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Chipola River Report
(Highway 162 Boat Ramp)

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Report By:  paddlesolo    Date: 9/10/2008 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 13 photos     Map & Directions: View

A 6.5 "rambo" paddle down the Upper Chipola from Highway 162 to Florida Caverns State Park. The Chipola is deep and wide, with numerous fallen trees blocking passage. The land on each bank is Water Management property, so natural beauty abounds.

My Report:

Five hardy paddlers met at the I-10 exit and then drove north of Marianna for the put-in on the Chipola. Everyone had been warned about the abundant mosquito population, the surprise was the muddy put-in. Although the river had steadily gone down since TS Fay, evidently there had been local rains, and while we were able to park on high, dry ground, the group had to navigate slippery mud to get out boats to the river. Truthfully the put-in conditions were the worst I have seen or used due to temporary weather conditions.

Because of the mosquitos and the isolated nature of the landing on a busy state road, we left two people and a vehicle to sit in at the put-in while we ran the shuttle down to Florida Caverns State Park. It took an hour and a half from the time we met at the interstate until we were actually on the water paddling.
The river is wide and deep, and usually a muddy brown color. The Chipola drains a large area in Southern Alabama and Northern Florida, and there is rich farm land surrounding the river, so no sandbars are created. Hardwood forests and lots of cypress trees line the river.
After an hour and fifteen minutes we arrived at Christoff Ferry, a WMA boat landing with primitive camping. It has a very large parking area for vehicles and a paved boat ramp. (The group chastised me for not selecting this spot for the put-in' nevertheless my goal was to paddle from SR 162 to the park, an area of the Chipola I had never paddled). Since the Christoff Ferry had three necessary factors, an open area, sun, and a breeze, mosquitos were absent during our lunch break and stretch.
Prior to reaching the boat landing, we spotted the largest alligator on the paddle - estimated to be about 10 ft long. It was swimming in the water, and stayed in sight until all paddlers had a good chance to look at him. I tried to recall all the brave words I had written about paddling around alligators and kept paddling steadily downstream towards the gator, which then turned and swam directly toward our group. Gulp! Finally it submerged and was no longer visible, but we knew he was lurking under our craft.
While the river had large areas that were open and easy to paddle, it has been a long time since it had been cleared for motor boats or paddling. There were numerous large trees completely blocking passage. Two of our men had saws and were able to created small opening in many spots for us to paddle through. We had two pull-overs. One time I chose a pull-over as the fastest way to get around a tree, while the men were cutting brush from a small side stream. Then I waded up that shallow area and and pulled one of the kayaks down into deeper water. Another place one paddler was agile enough to climb on the log, push his canoe over and re-enter. Three paddlers were assisted with a huge push across the log from a paddler in the water, who then pulled his canoe over land to get back in the stream.
The best part of the paddle was reaching the spring run from Bazzell Springs. This is a group of three springs with numerous vents. I snorkeled in two of the springs. The underwater view always reminds me of fractures in the earths crust which reach into the Florida Aquifer. I encouraged the group to get underway, because I could see dark clouds to the east of us, but it was too late. As soon as we started downstream, it rained, hard and then harder. I was already wet and the weather was warm, so didn't bother with raingear.
The wildlife consisted of four or five gators of varying sizes, a couple flocks of ibis the flew from tree to tree ahead of us as we neared Florida Caverns State Park, a Great Barred Owl that we heard hooting in the woods and a couple of vultures circling overhead. The appeal of the paddle is geographical in nature and not a particular interesting paddle to see or photograph birds.
We spent five hours on the river and paddled 6.5 miles. The time included our lunch stop, the visit to the springs and all the time trying to get over, under and around obstructions in the river. The boat landing in the state park is very nice with a paved boat ramp, a dock and a lower level along the dock on each side.
My friend Judy and I rated this a difficult paddle, the men said only a medium difficult paddle. While we were at the restaurant we ran in to a younger man who has lots of paddling experience, and when we described where we had paddled the first words out of his mouth were "That is a difficult paddle".

The $4.00 fee is to pay for entrance into the state park. The scenery along the river rates a five, but it isn't a good paddle for most people. Only the strong and resourceful, or someone with helpful friends!

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Difficult
Location Type: River
Boat Type: Canoe
Distance (miles): 6.5
Fees/Costs $: $4.00

Photos from Highway 162 Boat Ramp:    (Click image to view full size)

The Big Muddy No Comm
The Big Muddy
Twin Sentinels No Comm
Twin Sentinels
Swimming Gator No Comm
Swimming Gator
Cutting a Path No Comm
Cutting a Path
Christoff Ferry No Comm
Christoff Ferry
Which Way? No Comm
Which Way?
Made It! No Comm
Made It!
Other Side No Comm
Other Side
Success No Comm
Bazzell Springs No Comm
Bazzell Springs
Cooling Off No Comm
Cooling Off
Rivergate No Comm
End of Paddle No Comm
End of Paddle

This is the boat ramp in Florida Caverns State Park

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsCamping at Florida Caverns State Park with nature trails, and cave tours.

Post Date: 9/11/2008

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