Early Fall, after Labor Day, on a weekday - this is the perfect time for this paddle. The North End of the River is closed to tubers after Labor Day; but is open to kayaks and canoes. This means no tubers at the Put-in. The Park's shuttle is also closed after Labor Day and with school in session, you won't see more than a handful of people on the River. Keep in mind that disposable items are prohibited on the River.
Two dozen paddlers from 27/80 Paddlers out of Stuart, Florida gathered for a Picnic Lunch at the North End of the State Park at Noon. We moved one vehicle to the Take-out Parking Lot, used the facilities and had everyone on the water by 1PM. The Launch Area is on a marked dirt road loop at the far end of the Parking Lot. A short path leads to steps or ramp down to the dock.
This is a very easy paddle with plenty of current to keep you moving. Don't miss the spring off the short branch to the right after about 20 minutes - we stopped for a swim. Enjoy the clear, clean water; lots of fish, turtles, and bird; and beautiful trees along the shoreline. The sky was high overcast so we didn't have to deal with the sun. You'll go past a couple of landings on the left that the tubers use for access - we stretched our legs at one of them.
I took about 2 leisurely hours for the 3.5 miles with the swim stop and leg stretch. The Take-out is well marked with buoys across the River and signage advising you to stay to the left. There's a wide shallow ramp for canoes, kayaks and tubes and another dirt road loop from the Parking Lot. It was a short 15 minute drive from the Take-out to the Put-in to retrieve the vehicles.
This was Day One of a Three Day Paddling Trip.
Our Group stayed at the five 2-bedroom cabins at Fanning Springs State Park about 30 miles/1 hour away. Cabin reservations at reserveamerica.com
$5.00 per vehicle for up to 8 people. In the Fall, the North Gate is unattended so pick up a blue envelope at the box in the Parking Lot.
Put-in: From I-75 North of Gainesville, take US441 North to High Springs. In High Springs take US27 North thru Fort White and PAST the South Entrance of the State Park. Follow the signs to the North Entrance and go over the bridge, 1.5 miles to a right on 137; 1 mile to a right on 264th Street; then 4 miles to the North Entrance. Clean Bathrooms; lots of Parking.
Take-out: On US27 between the bridge and the South Entrance to the Park. The gate is open when the tram does not operate. Clean Bathrooms; limited Parking for a large group.