It’s been over 20 years since I’ve paddled on the Upper Santa Fe River, the stretch above Oleno State Park, and a first time paddle onto Olustee Creek. It was a beautiful spring day ( despite being February ) and I was definitely treated to an exciting new adventure! …James
The Upper Santa Fe River is a section of the river both upstream and immediately downstream from the gauge located at Worthington Springs. This section is pretty much undeveloped. Two main tributaries to the river are Olustee Creek, entering the Santa Fe about 9.5 miles downstream from Worthington Springs and Santa Fe Spring, another 1/2 mile further. Santa Fe Spring is a 1st Magnitude spring, located on the northern bank of the river and both the spring and Oulstee Creek are normally slow moving.
The Upper Santa Fe River continues in a southwesterly direction from Santa Fe Spring where 4.75 miles downstream, it eventually sinks underground at O’Leno State Park. Of historical note, a Spanish mission Santa Fe de Toloca was established in the very early 1600’s, founded by Franciscan Father Martín Prieto. “…Like other Spanish missions in Florida, Santa Fe de Toloca would have been established in or near an existing Timucua village, belonging either to the Potano or the Northern Utina tribe. A village site next to the mission archeological site may have been Cholupaha, visited by the de Soto Expedition in 1539″…Wikipedia.
The location of Santa Fe de Toloca is about 1/2 mile southeast of Santa Fe Spring.
Upper Santa Fe – Olustee Creek Paddle Map…
Santa Fe/Olustee Details:
Location: The Upper Santa Fe River is considered that section of the river both upstream and downstream for Worthington Springs…(Upper Santa Fe River map).
Launch point and Take out: The launch and take for this paddle is Bible Camp Road Boat Launch, located at the end of Bible Camp Road, High Springs, 32643.
Width and Depth: The Santa Fe River, at the launch is around 150′ wide, narrowing to 75′ at the confluence to Olustee Creek. Olustee Creek begins with an 85′ opening but quickly narrows to a winding 20′ wide. The depth of both waterways were quite shallow, the Santa Fe, under 4′ while Olustee Creek was at most 2′ deep.
Side Paddles: At mile marker 1.6 there is a lagoon on river left. We paddled about a 1/4 mile before having to turn back to the main river. At mile 2.3 on RL is the entrance to Santa Fe Spring, which we entered the 125′ run and explored this spring. At mile 2.78 Olustee Creek enters the river and we were able to paddle up about 0.33 mile. All side paddles are worth exploring.
Rest Areas: There are no bathroom facilities at the launch but there are several secluded spots there as well as along the river to rest and heed nature’s call if need be.
Bible Camp Road Launch:
Bible Camp Road Boat is at the end of nowhere. Just keep on driving until the road ends at I-75. The launch is a very nice. Spacious, with a concrete ramp and large sandy area for a soft launch or staging. There is ample parking but no restroom facilities. There is no fee to launch here.
The Upper Santa Fe River:
We head up river, paddling under I-75. The water is low and the twisted roots of Cypress and Swamp Tupelo are exposed along the banks. Despite paddling upriver the current is minimal and not a problem.
The Maple Samaras provided brilliant splashes of color while blooming Walter’s Viburnum were predominant along the banks. Turtles, Limpkins and even two otters were seen along the way.
Santa Fe Spring:
Santa Fe Spring was a first-time discovery for me. At mile marker 2.3, the spring run is visible on river left flowing through tall sandy banks. one side with the ruins of an old residence. The water was flowing quite strongly through the narrow 100′ run and once inside, we found ourselves in a 200′ diameter circular pool. The banks were steep, lined with Oaks, Pine and Cypress. The boil of this 1st magnitude spring is located in the NW side of the pool, however there was no sign on the surface of a boil. See the spring details here.
Olustee Creek is one of the main tributaries to the Santa Fe River. It is a slow moving, twisting creek, lined with cypress trees and bay. Olustee Creek is famous as the location of the largest battle of the Civil War fought in Florida, The Battle of Olustee. On February 20, 1864 the Confederate army repulsed the Union army forcing a retreat to Jacksonville.
We reached the confluence at mile marker 2,78, river left. The opening was wider than the actual Santa Fe River, however 85′ was reduced to less than 20′ less than 300′ into the creek. It was shallow, winding and interesting, however around 0.33 miles into the creek fallen trees and shallow water forced our retreat back to the Santa Fe.
I will definitely be returning to this waterway, especially after some needed rain, but for now it was another enjoyable adventure of another unique Florida wateray!