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Econfina Creek Report

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Report By:  ed    Date: 2/4/2006 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 3 photos     Map & Directions: View

Econfina (E-cun-FINE-ah) Creek is a narrow, meandering waterway located about 20 miles north of Panama City. This trip covers the 10 mile segment between Blue Springs and Highway 388.

My Report:

A gray, cool February morning greeted my paddle partner and I at the designated meeting spot on Econfina Creek at the Hwy 388 bridge. Not gray and cool enough to stop us, but definitely enough to require paddling jackets and long pants. Our destination for today’s trip was a one-way downriver run of Econfina Creek, a narrow, twisty creek with high banks and plenty of freshwater springs. Econfina eventually drains into Deer Point Lake and is a major water supply for Panama City.

In looking over the Florida Atlas and Gazetteer, we decided on Blue Springs as the starting point. This spring is managed by the Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) and you need special permission to gain access to the area. Luckily, my paddling partner had such and we breezed right past the locked gate.

Blue Springs (N30.27.120 W85.31.520) is about 60 feet in diameter, with apparent depths of 4 to 25 feet. Camping is allowed by permit and camp spots, picnic tables, fire rings and port-a-lets (portable toilets) are nearby. A short stairway leads from the camping area to the spring.

After a brief farewell to some newly found friends camping at Blue Springs, we took the short spring run to Econfina Creek. The upper 2.5 miles of the trip between Blue Springs and Williford Springs had a number of downed trees so lots of opportunity to practice our limbo and drag-overs. Once we reached Williford Springs, the deadfalls mysteriously stopped and the creek widened to about 30 feet.

Williford Springs (N30.26.376 W85.32.854) is a small, clean pool about 50 feet across. The area is developed with a few picnic tables and split rail fence surrounding the pool. Be sure to bring mask, snorkel and swim fins as Williford makes a great place for lunch and a quick dip into the crystal clear water. Depth goes from 1 to 10 feet gradually (at least near the stairs) so it’s safe for most swimmers.

The next major spring downriver is Sylvian Springs (N30.25.909 W85.32.895), located about 1.25 miles from Williford. Sylvian quickly became my favorite with its tiny tropical island, complete with palm trees. Sylyian is shallow and we didn’t see any spot more than 3 or 4 feet deep. Be sure to spend some time exploring at Sylvian – we found interesting little springs in some limestone outcroppings north of the main pool and run.

Below Sylvian is Pitts Springs (N30.25.985 W85.32.775). The popular NWFWMD park is an easy 10 minute paddle or hike, this spring has many more visitors (plus parking, picnic tables, port-a-lets, small boat dock, etc). Pitts makes a great place to get lunch and hangout with the sun worshipers and their children.

Next stop is the canoe launch, about 100 yards downstream from Pitts. It makes a great place to put-in and take-out for those interested in paddling just the springs. One word of advice – the boardwalk from the roadway to the dock is quite lengthy so either pack lightly, bring a kayak cart or some strong muscles.

Heading downstream is the Hwy 20 bridge. Another half-mile brings you to the Gainer Springs (N30.25.735 W85.32.927) group. These springs are mostly on private land so don’t expect to get out and do much hiking, but do expect to explore as you’ll find at least four springs in the area. The main spring is about 300 yards up a spectacular spring run, and you’ll be treated to a very large 150 yard across pool. Note that Gainer is only accessible by boat and it’s called “trespassing” to do anything else.

After Gainer, the next 5.5 miles is twisty, with the river going in all directions at some point. High fern lined banks follow the creek until the takeout at the Highway 388 bridge (N3.23.088 W85.33.413). A short dirt boat ramp is on the northwest side of the river, allowing easy retrieval of your boat and gear.

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Moderate
Location Type: River
Boat Type: Kayak
Distance (miles): 10
Fees/Costs $: Cost to Camp

Photos from Econfina Creek:    (Click image to view full size)

Econfina - Williford Restricted
Econfina - Williford

February 2006 paddling trip with ptpdls on Econfina Creek. Photo at Williford Springs.

Econfina - Williford Restricted
Econfina - Williford

February 2006 paddling trip with ptpdls on Econfina Creek. Photo at Willford Springs.

Econfina Creek Restricted
Econfina Creek

Fern and limestone cliffs on Econfina Creek between HWY 20 and 388.


Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsAt least 10 easy-to-find freshwater springs exist along the trip. Most are located within 2 miles of Pitts Springs. Some (Blue, Williford, Pitts) are developed and open to the general public. Others are surrounded by private land, limiting exploring.

Post Date: 3/13/2006

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