Carbon and Shoals - Fun or Disaster?

Hi. I have an opportunity to paddle the middle part of the Suwannee River (Lafayette Blue Springs to Mearson Springs, with an overnight at Peacock Slough). I have not paddled this part of the Suwannee before. I understand there are several shallow areas (especially with the current drought conditions), which include shoals. My kayak is carbon. I don’t mind a few scrapes and scratches, but a hole in the boat would make for a long day. Should I stick to deeper water only, or enjoy this trip? Thanks for your advice.

The shoals will have some pretty jagged limestone rocks, river levels are pretty low now and could cause havoc on your carbon boat. The tanic brown coloring of the water won’t make these danger areas very visible either. On the positive side, the current is very slow now so you won’t be bashing into the rocks at break neck speed.


If you wear polarized glasses, and take
care to follow in the wake of other boats, you should be OK. It would be especially useful to follow a tandem canoe, as they sit higher and see better. Remember, you should not fuss about some scratches. You just want to avoid a big hit. If you were paddling empty, I wouldn’t even worry that you might break the hull, but if you are loaded with gear, then momentum might lead to harder hits.

Also, you say the boat is all carbon, but are you sure the builder didn’t put some Kevlar or polyester on the inside just to reduce the risk of splitting through the hull?

Good advice…
thanks. The boat is graphite, with a thin layer of fiberglass. Slow current, watching other boats, polarized glasses… all good points. I think if I go slow in the rocky areas, all should be well.

Bring some duct tape
I don’t kbow the river, but if it is running, shallow, not clear and has rocks that you can’t see, I would be very leery of taking a carbon boat in it.



Yep, I would do the same
which is in accordance with Hex’s original response. Personally, I would not paddle the Suwannee if water levels do not raise at least two (2) feet.

That’s only my two cents.

My understanding is that the Suwannee water levels are more related to what is going on here in GA than in FL, and GA is as dry as a raisin! For instance, Lake Lanier lost over a foot of water in less than two weeks and the summer has not started yet!!!


A friend of mine recently
paddled the Suwannee in his wood sea kayak. He had an awful time. He cut his trip short by a few days because the water levels were so low.

Update - Shoals and Suwannee River
Thx for the advice about paddling in shoals with a non-plastic boat. Two-day trip on middle Suwannee from Lafayette Blue Springs to Mearson Springs was lots of fun. Water level was low, due to drought, but there was enough water for paddling, due to numerous springs in this area. Our trip leader provided excellent advice when approaching the shoals, and I followed a canoe several times (thx for that advice g2d). We stayed overnight at the river camp at Peacock Slough. Nice facility with screened platforms with paddle fans, bathhouse with hot showers, bbq grills, etc. The midddle Suwannee may not be quite as scenic as upper Suwannee, but it was a great trip, with opportunities to play in the springs along the way.