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Seven Women on Suwanee River

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Published Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seven Women Paddle the Suwannee

This write-up was submitted to me this summer, and got lost in the shuffle.  Since I don't have all the important information for a trip report such as directions to the put-in and take-outs and the GPS markings, I have put it in the articles section.  I hope the paddling women that follow this website will be as inspired as I was when I found out what was accomplished. Paddlesolo


3-8-2008 Seven experienced canoe women ranging in ages from 40s- 60s arrived at the Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs, FL and checked in to Cabin #1 @$90 +/- per night. The water level was high - above the benches and steps at the boat launch in the park.  We had been worried about too little water and here we were with more than ample after a front stalled a few days earlier.  We shared a group dinner and checked out the park. We received two keys for the cabin and kept one hidden on the porch as our group often split up and went different directions.


3-9-2008 We ate breakfast at a wonderful little local spot called the Suwannee River Diner (?).  You need to eat there at least once to check out the wonderful mural that encompasses the walls of the restaurant. It shows the Suwannee from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico. The menu describes some of the delightful details included in the painting. We kept finding more and more the longer we stood staring. After breakfast we toured the town (15-20 minutes) then hiked the Big Shoals Trail and saw they were flooded out.  Later, we ran our shuttle to the Suwannee River State Park and posted our travel plans (form found on Suwannee River Wilderness Trail aka SRWT website with the park rangers at both parks. We also paid the rangers for vehicle parking ($6 per night or so) while we were on the river.  Made arrangements with Stephen Foster ranger to leave keys to cabin inside rather than turning them in at the ranger station. 


3-10-2008 Drove our canoes from the cabin to the boat launch.  Should have stayed in the handicap cabin at the end of the road, as it was closer to the boat launch area. Launched on a flooded river and in rising water levels and were so excited to be finally on the river after broaching this idea some two years earlier! After a short paddle of arrived at the first river camp, Woods Ferry. Norm and his wife Shirley were expecting us (we had made reservations with SRWT). Norm and his cat were in their chair high on the bluff when they eyed us coming down the river. The dock and part of boardwalk were under water but Norm came down to help us unload our boats (room for one at a time only since the dock was not serviceable) and move them and our gear to higher ground. He brought a wagon down the handicapped ramp that zigzagged down about a 30-foot embankment, which we used to haul our gear to our screened camping enclosure. Shirley had the women's bathroom decorated, full of soap, paper towels, and a plush rug by the sink and sparkling clean. They even went so far as to rake the sand around the bathrooms and walkways in preparation for our arrival! What hospitality! Norm mentioned his favorite local restaurant was the Brown Lantern in Live Oak. (More on that later).


Got to the launch pad (single lane boardwalk with sides enclosed) to launch our boats around 9 a.m. (again one at a time since the dock was somewhere down there under 9' of water) but we fell in line behind 5 very friendly men in kayaks (some from Germany) who had arrived the night before and were headed down river also. This was entertaining as we enjoyed talking with them and watching them load their gear and get underway.  But boy were they slow. About 1-1/2 to 2 hours later we finally got our turn. Seven women and seven boats were smoothly and efficiently loaded and launched in 30 minutes and heading down the river drawing close to lunchtime.


3-11-2008 Arrived at the Spirit of the Suwannee. Unfortunately, the outfitter at the takeout was closed this day so he could not shuttle us to our campsite. We had reserved a regular campsite but changed to primitive camping at the pavilion when we checked on this during our shuttle. The primitive site was about ¼ mile from the takeout (they frown on people camping around the takeout area) and the regular campsite was closer to a mile or more from the river. A good distance when you need to haul all your gear on foot and don't want to leave anything behind for fear of theft. We called to plead for a camp volunteer to give us a hand and were sent a husband/wife couple and a gentleman both on golf carts from heaven to ferry our gear and us to our campsite. He even came back later that evening in his pickup truck to haul our curious minds and friendly smiles to the Bat House located on site where we saw thousands of bats leave the house at dusk to devour an evening meal of mosquitoes. We got to talk with Batman, the man who designed this bat house along with the one at U of F. The bats patrolled over us while we slept and we were never bothered by any mosquitoes or insects of any kind.  Our Spirit of the Suwannee Angels arrived in the morning to ferry us back to the river and see us off with many good wishes and thank yous.


