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Econfina Creek Report

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Report By:  ed    Date: 3/11/2006 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 4 photos     Map & Directions: View

Spring into your kayak or canoe and take a paddle on Econfina Creek, located north of Panama City. You’ll see at least nine natural freshwater springs and a large variety of flora and fauna, all within 2 miles of your put-in at the Canoe Launch on SR 20.

My Report:

What an incredible pre-spring day to paddle Econfina Creek. Blue skies and air temperature at 76 degrees was perfect for shorts, tee-shirts and working on that famous paddler’s tan. Ptpdls and I paddled Econfina last month (see report) under gray skies but still managed a great time, so now we’re back for more.

Our adventure starts and ends at the Canoe Launch near Pitts Springs Recreation Area on State Road 20. The Rec Area, with covered picnic tables, swimming and port-a-let restrooms is on the northwest corner of the Econfina bridge. The canoe launch is on the northeast. Before you go, note there is a long wooden boardwalk (about 100 yards) between the drop off at the canoe launch and the dock, so pack light or bring a buddy or kayak/canoe cart.

Every trip has a goal, and this one is no exception. We decided to see how many freshwater springs we could find between Williford Springs on the north, and Gainer Springs on the south. All were within an easy 2 mile paddle from the canoe launch. Matter of fact, our entire trip was only 4 miles!

How many springs did we find? 9. The Northwest Florida Water Management District found 25! See their excellent “Econfina Spring Inventory” document here (2.2 MB PDF) ->

Putting in at the canoe launch, we immediate headed downstream. Econfina Creek was running at 2 mph so be prepared for a fun ride down and a bit of exertion on the way back. At 1 / 2 mile south of the canoe launch we encountered Fence Line Springs on the west of the creek. Look for a small opening leading up a 75-100 foot run. Upon entering the spring run you’ll see a fence marking private property. A hole has been cut through the fence. To the best of my knowledge (but don’t blame me for trespassing charges), you can legally visit the spring as long as you stay on the water.

Next stop downriver is Gainer Springs. This is actually a group of springs, some of which are on private property. Generally the ones on the west bank are private and the springs on the east bank are controlled by NWFWMD (public). The first and most obvious spring located right on Econfina is Gainer #2. You’ll notice a beautiful deep blue spring with strong boil and an ugly large white PVC pipe used to extract water. This spring is on private property and I’ve heard it’s for bottled water. With or (preferably without) the pipe, this location is great for photos.

Immediately behind Gainer #2 and still on the west bank of Econfina is the largest of the Gainer Springs. The run is 400 feet and the pool, complete with beach and small island measuring another 400-500 feet. Land again is private so stay in your boat. I’m totally envious of the person who owns this property!

On the east side of Econfina across from Gainer #2 are nine smaller springs on public land. These springs are mostly in the 10-20 foot in diameter size, but still make for interesting exploring.

Leaving Gainer, we paddled upsteam to Pitts Springs. It’s located across from the Canoe Launch and a small boat dock and short spring run marks the entrance. Canoes and kayaks are not allowed on the spring, but there are plenty of places to stow your boat so get out and enjoy this location. Usually Pitts Spring has a number of sunbathers and kids frolicking since it’s a developed picnic / recreation area.

Northeast of Pitts Springs is the Sylvan Springs group. Paddle about 5-10 minutes (depending on your speed) up Econfina Creek. Look for a 10-foot wide spring run on the west bank. The run leads to a “T” intersection. Turning left will take you to the largest of the Sylvian Springs and my favorite spot on Econfina Creek. This shallow spring will magically transport you to even more southern latitudes with its small island and palm trees. Each time I visit the spring, I fully expect to see Gilligan and the Skipper. It’s a great place, but don’t just take my word for it – visit it yourself!

Heading back to the Econfina, we traveled upstream to Williford. This leg of the adventure was about one mile and marks the northern-most spring on our trip. Williford, like many others, is actually a group of springs. The spring run is easy to find with its light blue waters converging with the darker colors of Econfina Creek. The spring run is about 450 feet in length and ends at a large crystal clear pool. This is part of the Williford Springs Recreation Area, you can expect to see a few picnic tables but don’t expect a lot of people. Our two trips to this location yielded exactly zero others which made for perfect picnicking and snorkeling.

From Williford, we headed home to the SR 20 Canoe Launch. It’s an easy 1.25 mile paddle downstream and you can’t miss it on the east bank and just north of the SR 20 bridge. Takeout at the canoe launch is facilitated by several ladders on the floating dock.

All in all, it was a perfect day for exploring Econfina Creek’s freshwater springs. The Northwest Florida Water Management District (NWFWMD) should be commended for the many recreation areas, improvements and access it provides for us panhandle paddlers. Give Econfina’s springs a try – you won’t be disappointed.

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Easy
Location Type: River
Boat Type: Kayak
Distance (miles): 4
Fees/Costs $: Free

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

Gainer Spgs-Econ Restricted
Gainer Spgs-Econ

Paddling near Gainer Springs on Econfina Creek.

Gainer Spgs-Econ Restricted
Gainer Spgs-Econ

Taking a break at one of the springs in the Gainer Springs Group on Econfina Creek.

Snorkel-Williford No Comm

What a great day to go snorkeling at Williford Springs on Econfina Creek.

Econfina Cr Springs Restricted
Econfina Cr Springs

This image is from Northwest Florida Water Management District and shows the multitude of springs on Econfina Creek near State Road 20 (Panama City)

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsThe springs, of course. For other types of diversions, try Panama City Beach for water parks, mini-golf, bars/night clubs, pirate cruises and awesome snow white sand beaches.

Post Date: 3/14/2006

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