My friend Phil and I had planned a paddle from Crooked River out to Cumberland Island and back, but although the day was beautiful, the wind was going to be between 15-25 mph. On the open water we didn't want to take a chance so we switched to the Upper Suwannee for an up and back trip.
We exited I10 at SR 441 and drove toward Fargo. About 5-6 miles before the state line is CR 6 to the left. We followed this down about 2 miles and came to a bridge over the Suwannee. We could drive down to the bank of the river where we unloaded the kayaks.
It was clear that the water was high and flowing fasted than normal. I have been on the Suwannee a number of times and the water has generally been just a lazy current. We had plotted a trip that would take us to the state line, a little over 11 miles, but with the current and wind we weren't sure how it would go. The weather was great, wonderful sunshine, but it was still pretty cold. We launched and started up river. It was clear right from the beginning that there was not much development on this stretch of the river.
The going was much slower than we had anticipated and after about 1 1/2 hrs we had only gone a couple of miles. We stooped for a snack just south of Rocky Creek, where there is also a boat ramp to an unnumbered road. We took off again, but Phil had cracked a rib two weeks before and it was clear that the harder paddling was taking it's toll. Not too far north of Rocky Creek (about 2.9 miles north of CR6)there was a wonderful beach. We pulled in here and Phil decided he would stay and explore the area while I headed on.
We decided that I would keep on paddling until 1:00 and then return, pick up Phil and head back to the car. The farther north I got the higher the water looked from normal. Although the river station had said this was mean water flow, it looked considerably higher. The river alternated between high bluffs and some lower areas. I pulled off on a little island for a nice lunch and then headed north again. I was getting a bit tired of battling the wind and current, so was glad to see a nice island appear just around 1:00. I pulled over and it was clear that this island was a good campsite, with level sites for 3-4 tents. I decided to turn around then even though I had only manager 6 miles of the planned 11 miles upstream.
The return route was fast. Although sometimes the current was only 2-2.2 mph, there were times that it got up to 3.5 mph. I had only seen an eagle, some egrets and a kingfisher so far during the day, just after I turned around I saw a river otter come out of the water and cavort a bit on a little beach before he took off. This was the first wild otter I have seen in Florida.
Before I knew it I was back to the beach. Phil wasnt there so I decided he had already taken off to the car, but found him a little downstream doing some exploring. We paddle back together making great time. What had taken me from 8:15 to 1:00 to accomplish upstream, I managed in 1 1/2 hours downstream.
On the way back we discussed what a nice trip this would make from either Fargo or even Stephen Foster south to CR 6 if a shuttle could be arranged. I fact it would be possible to connect it with an Okefenokee Swamp trip as well. Last year when doing the Okefenokee we traversed the swamp and came out onto the Suwannee at Stephen Foster. So a nice 3-4 night trip could be put together starting at east entrance to the park and proceeding to CR 6. Although this might be a little tougher when the water is low, in the conditions we had it was a very beautiful trip. I the six miles I paddled, I saw only two river homes, all the rest being fairly pristine.
No accomodations at CR 6, although there is enough room to drive down to the river and park you car off the road.
Fargo is in the process of building a new State Park building right on the river at the boat ramp. It would make a good launch spot for a longer trip south to CR 6.
Head west on I10 out of Jacksonville. Turn north on SR 441. About 10 miles north (about 6 miles before the FL/GA border) is CR 6 to the left. Follow CR 6 for about 2 miles to the river.
The trip from Fargo to CR 6 is descibed in "A canoeing and Kayaking Guide to the Streams of Florida" Volume 1, North Central Peninsula and Pandhandle, by Carter and Pearce.