Monday, December 12, 2011

Suwannee River Trail for Christmas?

My canoe along the scenic Suwannee.   I'm contemplating a return trip over Christmas.  (Photo by Jonathan Bollhoefer.  Used with permission)
      With Christmas approaching fast, it is time for me to start thinking about my annual Christmas camping trip.  Normally, I lead friends and family down either Blackwater River, or Coldwater Creek.  This year, I am thinking of going a little farther away.  It's not that these two rivers aren't beautiful, it's just that I have done them so many times.  I have racked up a couple hundred river miles on them.  I'm thinking the Suwannee River Trail might be a good choice.  For any interested paddler out there, the Suwannee offers over 170 miles of paddling, on a historic river, through some spectacular ecosystems of north Florida.  I paddled 100 miles of the river this past March with my friend, and trusted bow paddler, Jonathan Bollhoefer.  We passed through hardwood/palmetto forests, pine forests, and beautiful springs.  It was an amazing trip, which is part of the reason I want to return with even more family and friends.  However, not that many people know about the river trail, so I figured I'd post some information.  The state keeps track of how many people use the trail, so if more people go, it is more likely to remain funded.

      The free shelters located along the Suwannee River make it great for groups with kids, older folks, or people that just don't like to rough it.  They are essentially raised, screened in pavilions with access to power.  There are also clean bathrooms and hot showers for those who don't like to use nature as their toilet.  Normally, I like to rough it, but I have to admit, it was nice to pamper myself.  If you would prefer primitive camping, it is available as well.
      The springs along the Suwannee are well worth the visit.  They are usually crystal clear, and can be over 50 feet deep.  One even had a cave that we were able to swim through.  The springs are especially interesting because the clear water allows viewing of turtles, gators, and fish (e.g. gar, sucker, bass, mullet, eels, catfish).  And, if it is warm enough, they are great swimming holes.

      I'm still not sure if I'll return this winter, but I'm sure I'll be back at some point.  If you are a paddler, and you haven't been on the Suwannee River Trail, you should go.  Even if you are not a paddler, you should go.  You just might end up becoming a paddler after experiencing the beautiful Suwannee River.

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