3-12-2008 Pulling up to Holton Creek River Camp was quiet in comparison as the camp hosts had been sent away since the entrance road to the site was flooded. The toilets, heaters and hot showers still worked, thank goodness. We met other paddlers - all men and teen aged boys- some doing short sections of the Suwannee and others having started at the Okefenokee in all the rain that then caused this flooding we were experiencing.  At this river camp, all the walkways, bathhouses and screened sleeping enclosures had motion sensored lights that flashed on any time anything moved. No sneaking out to use the nearby trees during the night as one was greeted with a spotlight. Even if one took the sidewalk the entire length to the bathhouses for a midnight toilet run, everyone knew and was woken up by the bright lights that popped on and followed one's progress down the sidewalk. There must have been 12 of these brighter-than-the-sun little buggers between our campsite and the bathroom. Sorry to wake up everyone in the campground up as there were 7 of us women (which means approx. 21 +/- middle of the night runs!) Let me change the subject, 'less I start exaggerating.

Locked our boats at night to each other and if possible to a tree, sign, scrub, etc. 


In the a.m. after we launched, we hung around a bit to watch one of the teen-aged boys being torpedoed in to the water in his kayak when his friend pushed he and the boat down the 6-7' sand embankment in to the water. This was a big wake up for the kayaker as the night before had been the coldest yet (upper 30s), the water was cold and this boy did not have on a kayak skirt. To his credit he stayed up right and looked like he got a real thrill out of the experiment. After congratulating him we headed downstream.

3-13-2008 Missing all the springs along the way since they were umpteen feet under turbid water, we pulled in to Suwannee River State Park and parked our goods at our Cabin #1 which is right next to the boat ramp. Not far for us since we paddled nearly to the top of the boat ramp as most of it was under water (Is there a theme here?) But on a positive note, this meant we could paddle up in to Lime Sink - one of the prettiest sections we paddled on the whole trip as the Chickasaw Plum and Atamasco Lilies were in full bloom. Under normal conditions, one gets to hike around Lime Sink but this was way better. 

Speaking of hiking, we saw several sections of the Florida Trail paralleling the river along this section of the Suwannee. We would see the trail lead in to the water then emerge again somewhere downstream (not a good time to be hiking the Florida Trail unless you also had a wetsuit & some flippers). We stopped along the way at the Florida Trail covered picnic areas and found one geocaching box inside a partially rotted out tree. We posted our arrival there, took photos and added something to the box.


After retrieving the vehicle from the put in, we decided to go out to eat at the Brown Lantern in Live Oak - what a fantastic treat in such a small town!  Everything we ordered from shrimp to hamburgers was divine. It is the type of restaurant one expects in large suburban areas but not in home style-cooking small town USA.  The plan was to use this night to decide whether we would run the next section of the Suwannee to Dowling Park or go to Plan B. Plan B won the vote.


3-14-2008 Plan B: Half of us planned to paddle the Withlacoochee at the Georgia line while the other half ran our shuttle then went shopping. Very interesting…. the Withlacoochee was even more flooded than the Suwannee was but we ran it anyway. Another interesting fact: Since we put in on the river at a little higher latitude than we had on the Suwannee, it was as though the clock had turned back two weeks on spring. All along the Suwannee, each additional day brought forth new greenery and blooms on the flora. Spring was blossoming out with red buckeye flowers, pink wild azaleas, white dogwood blossoms, etc.  Up on the Withlacoochee, the flora was still in its grey stage with a little green. After a short paddle we stopped in at a BarBQ joint. We stepped in the front door and every mouth dropped open and every fork stopped in midair. There was total silence…Wow! They don't get many guests in town here apparently. Finally we asked if we could sit down or wait to be seated. After the initial shock, the staff could not have been more friendly and even the cook himself came out of the kitchen to introduce himself and welcome us.  Another celebratory dinner in town and packing of the vehicles.


3-15-2008 Part of us headed home and the rest headed to the Itchetucknee River to squeeze in a last paddle. We all plan to come back next year to do the section of the Suwannee from the Okefenokee to Big Shoals.  Seven women, eight days, one bathroom and nary the first negative word - just SMILES all around!

Last update Tuesday, October 28, 2008

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Cmt Seven Women on Suwanee RiverLogin to Post   
You are in the public comment zone. What follows is not from Green Wave Forum; it comes from other people and we don't vouch for it.
moonlightdesigns on 10/28/2008 10:33pm
Very cool. Can I come next year?
paddlesolo on 10/24/2008 11:39am
They must have been distracted by the 7 women that kept asking them questions. I wouldn't have had the patience to wait that long, I would have figured some way to get my stuff in the boat, or push them into the river! ha-ha
admin on 10/24/2008 5:46am
I'm sure that I am reading this incorrectly - "5 very friendly men... load their gear and get underway... 1-1/2 to 2 hours". You have to be kidding. Where they making dugout canoes for the trip?