Trip Number: 13432A
Staff: Ben Berauer and Rudy Scheffer
- Swim in clear springs bursting from the aquifer
- View natural limestone rapids in Florida
- Camp on white sand beaches
- Canoes and kayaks
- Basic paddling instruction
- All meals during river trip
Created in 1937, Okefenokee Refuge covers more than 600 square miles and contains
nearly 354,000 acres of designated wilderness. A number of fresh water springs
feed the refuge, which in turn gives birth to two well-known rivers, the Suwannee
and the St. Marys. Though pure and clean, the refuge's waters are dark due to
the tannic acid in decaying vegetation. Species abundance is breathtaking: black
bears, otters, sand hill cranes, ospreys, alligators, bald eagles, yellow-fringed
orchids, and pitcher plants all find homes in the Okefenokee. The Suwannee runs
unbridled from Fargo to the Gulf of Mexico for more than 200 miles. With the
state's highest protection, it is one of the cleanest waterways in the U.S.
It's no wonder many have returned here again and again to paddle this dark mysterious
Photo: Ben Berauer
Day 1: We meet at the canoe/kayak outfitter near White Springs,
Florida on February 17 at 9 a.m. Our adventure officially begins in Fargo at
the put-in at noon. Our total trip will be 65 miles, starting from the edge
of the Okefenokee Swamp, crossing into Florida, and ending at the Sprit of the
Suwannee Music Park. On this first day, as we launch our boats, the leaders
will talk about what you can expect from the river and help you get comfortable
with your boat. The trip on the first day offers us a fantastic backdrop of
twisted tupelo, ancient cypress, live oak, and perhaps a few swamp inhabitants.
After paddling a few hours we will take a break for a stretch and a swim. With
our tents set up, our first night on the river will be spent staring at the
stars by the campfire. Each night you can expect a new and beautiful primitive
campsite next to the playful river.
Day 2: After a spectacular sunrise we break camp. The Suwannee
is flat and smooth on the section we are paddling. Depending on the water level
it may bounce a bit. As we drift downriver, subtle changes occur. The riverbanks
become steeper, and white sand beaches seem to appear around each bend. Each
day we stop to eat lunch, swim, and take time to explore.
Day 3: Today is our first sign of civilization as we float
under the Highway 6 bridge. This quickly fades as we paddle downriver. Soon
a seemingly magical limestone wall appears on river left. Little waterfalls
and crystalline droplets seep from the stone and drop to the to the black water
Day 4: Whitewater! Yes, believe it or not there is whitewater
in Florida. A long morning paddle through deeper water with steeper banks drops
us at the most extraordinary location on the river. Big Shoals is a place where
the reef that created Florida protrudes to the surface. Here the river is turned
into a bouncy class III rapid. Our camp is on the portage on river left. Yes,
we will be portaging the rapid. This is a magical place. Time to swim, play,
and hike. A secret spring nearby creates a waterfall and a great place to get
a shower. It is easy to drift off to sleep with the visions from the day and
the sound of Big Shoals in the distance.
Photo: Ben Berauer
Day 5: After we paddle away from our camp, we have few small
shoals (bouncy water) to ride as we make our way into the historic town of White
Springs. Today's lunch is a classic southern buffet at the Teleford Hotel. Full
of good home cookin', we'll drift a short distance to the Stephen Foster Cultural
Center. This State Park was donated by a group of Steven Foster music enthusiasts.
It is unique in many ways, from a carillon tower to a gift shop filled with
locally made folk art and food.
Day 6: Today is a fun, easy day with lots of drifting, dreaming,
and picture-taking. We'll notice higher banks that begin to form -- remnants
of the ancient coral reef that once stood here. Fossilized sea fans, brain coral,
and sea biscuits can be found at every turn.
Day 7: Today we stop by Suwannee Springs for a dip. This spring
advertised as "good for what ails ya" will still leave you with a
tingle if you are bold enough to jump in! We usually arrive at the Canoe Outpost
The leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals outlined in
the itinerary. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond our
control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and
well-being of the group.
The closest airport is Jacksonville. It would be best to carpool with other
participants. Rental cars and public transportation is available from the airport.
If you are coming into Orlando, it is about 3.5-hour drive to White Springs.
We meet at our canoe/kayak outfitter in White Springs, Florida on February
17 at 9 a.m. Participants will make arrangements at the outfitter to ride the
shuttle to the put-in in Fargo, Georgia. There is a fee for the shuttle (usually
around $25). Vehicles will be left at the outfitter’s establishment, where
we will be returned after the trip. It is a good idea to stay locally the night
before the trip begins. Your leaders will reserve a camping area locally for
participants who plan to arrive a day early. Camping accommodations and shuttle
cost are not covered by the trip price. If you are staying elsewhere the night
before the trip begins, please plan to be at the outfitter before 9 a.m. on
February 17th. Directions and a list of suggested items (gear list) will be
sent to all participants.
Accommodations and Food
Photo: Ben Berauer
The leaders will prepare all meals, but everyone is expected to help clean
up. Meals included in the trip fee begin with lunch on the first day and end
with breakfast on the last day. Meals served on the trip will reflect local
cuisine. Count on something chocolate for dessert. Our backcountry accommodations
will be primitive.
You do not need great deal of experience for this trip -- just be familiar
with a canoe or kayak and how to paddle. Some canoeing or kayaking experience
would make your trip more fun. As in any outdoor activity, you will enjoy it
more if you are healthy and fit. If you have not paddled recently, take some
time to get some practice and review in. The leaders are experienced with canoe
and kayak paddling, and help and instruction along the way is always included.
A willingness to learn and a positive attitude will get you there. The area's
cool clear nights at this time of year normally eliminate annoying insects.
We will be stopping every few hours for swimming and stretching. There are many
places for quick pit stops along the way.
Equipment and Clothing
A detailed equipment list will be provided to registered participants.
- Carr, Archie, A Naturalist in Florida.
- Logan, Bill, Canoeing and Camping the 213 Miles of the Beautiful Suwannee
- Larson, Gary, There Is a Hair in My Dirt.
Photo: Ben Berauer
As the Southeast grows, water usage grows. Who owns the water and how will
it be best allocated? We are entering a new decade of demand on our ever-shrinking
water supply. Use less, enjoy more.
See the How to Apply for an Outing section for more details on registering for this trip and details
about our Reservation and Cancellation Policy.
The payment of a deposit does not confirm you as a member on the trip. Participants must be approved by the trip leader. After signing up for this trip, you will be sent a confirmation packet containing approval materials (Participant Approval Questionnaire, Medical Form, Liability Release Form). Each applicant (including those on the waitlist) must fill out these forms and promptly mail them to the trip leader. The leader will review the approval materials and notify you of your acceptance in a timely manner.
Ben Berauer has led outings for many years in the Southwest and in his home state of Florida where he serves as a group outings chair. Ben has led many local and national Sierra Club paddle trips throughout Florida, and enjoys sharing his experience and love for Florida's river and springs with others. He is also the Sierra Club Local Outings Support Committee (LOSC) South-Central / Gulf representative. He is thrilled with the prospect of sharing this beautiful area with you.
Rudy Scheffer has led many outings in his home state of Florida in addition to outings in Alaska, Montana, Utah, California, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico. He presently serves as a Group Chair, Florida Chapter Chair, and Chapter Outings Chair, and is the national volunteer co-leader of the Outdoor Activities Program Team. He is excited and looking forward to be part of this trip.
General Notes About Sierra Club Trips