Friday: Paddle 10 miles from Dowling Park Ramp (MM 113) to Lafayette Blue Springs State Park (103.3)
Saturday: Paddle 12 miles from Lafayette Blue Springs State Park (MM 103.3) to Rendezvous Resort Campground (MM 91)
Sunday: Paddle 15 miles from Rendezvous Resort Campground (MM 91) to Branford (MM 76)
Trip Level 3 (10-15 miles per day, 3-4 mph, semi-open water, moderate current downstream)
Lodging: We will be staying Friday and Saturday night at Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort Campground, home of Convict Springs.
As advertised we formed up at Dowling Park, shuttled cars and headed out to our Friday destination, Lafayette Blue Spring State Park. This ten mile paddle was in ideal weather. Warm but the water and springs made up for the heat. The river level was 51.36 at the White Springs Gage. http://www.mysuwanneeriver.org/realtime/river-levels.php Thus or paddle was at the lower end of the ideal level stage. If we were higher up the river this would have been a problem, but fortunately we were below I-10. You may remember this is another installment of the club�s march to the sea down the Suwannee River all 240 miles. Members started earlier at Fargo and migrated to Dowling Park. This trip was to extend the �segments� to Branford.
The first days paddle made it evident that there were some that preferred to do shorter runs than the level 3 paddles covered in the announcement. So for days 2 and 3 we coordinated short runs for the level 2 paddlers who self-shuttled.
Oh! SPLASH!!!!!...................there is that other thing. The sturgeon were jumping. As Qruiser found out they don�t always jump far away from the boat. She had one come up under the boat, hit the boat and then clear water SPLASH next to the boat. This is quite dramatic when a 4-6 foot fish clears water so close.
We made the State Park picked up the cars and some shuttled up to the put in to collect the cars up at Dowling Park and the others went to the Suwannee River Rendezvouses Resort, http://www.suwanneeriverrendezvous.com/ , to check in and start the showers rotation. First day was 10 miles. We rented two cabins to house the 16 paddlers. Camping would be nice, but it was summer, in Florida and the resort makes a much more comfortable base camp than lugging the gear in the kayaks and swatting skeeters in the heat all night.
Day two we shuttled up to the state park and started the second day, 12 mile paddle. We caught up with the short group with four miles left to go. We stopped and swam in several springs. We ate lunch at Peacock Spring River camp. The river camps are part of the state park system and free to paddlers. On this weekend they were also empty. There were some shoals that provided some faster water to navigate. It didn�t seem like much current but those that tried to paddle up and do-over found out differently. Back at the resort after a good dinner and drum solo by Cameron, we wandered over to the lodge to listen to the Saltwater Cowboys, the Rendezvous house band. It was a good day.
Day three started with, as usual, a great breakfast and packing up. This day we would shuttle loaded vehicles and check out since we would be paddling at check-out time. With the majority of the vehicles at the take out we returned to the put in and began our longest leg, 15 miles to Branford. The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the courage of her fearless crew, the Minnow would��������oh, excuse me, flash back to the 60s. The weather did change somewhat. It clouded up and sprinkled/rained from time to time. Rain cooled things off some. Most of the trip though was sunny and warm. The spring dipping was a welcome relief. We stopped at the Adams Tract River camp and checked it out. The take out kind of sucked. There were deep drop offs at the edge of limestone shore line. Two more feet of water would have made landing better. Basically you�d have to land at the steps and take your boat up the stairs to the boat racks. The bath rooms were air conditioned though. Lunch was at Troy Spring. Troy Spring is a cave diver spot as evidenced by the number of divers rinsing gear out and descending into the spring. This is a big spring. It has a large spring run that contains the remains of the civil war era steam boat. The run is barricaded by a large float line. The dock is a floating heavy duty dock that was high and dry in this 51.36 water we were traveling on. Oh there was the other thing. This part of the river is below the shoals, wide and deep enough for power boats. From time to time there was a �surf� on the river from passing boats.
We pulled into Branford around three in the afternoon. It was hot. The two ramps were busy. We got the boats out and headed home. If you go here are some things to remember,
a. Ideal water is 55 feet at the White Springs gage.
b. Suwanee River Rendezvous RV Resort has tent camping, RV spots, Cabins, Motel and lodge rooms. The cabins, and rooms often fill up a couple of months before the event. Reserve earlier. Tent and RV spots don�t fill up as fast. They also have food at Gramma Susie�s cooking shack. Ice, fire wood and drinks are also available.
c. We ate well. The roster was divided up into groups responsible for specific meals. We ate well����.I paddled over 37 miles but gained five pounds.
d. Bring plenty of fluids for the paddle.
e. Current was a factor but not much at the low water. Pick distances you can comfortably complete.
f. Get a Suwannee river mile marker map from the Suwannee River Water Management District. (see link)
g. Take time to investigate springs along the way. Respect �no Trespassing� signs. Many springs are back in private property and have non-public docks, decks, etc.
h. Leave some ice and a cold drink in the coolers in the cars at the pick-up point. If you don�t remember this there is a store next door at the Rendezvous and Branford.
Outfitting: Sea kayaks, canoes, recreational kayaks and sit on top kayaks
Fees: Lafayette Blue Springs State Park admission is $5 per car per day. Suwannee River Rendevous lodging depends upon you lodgings. Tent camping starts at $20 per night. Cabin rental can be $175 per night, but it sleeps 10.
Resources: River mile marker map may be downloaded from the Suwannee River Water Management District web site. (see link)