Suwannee River Paddling Festival
April 2-4, 2021
Suwannee River State Park
- Total Paddling Distance: 20 miles over two days
- Registration Deadline: March 19, 2021 or until festival capacity is reached
- Participation Limit: 100 paddlers
- Festival Fee: $199 per person. Includes camping, meals, shuttles river maps, t-shirt, water bottle, and evening entertainment for the weekend.
- Official Outfitter: Suwannee River Canoe Rental
- Adventures In Florida
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Evening Programs: One of Paddle Florida's favorite entertainers will perform a benefit concert Saturday. Proceeds will support continuing our programs at Paddle Florida. The weekend will also feature an evening ghost tour through nearby ruins, and an opportunity to hear from local experts dedicated to preserving North Florida's rivers, springs, and water-sheds.
Due to the financial outlay and costs incurred by Paddle Florida during event planning, any force majeure, which includes but is not limited to water levels, inclement weather, and any other Acts of God not mentioned herein, shall not result in the refund of any fees paid to Paddle Florida. Absolutely no fees will be refunded after 15 days before the event begins. Before each trip registration deadline, requests for fee refunds will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
***You will receive a confirmation email message 7 - 10 days before the event with all the latest details on the trip***
Shuttle Details: Paddlers will be shuttled on Saturday to Madison Blue Springs and Sunday to Gibson Park, where they will paddle back to Suwannee River State Park.
Boat & Gear Recommendations
For this trip, we recommend either sit in or sit ontop kayaks of at least 12 feet in length. This trip is for beginner paddlers, you should also be in moderately good physical condition and know how to swim. If you have any questions about the kind of environment you will encounter on this trip, please contact Bill Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paddle Florida Policies
- All paddlers must attend the trip overview and orientation on the first evening. Paddlers must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
- All paddlers must wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal flotation device (PFD) and whistle at all times on the water.
- Paddlers under age 18 are the responsibility of, and must be accompanied by, a parent or guardian. No more than two children under the age of 12 per adult guardian.
- Sorry, no pets allowed.
- All paddlers must provide an emergency contact information and sign a Waiver of Claims and Release of Liability form. Parents must sign for their children under the age of 18.
- People-powered watercraft only.
- Paddle Florida adheres to all rules put forth by the public parks we stay in, including the ban on alcoholic beverages.
- All paddlers must respect private property along waterways.
- All paddlers must have basic paddling and swimming skills
- Violations of any of these policies can result in the paddler being removed from the event without refund.
Day 1/Friday, April 2: Suwannee River State Park, Paddling Miles: 0
Festival participants will check in at Suwannee River State Park between 1-5PM. After checking in, they will set up their tents on the scenic bluff overlooking the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers. This spot offers one of the most picturesque river sunset views anywhere in Florida, and it’s close to pavilions, picnic tables, restrooms, and 5-minute walk to hot showers in the campground.
Dinner will be served at 6PM, followed by an overview of the weekend and an educational presentation by regional waterway advocates. Afterwards, we’ll light the campfire and lead a moonlight walking tour to nearby ruins and an abandoned graveyard.
By the way, on a nice night, the sunset view from our campsite overlooking the river has to be one of the most beautiful in the state!
Day 2/Saturday, April 3: Madison Blue Springs State Park to Suwannee River State Park, Paddling Miles: 12
Breakfast will be served at 7:30 a.m. From 8:30-9:30, shuttles will take paddlers and their boats to today’s launch site at Madison Blue Spring State Park. Under the right river level conditions, this park features one of the prettiest first magnitude springs in North Florida.
Today’s journey will take us 12 miles down the winding Withlacoochee River to its confluence with the Suwannee. Again, if water levels are favorable, there will be two or three springs to see along the way. When you see tents on the bluff ahead, turn left! After a couple hundred yards going up the Suwannee, paddlers will pull into the Suwannee River State Park boat ramp.
After lunch, paddlers can relax for the afternoon or explore the park’s river- and spring-side hiking trails. After our 6PM dinner, paddlers will be treated to a benefit concert by one of Paddle Florida’s favorite musical performers. Musicians are donating their time and talents to this event, and concert proceeds will benefit our continuing place-based learning programs. We’ll end the evening around the campfire.
Day 3/Sunday, April 4: Gibson Park to Suwannee River State Park, Paddling Miles: 8
After breakfast at 7:30 a.m., paddlers will again be shuttled between 8:30-9:30 to their launch site at Gibson Park. Today’s Suwannee paddle will be a nice, leisurely 8-mile float back to camp. A final lunch will be served as paddlers pack up their boats and camping gear and head back home with fond memories of a weekend spent on the water.
