Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

  • 14th Annual Fall Trip

    Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

    October 15 - 20, 2021

    Day Launch Stop Lunch Miles Campsite Daily Miles
    1 N/A N/A Madison Blue Springs State Park 0
    2 Lunch at Campsite 12 Suwannee River State Park 12
    3 Snacks provided in morning Variable Dowling Park River Camp 15
    4 Lunch at Campsite 11 Lafayette Blue Springs State Park 10
    5 Peacock Slough River Camp 8.5 Adams Tract River Camp 18
    6 Little River Springs Park 6 End: Ivey Memorial Park, Branford 10
    Total Miles 65

    Celebrate Florida’s version of autumn on its most famous river. The trip spans 65 miles of the scenic Suwannee and a portion of the (northern) Withlacoochee, from Madison Blue Spring to Branford. This section features dozens of clear blue springs perfect for swimming and snorkeling! 14 years and counting!

    Evening Programs: Evening programs will include presentations from authors, historians, environmental experts, and one night of live music.

    Refund Policy

    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 can choose a pre- or post-trip shuttle. Those choosing the pre-trip shuttle will park their vehicles at the trip's ending point, the Shrine Club in Branford, by 1 PM on October 15. After boats are loaded onto trailers, they'll be shuttled to the trip's launching point at Madison Blue Spring State Park in Lee. Their vehicles will be waiting for them at trip's end. Those choosing the post-trip shuttle will leave their vehicles at the trip’s launch point at Madison Blue Springs State Park and be shuttled back there at trip’s end.

    Boat & Gear Recommendations

    For this trip, we recommend kayaks of at least 12 feet in length, sit in or sit on top. This is a trip for beginners, but you should 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 bill@paddleflorida.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.

    Trip Itinerary

    Day 1/Friday, October 15: Madison Blue Spring State Park, Paddling Miles: 0

    Paddle Florida participants will arrive between 1-5PM at Madison Blue Spring State Park to check in for the trip, set up their tents, eat dinner, and receive an orientation for the adventure to come. This park features one of the prettiest first magnitude springs in North Florida. Be sure to bring your swimsuit, mask, and snorkel—you’ll have lots of opportunities to explore springs this week both above and below the water’s surface.

    Keep in mind that the Suwannee River Valley at this time of year can be chilly, at least by Florida standards. Temperatures can range from 60-80 degrees during the day and 35-55 degrees at night, so bring layers to dress in. The fire each night will provide heat, light, ambiance, camaraderie, and maybe a marshmallow or two. Dinner will be served at 6PM each night, followed by an evening program at 7PM. Nightly entertainment ranges from musicians to educational speakers who will provide insights regarding the flora, fauna, and ecology of the region we’re paddling through. Be sure to bring cameras to capture and preserve some great moments

    Day 2/Saturday, October 16: Madison Blue Springs State Park to Suwannee River State Park, Paddling Miles: 12

    After a hearty breakfast, paddlers will pack up their tents, load their camping gear on our truck, and launch their boats at the spring. We’ll travel 12 miles down the Withlacoochee River to where it meets the Suwannee. Keep an eye out for small springs tucked into limestone banks along the way. Our destination is Suwannee River State Park, where you will camp beneath Spanish moss laden live oaks on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers. This has to be one of the prettiest river sunset-viewing spots in the state! The park also offers hot showers, picnic pavilions and tables, and riverside hiking trails..

    Day 3/Sunday, October 17: Suwannee River State Park to Dowling Park River Camp, Paddling Miles: 15

    Today we’ll embark on a 15-mile paddle to Dowling Park. Since there’s not a well situated public spot for a group rest stop along this stretch of river, we’ll provide lunch snacks in the morning for you to pack up and take with you.

    About a half-mile past the I-10 bridge, we’ll pass second magnitude Anderson Spring on the left. Springs are classified by the amount of water flowing out of them. First magnitude springs discharge over 100 cubic feet of water per second (cfs), second magnitude springs discharge 10-100 cfs, and third magnitude springs discharge 1-10 cfs.

