Two of my friends and I took a day trip down the Aucilla River in north Florida. The Aucilla is a narrow blackwater river that originates in southern Georgia and meanders down and joins the Wacissa river in Florida, before flowing just a few miles south and into the gulf. There are only two places in all of Florida with any whitewater, and this river is one of them. And being so close we decided to try this rarely paddled stretch of water.
We live in Southern Georgia, so although we left early; the drive down and the trip shuttling a vehicle down to our take out point took a little bit. Just a mile south of Lamont, FL off of highway 19 was our starting point. We didn't get on to the river and underway until 11:30 am.
The river was really high with a fast current the day we went. The Suwannee Water Management District's website listed the gauge at 50 ft and change, one foot above flood stage. Most all of the rivers in the area were still flooded as well. YouTube has plenty of videos of the high water on the Withlacoochee River which isn't far away. So we had a decent current to move us downstream.
The weather could not have been better. It was in the mid 80's and sunny. The narrow width of the river and it's frequent bends provided lots of shade and kept any direct sun to a minimum. And thankfully there were few mosquitoes, gnats and horseflies out on the river as well.
The water was cool and dark. It looked completely black, but if you came close to the banks you could see maybe a foot down through it, and then it seemed a deep red stained color. If you like rivers without a lot of damage by humans, this one should be high on your list. For the first twelve miles we saw no houses at all, and aside from a rope swing and one fish camp, no signs of people anywhere.
I had some fun with reptiles on the river too. I'd gotten ahead of my friends by maybe a quarter mile, and was coming around a bend when I caught a quick burst of movement high on the bank to my left. An alligator flew down the bank and into the water about 20 feet from me. I've seen a few alligators and that's the norm for them. But this one didn't go under at first after it hit the water. It turned in my direction for a second and started to come straight for me. But it dove under for good about 10 feet from me. My guess was it was a female that maybe had a nest or something up on the bank, and it was letting me know it wasn't happy with my presence. It was around seven foot I'd say. Not the biggest gator I'd ever seen while kayaking, but big enough that when it headed straight at me I backpaddled none the less.
And the other lizard tale from the day was a chameleon that decided to hitch a ride on my friend's hat. Early on in the trip there were a few trees down over the river, and my buddies paddled through one that must have been freshly downed as it was still full of green leafed foliage. Our guess was the chameleon jumped aboard there.
After the first twelve miles we came to a bridge where county route 256 crosses the river. For the next mile or two after that we saw 4 or 5 houses along the river banks. Up high on the deck of the one house we saw a couple kayaks hanging. I thought to myself how great it would be to live on the river like whoever owned that place, to just walk out your back door, get in your boat and go.
The rest of the trip was 8 miles according to the GPS. About seven miles from the bridge we came to the "Lost Dog Rapids", the whitewater we had come for. They weren't much, just 40 or 50 yards of bouncing and splashing. I've seen video of them when the water was down around 46 feet at the Lamont gauge, and they look much more challenging then, with several rocks to dodge. Just to the left after you pass the rapids is a nice spot to take out, and a little trail that leads back up around the bend to just before the rapids. My buddy borrowed my kayak and ran through them again.
About a mile down there's the remains of an old bridge that was burned up long ago. That was the take our take out spot, on a stretch of limerock road not far from Goose Pasture and the Wacissa River. Further down the Aucilla River goes underground and resurfaces a few times before finally coming up for good and joining up with the Wacissa. They call that stretch the Aucilla River Sinks, and from what I've read it's a great archaeological site, with all types of Paleo-Indian artifacts and bones at the bottom of the sinks.
It was a great trip and one I'd highly recommend if you are looking for a nice day trip with a little more degree of difficulty than the average North Florida spring run. Or if you're looking to get away from the crowds.
If you'd like to see more of our trip, search YouTube for the "Aucilla River Trip" and you should find a photo montage of it by OutlawEcthelion.
From Tallahassee, FL take US 27 (aka Apalachee Parkway) east to Lamont, FL (distance approx. 20 miles). Continue on US 27/US 19 one mile south of Lamont to bridge. Small primitive parking area is on the right.
To get to take out point from Lamont, take South Salt Road (aka County Rte 256) south. About 3 miles down take right onto Walker Springs Rd (limerock roads from here down). Take left onto Oneal Tram Rd. Take the sixth left as you head south on Oneal Tram Rd. Then immediately take next left and that will lead you down to the river.