You hear them well before you can see them: a burble of water that rises to a roar as you approach the Big Shoals of the Suwannee River.
Florida’s largest series of rapids is complete with hydraulics and holes and Class III whitewater at certain times of year.
Location: White Springs
Fees: $4 per vehicle. $2 per pedestrian or cyclist.
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily. Primitive camping on south side of river only. Leashed pets welcome
From Interstate 75 one exit north of the Interstate 10 interchange, follow CR 136 east into White Springs. Turn right on US 41. Along Spring Street, look for the large brown sign for the park pointing left in the middle of town. Follow CR 135 out of town to the marked entrances (there are two) on the right. The first is for the trailhead for the Woodpecker Trail, a paved path. The second entrance leads down a rough road that meets the other end of the Woodpecker Trail before leading down to and ending at the primary hiking / offroad biking / canoe launch trailhead above Big Shoals.
About the Park
When the river is at just the right level, it’s a blast to ply a kayak down this mile of wild water.
Canoeists are encouraged to take out and use the portage trail on the south shore to avoid ripping a hole on the rugged limestone jutting out of the river.
Big Shoals State Park protects both sides of the river, offering fabulous hiking on the Florida Trail (south side) and on the Big Shoals and Long Branch Trails (north side).
Road access is via the north side of the river, providing a portal to the Woodpecker Trail, a paved bike trail, as well as off-road biking trails, equestrian trails, and a put-in for paddlers.
Explore the park
Showcasing springs, sandy beaches, waterfalls, and haunting swamp forests where manatees gather, the 170-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail is a paddling trip of a lifetime
4.6 miles. Showcasing Florida’s only Class III whitewater and other spectacular geologic features, this is one of the most scenic segments of the Florida Trail along the Suwannee River.
The Woodpecker Trail at Big Shoals State Park provides a 7-mile wildlife-rich round trip ride, but watch out for those puddles! John plunges in anyway to get the story.