PADDLE FLORIDA is a non-profit corporation that promotes water conservation, wildlife preservation, springs restoration, and waterways protection via fun and educational multi-day paddling trips in Florida’s most spectacular river and coastal environments. The vehicle for carrying out this mission is the staging of the multi-day paddling/camping trips in each of Florida’s five water management districts from October to April each year. Paddle Florida also seeks to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism in general, and paddling in particular.
Ranging from three to six days, trips are open to all paddling skill levels and designed to maximize enjoyment of Florida’s natural environments while engaging and empowering citizens so that they may become involved in the protection and restoration of our waterways.
If you wish to be pampered by professional guides, this isn’t the trip for you. But, if you want to experience a real community brought together under a common goal and by the thrill of adventure, Paddle Florida is the trip for you
The Meal Plan
Your Paddle Florida trip fee covers the meal plan, which provides hearty catered breakfasts and dinners, plus daily lunch snacks of assorted fruits, sandwich items, snacks, and drinks.
Each paddler is limited to two bags and a total of 40-pounds of luggage. You have to haul your baggage and place it in the gear truck each morning, and haul it back to your campsite each evening of the trip. After paddling all day (about 8,000 paddle strokes per day), a 40-pound bag is really heavy. We recommend you pack as lightly and tightly as possible. This saves your back and the backs of your fellow paddlers. Everyone is expected to assist with the loading and unloading of the truck during the week.
Items we would rather not see in your luggage include bulky chaise lounge chairs, framed bedding/cots, and boxes without tops. Your gear should be packed so that it will not get wet. In the afternoon, your baggage may be removed and placed outside the gear truck where it will be exposed to the elements. Overnight rains may result in gear being packed up wet. A wet tent on top of your clothes bag will result in wet clothes. Plan on inclement weather and make sure you have a bag that will protect important gear in the event of rain.
Please place a label on your luggage with your name on it and make sure your bags are secure.
Suggested Packing Lists
For Water: [Note: Unless you’re wearing it, every item you bring should be secured to your boat. Carabiners and bungee cords can be handy devices for this purpose.]
- Boat and paddle. Need to rent? Contact Suwannee Canoe Outpost at 386-364-4991.]
- PFD. Every Paddle Florida participant must wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while on the river (no ifs, ands, or buts).
- Every kayak and canoe should have two lines, a bow line and a stern line, each 8-10 feet in length, secured in such a way that they are readily accessible, but cannot come loose accidentally. Loose ropes increase the risk of entanglement in the event of a capsize. Kayaks should have grab-loops at both bow and stern.
- An extra throw rope in case of emergencies should be stored safely in each boat.
- Attach a whistle to your PFD or body to signal for help in case of emergency.
- A knife.
- Waterproof matches or other fire source in waterproof covering.
- First aid kit—each vessel should bring a first aid kit stored inside a waterproof covering.
- Repair kit—each vessel should be able to make their own repairs (i.e., duct tape, sealant, waterproof tape).
- Rain gear—be prepared to get wet and potentially cold. Every participant should have access to a lightweight jacket or fleece, rain jacket, and rain pants or kayak skirt.
- Dry change of clothes—be prepared to take an unexpected swim. Every participant should have access to a dry change of clothes kept in a waterproof covering.
- Appropriate close-toed footwear that will protect your feet from unseen underwater hazards and permit you to walk comfortably on slippery and jagged limestone when launching and taking out. Flip flops do not meet these criteria.
- Sun protection—sunburn might be the trip’s biggest hazard. Bring ample sunscreen and wear a protective hat and sunglasses.
- Mask and snorkel? You’ll be paddling by a dozen or so springs on this trip. Explore them!
- Water—drinking water will be readily available along the Paddle Florida route. Bring sufficient water bottles for the day’s paddle for everyone in your boat.
- Food—there is little access to restaurants or grocery stores along the Paddle Florida route. Lunch snacks each day are provided to registered participants. You may also want to bring along your own snacks.
- Dry Bag or Ziploc—bring a waterproof bag to protect additional items you don’t want to get wet, like your camera or cell phone.
- GPS unit? We’ll give you a map, but a GPS unit might also be handy to note locations of campsites and springs.
- Sleeping bag, pad, and pillow
- Camp chair
- Clothes to keep you comfortable in temperatures generally ranging from 50-85 degrees. Think layers. You’ll likely be wearing more during potentially chilly mornings, then peeling off layers as the day progresses. Remember dry shoes for when you’re in camp and keep in mind there are often hiking trails available at the parks we camp in.
- Bathing suit, plus maybe a mask, snorkel, and/or fins. You will be paddling and camping near some of the state’s most beautiful first-magnitude springs on this trip. Enjoy them!
- Headlamp and/or flashlight.
- Toiletries and medications.
- Other tent items: reading materials, iPod, ear plugs…?
- A camera to record the awesome memories you’ll be making!
We look forward to paddling with you. Please contact us if you have questions!