We finally had an opportunity to get back on the river for a paddle! The Suwannee River and Manatee Springs provided a short 5 mile paddle on an overcast and rainy day. It has been so hot this summer, today was a pleasure. We started out on a very hot sunny August afternoon and it wasn’t long before the clouds moved in and we were soon paddling in the rain. It was so refreshing! …James
Suwannee River Overview:
The Suwannee River is a federally designated wild blackwater river, flowing 246 miles from the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is characterized by it’s swamps, high limestone banks, hardwood hammocks and marshes. The river’s limestone outcroppings and a drop in elevation create Florida’s only whitewater rapids at Little Shoals and Big Shoals located several miles upstream from the city of White Springs.
Stephen Foster, America’s First Composer, who never visited Florida, struggled with a verse while writing “Old Folks at Home” and by a suggestion from his brother, used the Suwannee River to finish the verse. Since 1935 “Old Folks at Home” has been Florida’s state song.
For more in depth details and photos on the Suwannee River please see previous Suwannee posts from Florida Paddle Notes ..
Manatee Springs Overview:
Manatee Springs State Park, situated 6 miles west of Chiefland on SR 320, off US 19, is a Florida State Park featuring a first magnitude spring called Manatee Spring. It directly flows into the Suwannee River via a quarter mile spring run. The park encompasses swamps, hardwood wetlands along the Suwannee, sinkhole ponds, and a cave 90 feet below ground that connects to the popular diving spot called the catfish hotel.
Manatee Springs boasts a history dating back over 9,000 years, with its earliest inhabitants being the Timucuan Indians. The park’s picnic area once served as a Timucuan Indian village, chosen for its strategic Suwannee river location providing transportation and fresh water access. The cultural landscape shifted with the arrival of the Spaniards in the 1500s.
In 1774, William Bartram visited and named it “Manate Springs” after encountering a manatee carcass on the shoreline. During the Seminole Wars (1835-1842), a significant attack led by Major General Andrew Jackson altered the region’s dynamics. Settlers and farmers later utilized the springs for various activities. On January 23, 1968, Manatee Springs became Florida’s first state park with excavations revealing a richly populated Indian village with artifacts suggesting travel to the Gulf of Mexico. ( excerpts from Wikipedia )
Suwannee River and Manatee Springs Details:
Location: This section of the Suwannee River begins about 5 miles southwest of Fanning Springs and 7.5 miles Northwest of Chiefland.
Launch Point: is at Manatee Springs Boat Ramp, 11670 NW 130th St, Chiefland, FL 32626. There is also a soft kayak launch. No fees or restrooms, ample parking.
Take Out: The take-out point is at Camp Azalea Boat Ramp, NW 128th Court, Chiefland Florida 32626, 5 miles south of the launch. Both on the east side of the River. No fees or restrooms, limited parking.
Paddle Distance: Approximately 5 miles which includes a side paddle up Manatee Spring Run.
Difficulty: Easy. Today there was a nice current allowing for an easy, relaxing paddle. Can be hot on a summer afternoon.
Average Paddle Speed: 2.2 mph.
Width and Depth: The Suwannee River is averages 500′ – 525′ wide in this section. Depth for today’s paddle was 3.73′ with flood stage at 7′ for this section.
Current – Tidal: Gentle flow, not tidal.
Side Paddles: A side paddle was taken to Manatee Springs, located at the 2.75 mile mark, on RL. The run is 1/4 mile to the spring, however it is roped odd several hundred feet before reaching the spring.
Rest Areas: There are a couple of rest stops along river left, main one at Ushers Boat Ramp.
Important Information: Keep an eye out on the weather as well as numerous jumping Sturgeons!
A beautiful morning…
Upon arriving at the river it was a very warm, sunny day. We used the ‘soft launch’ just south of the actual ramp, cooled off in the tannic water and headed out. Not a mile into the paddle the skies clouded up, thunder and distant lighting and then the sky opened up, refreshing us with cool rain. It was actually pleasant
Manatee Spring was a treat in August. Though the rain was letting up a few went in for a swim. The Spring, is located in the State Park. There is a long boardwalk the length of the run, very good stairs and walkways entering the spring and restroom facilities.
Swimming and Scuba available. Fee was $6.00 per car load, we were not charged coming in from the river.
NOTE: See other Florida Paddle Notes entries for The Suwannee River.
Suwannee River/Manatee Springs Gallery:
Additional Resources…Guides, Maps & Info…
- Middle Suwannee River Springs Restoration Plan, (pdf)…
- Suwannee River Wilderness Paddling Guide, (pdf)…
- Florida Spring Classification System and Spring Glossary, (pdf)…
- Suwannee River Water Management District, Boating and Canoeing…
- Suwannee River Wilderness State Trail (pdf)…
- Real Time Water Levels
- Manatee Springs State Park…