Along its 266-mile meandering route from the Okeefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico, the Suwannee River is home to countless springs, sandy beaches, and tributaries that drop into the river down steep slopes as waterfalls.
Florida’s first long-distance paddling trail, the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail sets up an incredible adventure of launching above White Springs to paddle your way to the Gulf of Mexico.
A partnership between Florida State Parks, Suwannee River Water Management District, and small towns along its route, the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail follows the river for more than 170 miles.
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Location: Suwannee River
Length: 170 miles
Fees: Launch and day use fees applies at state parks.
Land Manager: Florida State Parks
Address: 4298 NW CR 292, Mayo, FL 32066
No permit required to paddle.
Open hours vary by access point. River open 24 hours.
Always check river levels before paddling the Suwannee River. High water, especially nearing or exceeding flood stage, is too dangerous to attempt a paddle.
To plan your trip, you’ll want to determine your starting and ending points and roughly where you plan to camp.
On some parts of the river, you can camp wherever you like. Sandy beaches beckon around curves protected by public land. Coves and spring runs contain first and second-magnitude springs.
Paddlers can share many of the designated campsites along the Florida Trail Suwannee section, which follows the north shore of the river from White Springs through Twin Rivers State Forest near Dowling Park.
Convenience stores are within an easy walk of the river at Suwannee Springs, Suwannee River State Park in Ellaville, Branford, and Fanning Springs.
State Park Campgrounds and Cabins
The following state parks have camping facilities that you can use along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. Each has a fee associated with it, and reservations should be made in advance.
In addition to facilities at state and county parks and campgrounds, the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail has five River Camps.
Each of these hosted backcountry campsites has five screened sleeping platforms that sleep 6-8 people, plus additional space for tents.
They are along the river at Woods Ferry, Holton Creek, Dowling Park, Peacock Slough and Adams Tract.
These facilities are free and include restrooms and showers. Reservations recommended. Call 800-868-9914.
Exploring the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
The main reason to take on this trail is a week’s worth of paddling with the Suwannee River’s flow, with river camps, campgrounds, lodges, and primitive camping on sandy beaches along the way.
Parks and Trails
Depending on where you are along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, you can get out of your canoe or kayak and go exploring.
Stop and swim in a spring, or explore one of the many nature trails at the state parks along the route. These trails and parks can be found along the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.
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 complete with hydraulics and holes and Class III whitewater at certain times of year.
One of the Suwannee River’s largest swimming holes is the clear, cool reflecting pool of Fanning Springs, located along the edge of its namesake town
A beauty spot along the Suwannee River north of Fanning Springs, Hart Springs offers swimming, hiking, camping, and cave diving in a rural setting near Trenton.
Lafayette Blue Springs was an old swimming hole for folks in Mayo and the rural communities west of Live Oak, a hidden beauty spot along the Suwannee River that is now a state park.
One of Florida’s more remote National Wildlife Refuges, the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge spans two counties, protecting a sweep of more than 53,000 acres and 30 miles of coastline along the Big Bend
Showcasing the topography of the lower Suwannee River, Manatee Springs State Park has trails leading around deep sinkholes, walks through ancient forests, and a spring run so clear you can see schools of fish racing down it to the river.
West of Trenton along the Suwannee River, Otter Springs is a second magnitude spring surrounded by clusters of ancient oaks and towering cypress. It is a Gilchrist County Park.
Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park is a top international destination for cave divers thanks to its extensively mapped system of underwater tubes: more than six miles of passageways connecting two major springs, six sinkholes, and the Suwannee River.
Staring into Royal Springs, it feels like looking into a bottomless pit. Steep and broad, it drops 42 feet into shimmering waters of turquoise and royal blue.
At Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, Florida pioneer crafts and Florida folk music are as important as the lovely setting on the Suwannee River
Perched on the bluffs at the confluence of the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers, Suwannee River State Park is one of those don’t-miss Florida outdoors experiences, with two ghost towns, Civil War battlements that once protected a strategic railroad bridge, and the ruins of a former governor’s riverfront mansion.
Nearby towns also serve as hubs for exploring not just the river but its surroundings as well. From north to south, communities directly on the river include White Springs, Suwannee Springs, Ellaville, Dowling Park, Branford, Fanning Springs, and Suwannee.
Our articles touching on aspects of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
Visits to four springs along the lower Suwannee River enlightens us as to the changes occurring in Florida’s springs, even in rural areas.
It’s August. It’s Florida. Where do you go to cool off? The springs of the Suwannee River Valley. No matter the size, these natural swimming holes are a delight.
Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Paddling Guide (PDF) Official Website