Springs. The 90-day outlook is for above-average precipitation. I need to make Plan B, so we don't get caught wih nothing in the event the Suwannee is still too high to paddle in early March.
I have Johnny Molloy's book and a DeLorme Atlas. It'll just be two of us paddlers, one canoe, one car.
What I want is some suggestions on day trips that are out and back (preferably no arranging shuttles) in an area roughly centered on Gainesville. Creeks, rivers, lakes all fine if current is not strong for the upstream paddle. Prefer wild, scenic places. I have received one suggestion: Silver Spring from Ray Wayside launch. Also, Johnny Molloy has one suggested out-and-back to Stagger Mud Lake. How about the Wacasassa River -- anyone know? I see there's a boat ramp on the lower river near the Gulf. And other pretty spots?
A second hope is that we can find somewhere to set up a base camp (tent). I'm wondering about Ocala National Forest, but I have not done any research on it yet. I am thinking the state parks with camping are probably hopeless -- booked already months in advance.
We are disadvantaged by not having done this part of FL before -- only the Everglades, which I love.
Thanks, paddling friends, for any ideas you can give me.
G in NC

Comments

  • edited January 10

    Gores Landing is a good up and back paddling destination. They have primitive camping (bring your own water, pit toilets) and is pretty much under the radar- very close to Ray's Wayside and Silver River, there are side channels to explore from Gore's Landing- birds much more skittish (wild) than the ones along the Silver River.

    There is a commercial shuttle on Juniper Springs (Ocala National Forest) and they have camping- assuming there isn't a government shut down.

    for gores landing:
    https://www.marioncountyfl.org/Home/Components/FacilityDirectory/FacilityDirectory/40/663

    If your willing to go a bit north, Okefenokee's Southside (Stephen Foster State Park GA) has nice cabins, camping and is good for up and back paddling. A great place for a basecamp with different daily paddling trips. March and April are primo times to visit. You can paddle towards Billy's island, Minnie's Lake, or Suwannee Sill.
    https://gastateparks.org/StephenCFoster

  • Thanks, tdaniel. Gores Landing sounds great, having camping too. I'll check it out.
    We did an early March trip to the Okefenokee a couple of years ago, taking our canoe for day paddles. It was great. Wall to wall gators! Billys Island was beautiful. We had Wild Turkeys in the campground every morning. AND a Swallowtail Kite.

  • Big Bend Saltwater Canoe Trail on the Gulf
    Lower Suwanee ( but its boring)
    Day trips: Homosassa River, Chassahowitzka River, Weeki Wachee( not on weekend) Rainbow River, Withlacoochee South ( has a lot of camping)
    https://floridadep.gov/sites/default/files/WithSoGuide_0.pdf

    Wacissa River.. Itchetucknee is doable both ways.

    When in Cedar Key we do the Wacassa. Levy County has a nice campground at Shell Mound.. No reservations
    We are headed toward most of those again and also Juniper Run where we have reservations.. However with the current govt mess no idea if we will be able to camp.. Ocala NF has a number of primitive campgrounds so I am not too concerned. Alexander Springs is a bore.. Salt is OK. Juniper is lovely and Rock Springs Run is not far away ( that is a one way trip) but the livery will shuttle private boats-Kings landing.. We have not checked out Gore yet.l will do that. Have done Silver RIver some six times. It still is quite nice if you get on the river early.

    We are starting our paddling ( mostly day trips except for a multi day Everglades trip) in Indian Pass.. Where Michael had a lot of impact. I want to see how Ile St Blas is doing now that the cape got broken in three.

  • I feel like I've only paddled Florida a few times, but have paddled many on your list.

  • Kim, great suggestions! Thank you. Have fun on your upcoming trip. Is Buddy the rescue dog going with you?

  • Just cool it. White Springs is73.8 ft today, Saturday 1/11/19. It is forcasted to go down 4ft by Monday. And thing 50 to 60 is primo.

    Your trip isn't until March.

  • @gingernc said:
    Kim, great suggestions! Thank you. Have fun on your upcoming trip. Is Buddy the rescue dog going with you?

    nope. Gators and dogs dont mix! He will stay with Finn his puppy cousin

  • @Overstreet said:
    Just cool it. White Springs is73.8 ft today, Saturday 1/11/19. It is forcasted to go down 4ft by Monday. And thing 50 to 60 is primo.

    What is too high a level?

  • We are camped on the Santa Fe at Blue Spring. We're going topaddle up to river rise tomorrow. It's two feet below flood. Two to 2.5 mph current.

    Suwannee is now 3 to 4 below flood stage. @ white spgs. Depending upon skill it is generally do-able below I-10. Some of it goes through narrow "canyons" above that.

  • We are camped on the Santa Fe at Blue Spring. We're going topaddle up to river rise tomorrow. It's two feet below flood. Two to 2.5 mph current.

    Suwannee is now 3 to 4 below flood stage. @ white spgs. Depending upon skill it is generally do-able below I-10. Some of it goes through narrow "canyons" above that.

  • edited January 11

    Some adventure races have been run well above flood at 77 ft. So much so that you had to push up to get under the High Springs bridge. Normally 25-30 ft above the water.