    Our home for the evening is our first Suwannee River Wilderness Trail (SRWT) river camp of the trip. There’s a nice white sand beach to pull our boats up onto and paddlers will be able to set up tents or just roll out their sleeping bags in one of the screened-in platforms which offer overhead lighting, fans, and electricity, and enjoy a hot shower.

    Day 4/Monday, October 18: Dowling Park River Camp to Lafayette Blue Springs State Park Paddling Miles: 10

    Our next overnight stop will again be hosted by the Florida Park Service at Lafayette Blue Springs State Park. Its beautiful riverside location features interesting hiking trails to several springs and karst features, plus restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic pavilions.

    Get out your bathing suit and snorkeling gear, as the park features another of several first magnitude springs in the region. When the water level is right, visitors can also walk across a natural limestone bridge that crosses the spring run flowing into the Suwannee River.

    Day 5/Tuesday, October 19: Lafayette Blue Springs State Park to Adams Tract River Camp, Paddling Miles: 18

    On this day you will see the river begin to widen a bit as we make our way down this world-class waterway. Keep your mask and snorkel handy, as this is SPRINGS DAY! Depending on the river levels, we may pass up to nine clear, flowing springs, with Telford and Royal being the most spectacular

    About two miles after our lunch stop at Peacock Slough River Camp, the hulking steel remains of the Drew Bridge will come into view. This “turn bridge” built in the early 1900s was manually operated by two men using a huge handle.  In the closed position, the bridge span once carried trains of the Florida Railroad across the river. It has rested in its current open position since being deactivated in the 1920s.

    This evening we’ll stay overnight our second SRWT river camp, at Adams Tract. Paddlers will again have access to hot showers and screened-in camping platforms which offer overhead lighting, fans, and electricity

    Day 6/Tuesday, October 20: Adams Tract River Camp to Ivey Memorial Park in Branford, Paddling Miles: 8

    We'll head downriver 8 miles to our final destination, Ivey Memorial Park in the small town of Branford. On the way we'll take a rest stop at Little River Springs, currently a Suwannee River Water Management District Park. This site is popular with cave and cavern divers. The spring is the entrance to a cave system more than 1,200 feet long and 100 feet deep.

    After visiting this picturesque location, the final five miles will be a breeze. We’ll conclude our paddling adventure with a final celebration barbeque at the Branford Shrine Club.

    Mission Statement

    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.

    General Guidelines


    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.]

    1. Boat and paddle.  Need to rent? Email brack154@msn.com at Wild Florida Adventures. ADD For all other inquiries, email Bill@paddleflorida.org.
    2. PFD.  Every Paddle Florida participant must wear a Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while on the river (no ifs, ands, or buts).
    3. 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.
    4. An extra throw rope in case of emergencies should be stored safely in each boat.
    5. Attach a whistle to your PFD or body to signal for help in case of emergency.
    6. A knife.
    7. Waterproof matches or other fire source in waterproof covering.
    8. First aid kit—each vessel should bring a first aid kit stored inside a waterproof covering.
    9. Repair kit—each vessel should be able to make their own repairs (i.e., duct tape, sealant, waterproof tape).
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Sun protection—sunburn might be the trip’s biggest hazard. Bring ample sunscreen and wear a protective hat and sunglasses.
    14. Mask and snorkel? You’ll be paddling by a dozen or so springs on this trip. Explore them!
    15. 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.
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. GPS unit? We’ll give you a map, but a GPS unit might also be handy to note locations of campsites and springs.

    For Land:

    1. Tent
    2. Sleeping bag, pad, and pillow
    3. Camp chair
    4. 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.
    5. 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!
    6. Headlamp and/or flashlight.
    7. Toiletries and medications.
    8. Other tent items: reading materials, iPod, ear plugs…?
    9. 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!

    Documents Attached to Suwannee River Wilderness Trail:
    2019 - 2020 USCA Waiver Release Form
    Suwannee Festival 2020 - Itinerary
    Suwannee Festival 2020 - Paper Registraton Form