Kingfisher Landing to Spirit of the Suwannee Park
March 5th – March 12th
Kingfisher Landing to Maul's Hammock – 12 miles
We camped at the Suwannee River Outpost in the Spirit of the Suwannee Park the night before. They shuttled us to Kingfisher Landing on the east side of the Okefenokee Swamp. Very helpful and very reasonably priced. David, our driver, said that he had been doing this for 25 years and we were only the fourth people he'd taken there!
As we were putting in we met a ranger and a volunteer who were going to Maul's Hammock to empty the toilet, good timing. The trail is well marked with mile markers almost every mile. The only time we had any trouble was about a couple of miles before Maul's Hammock. We entered a huge lily pond and couldn't see the route, finally saw a mile marker straight ahead. Not a lot of wildlife, the gators mostly just looked at us. The weirdest part of the day was not getting out of the canoe for 12 miles. The platform was great, set in a lily pond with 360 degree views. Beautiful sunset! After dark we looked out on the pond with our headlamps – at least 50-100 alligators with glowing eyes. We had heard that there was minimal AT&T coverage in the refuge, but nothing else. We had a Verizon signal, we didn't try to make a call but did text. Helpful if you have worriers at home. Also had coverage at Big Water.
Maul's Hammock to Big Water – 8 miles
We thought an easy day of paddling – wrong. First we battled lily pads for about 2 miles, it eased up for awhile. Then it became very tight and twisty, branches smacking all over the place. More lily pads, more tight and twisty, then submerged logs. Definitely need some canoe experience to do this portion. Again, the platform was nice, it rained a little that night, so it was nice to have a roof.
Big Water to Griffis Fish Camp – 19 miles
Much more active wildlife on this side of the swamp. A lot of waterfowl and the alligators either slinked into the river or made a huge splash. One actually bumped the bottom of our canoe. Saw another ranger and 2 volunteers (one of them was the same guy we met 2 days before.) He said they were going to clear out the trail around Big Water – bad timing this time. Stopped at Stephen Foster State Park to sign out and buy some ice. This entire time we had only seen people that were working in the refuge. Billy's Lake was about a 2 mile paddle into a stiff wind. Did actually see 2 kayakers day paddling on the lake. Someone had told us that the narrows were really hard, but they did say that there were inexperienced canoers on the trip. Definitely need some experience maneuvering, this was the one place that we did have to get out of the canoe to get over a log. Portaged the Suwannee Sill, it was only a couple of hundred yards over grass – dragged the canoe. Somehow we had put the wrong coordinates in the GPS for Griffis Fish Camp. We just assumed there would be a sign on the river. After paddling for a few miles, we felt like we must have missed it. Saw a nice beach with a blue garbage can. We decided to have something to eat and then decide what to do. My cell phone got enough coverage to realize that we were at the Camp! Set up the tent and Mr. Griffis stops by in his golf cart. Told us we had to come up to the office to see some area artifacts. It was fascinating, the land has been in his family since the 1850s. He was a taxidermist for 50 years. He also has some Indian artifacts. And he had a story for everything. I had read about him on Trip Advisor and it really was worth the visit. (He doesn't have a sign because he has had 3 stolen in the last year.)
Griffis Fish Camp to app Mile 214 – 21 miles
Fairly easy except for the wind. About a mile upstream from Fargo there is a blow down. It looks like you might be able to make it under, then you realize that there is another lower one behind it. Fairly easy pull around on the left. It was a very easy walk into Fargo. There is a visitors center at the take-out. It looked interesting, but was closed when we were there. Good size convenience store with beer (no wine) and ice. We had plenty of food, so didn't really look at the food selection, but like I said, it was a good sized store. Camped on a huge beach. There was a freeze warning.
app Mile 214 – 195 - 19 miles
It frosted on the inside of the tent fly. We had a small fire in the morning, but it was very cold canoeing! The tupelo and cypress trees are amazing. The roots are fascinating and a lot of the trees are right in the middle of the river. The reflections of the trees were also amazing. Camped on a beach again.
app Mile 195 to 176 – 19 miles
About an hour after we put in we finally saw our first 2 people on the river, two kayakers. The wildlife seems to be much more subdued on the river, it may be the cold. We were able to listen to the America East Conference Championships on my phone, unfortunately, Vermont lost at the buzzer. THAT was a huge disappointment, but congrats to UMBC and their win over Virginia in the NCAA tournament. The take-out for Big Shoals is on the left just past the Big Shoals Tract launch. Water level was about 52.5, it seemed feasible, but the limestone rocks were intimidating. In the Northeast the rocks are generally smooth, so bonking them doesn't damage an ABS canoe. But these looked pretty sharp, so we didn't want to take a chance. We didn't carry very far, just past the biggest drop. I think this may be considered the high water put in, but it worked. We still had rapids left, but they were pretty easy. Camped again on the beach.
app Mile 176 – Woods Ferry River Camp – 17 miles
Wanted to stop in White Springs, the first takeout at the Gazebo at Stephen Foster seemed to be closest to town, but it was closed. Had to take out at the boat launch, probably a half mile further. We didn't try this, but it seems like you should be able to get from the Spring House right into the town pretty easily. The river camps are the amazing. Screened in sleeping platform with lights, ceiling fan, indoor and outdoor lighting, electric outlets, water, fire pit, picnic table, trash, hot showers and it's FREE. They also have primitive camping there with access to water, showers, etc. We had met a nice group of Boy Scouts at Stephen Foster who also camped there. The invited us to their non-denominational service and we stayed to talk with them a little. Nice group out for their 50 mile canoe badge.
Woods Ferry River Camp – Spirit of the Suwannee – 10 miles
Nice paddle, would have been nicer had it not been into a headwind, The last 2 hours were a workout. Our truck was at the park, we loaded up and headed north to a nice hotel and Mexican dinner
Flat/Sheltered Water, River/Creek (Up to Class II)