    So maybe there isn't at too high. But you can have camp site problems when water is up. Most River camps though are up he hill above flood .

  • If me I'd camp at Suwannee River RV Rendezvous at Mayo and base from there. Suwannee River , ichnetucky, Santa Fe. And Steinhatchie are all within striking distance from there.

  • Note the Ich is closed still for high water and fallen trees.

  • Gingernc,
    I live in north Florida and love camping on the upper Suwanne River. Here is how I plan my trips leaving from Fargo Georgia. First I check the USGS river gauge for Fargo Georgia. This is important because White Springs might have water while Fargo doesn't. https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv/?site_no=02314500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00062,00010
    Water flow levels for paddling and or camping.
    Below 200 CFPS: Forget it, water level too low, will spend as much time dragging your canoe as paddling it. On the plus side there is sandbar camping galore.
    200 to 400 CFPS: This is the water flow level that I find is idea for my paddling/camping trips. You have a gentle current and plenty of places to camp. Under 300 CFPS you might have a couple places you have to get out of your canoe to get thru.
    400 to 600 CFPS: The current really starts to flow which makes paddling the first 15 to 20 miles go by quick, which is good because places to camp now are hard to find.

    600 CFPS: Now the current is really flowing. I have clocked myself floating down the Suwanne River without paddling between 5 to 10 mph when it is near flood stage. Great for big mileage days for experienced paddlers but very few places to camp now. Recommend going somewhere else.

    My friend and I usually do our own shuttle. Last time we used the outfitter at White Springs. For two boats, two people and our gear it was $100. www.aca1.com

    I have been in the Okefenokee Swamp also. You said you have been there so you know whats there.

    I am down in the Ocala National Forest alot also. My favorite is Juniper Springs. Next would be Silver River, then Alexander Springs and then the Ocklawaha River. Guess one of days I will have to try Salt Springs. Campgrounds with bath houses are probably hard to get into. There are several primitive campgrounds thru out the ONF though. Bring your own portable shower and you will be good to go in some little used primitive campgrounds.
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/ocala/recreation

    If you would like some company and help with shuttles send me a pm. I am retired and right now don't have anything going on in March.

    Kayak_Ken

  • Kayak Ken, Overstreet, Kayak Medic, thanks for all this info. We will use it! Especially appreciate comments on flow at Fargo. PNetters rock!

  • edited January 26

    Kayak Ken- Is Juniper Springs run to narrow, for a 16-17ft Sea Kayaks? We stop by the park, a few years ago. What little we could see, it was single lane wide. Does it get any wider, after leaving the park area? We prefer our sea kayaks, but have 14ft kayaks as well. May do an unplanned road trip, next weekend. Waiting to see the mid week forecasts.

  • @Medawgone said:
    Kayak Ken- Is Juniper Springs run to narrow, for a 16-17ft Sea Kayaks? We stop by the park, a few years ago. What little we could see, it was single lane wide. Does it get any wider, after leaving the park area? We prefer our sea kayaks, but have 14ft kayaks as well. May do an unplanned road trip, next weekend. Waiting to see the mid week forecasts.

    I am not kayak Ken, but I'll answer if you don't mind.
    I have taken my eighteen foot kayak and my wife has taken her 16 footer many times.
    We love that spring run !

  • My vote is for Juniper Springs. (I haven't read all the posts but I did see the name in there).

  • Thanks JackL & DD. If the weather cooperates, we may head down; on Thursday. Plan to hit a few areas, in central Florida. May stay in the Silver Springs area. I have paddle a few places, on past trips. Just was unsure of Juniper. It looker really narrow, in the park. Maybe hit the Okefenokee Swamp, on the way back north.

  • Yes it's narrow but as long as you've paddles more than 30 seconds it very manageable. It's quite beautiful the entire way but when in the woods (jungle) it's outstanding. The water is crystal clear too. Usually no gators in the narrows so you can swim without being eaten.

  • edited January 27

    @Medawgone said:
    Kayak Ken- Is Juniper Springs run to narrow, for a 16-17ft Sea Kayaks? We stop by the park, a few years ago. What little we could see, it was single lane wide. Does it get any wider, after leaving the park area? We prefer our sea kayaks, but have 14ft kayaks as well. May do an unplanned road trip, next weekend. Waiting to see the mid week forecasts.

    its very narrow at the top. and about a boat length wide further down. with some places that are much wider. It will test your maneuvering capability and is best run weekdays.. I have done it several times and once with a group of 30 people and 15 canoes having a mayhem mishap party which blocked that part of the run temporarily..

    It is not for beginners but I think that does not apply here..

  • I ran Juniper in my Tarpon 160 and did some brush busting in a couple of tight spots. Enjoyed the run .
    I really enjoyed the Silver. Paddled it from the springs to the Oklawaha. The wildlife watching in the spring is great. All the babies are out - ducks, Cormorants, birds, and monkeys.

  • @string said:
    I ran Juniper in my Tarpon 160 and did some brush busting in a couple of tight spots. Enjoyed the run .
    I really enjoyed the Silver. Paddled it from the springs to the Oklawaha. The wildlife watching in the spring is great. All the babies are out - ducks, Cormorants, birds, and monkeys.

    And Gators .

  • You quoted yourself? LOL

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