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From John Depa -- "New River" - located in North Florida
New River Trip Date: March, 2000 -- Posted 6/7/2000
Location: Florida panhandle, about 40 miles southeast of
Description: A dark, tea colored river, much like the Suwannee and St. Marys. The upper reach of the river originates inside Apalachicola Forest. From there it takes a winding route through Tates Hell Wildlife Management Area, meets the Crooked River and then the Carrabelle River about two miles from the Gulf, just north of the city of Carrabelle. Total distance from the "put in" to the Gulf is about 20 miles.
Click to enlarge
Area Description: Apalachicola is a National Forest. It has a number of campsites with easy access to several rivers and lakes. Campsite fee is $4.00 per night, or you can purchase an annual permit, which is valid in all three Florida National Forests, for a fee of $40.00. The nearest campsite to the New River "put-in" is Hitchcock Lake, located on Route 67, about 20 miles north of Carrabelle. Hitchcock Lake is really not a" lake", it is a calm stretch of water off the Ochlockonee River (which is another nice river to paddle).
Just to the south of the "put-in" you will enter the Tates Hell Wildlife Management Area. This is a recent State purchase of 119,467 acres. Most maps show the purchase as being only a small parcel of land on the boundary of the Apalachicola, but in fact, the State purchased almost the entire tract, which was formerly owned by a timber company. For this reason, the New River is little known or used. Since the purchase, the State has been installing road signs, and has developed 8 new campsites along the river, all with brand new picnic tables and fire rings. As evidence of the fact that the river and its facilities are little known, I did not encounter one person camped in any of the sites.
Camping at the developed sites requires a permit, and a fee of $4.00 per night. However, I doubt that anyone would bother you, the area is quite desolate. In addition, there are a number of beautiful "sugar-bar" sandbars that would provide enough camping space for a number of tents, and give you the privacy of not being accessible by road. Should you elect to obtain a permit for one of the developed sites, the Ranger Station is located on Route # 98 about 2 miles east of Carrabelle (look for the fire tower on the left side). This is also the place to obtain a (free) detailed map of Tates Hell. The other map that would be helpful is of Apalachicola Forest. One can be obtained at the Ranger Station in Wakulla, on Route #319, on the east side of the Forest. There is a fee ($10 ??) for that map. I would recommend obtaining both maps. The roads are very poorly marked and there are hundreds of miles of dirt logging roads that lead to nowhere. Even with the maps, finding the various campsites in Tates Hell is difficult by land.
Try the following websites:
National Forest office in Wakulla http://www.r8web.com Phone 850-926-3561
I drove over 100 miles on dirt roads trying to find the furthermost northern entry point to the New River. (I didnt have a Tates Hell map at the time, and just navigated by compass). Finally I found it, at the end of Forest Road (FR) # 125, in the Apalachicola Forest. FR 125 intersects Route # 67 about ½ mile north of Hitchcock Lake campsite. Follow that (dirt) road about 14 miles (west). You will go over 3 small bridges and later the road widens to the left. Take the wide road (it looks large enough to be a small air strip) for the last 2 miles (?). It bears to the right, but a fork splits off (left) to a short dead-end. There is an access point there, but it is down a rather steep bank. Check it out anyway. Then get back on 125 and travel another 1/4 mile to the next (left) turn off. There you
will see the remains of an old bridge. As far as I know, this is as far north that the river is accessible by car. This is where I launched.
Take out point:
Depending on your "trip plan" you can either paddle the river all the way to the Gulf (about 20 miles) as I did, or make arrangements to pull out at one of the established campsites. My "take out" was at the Tiki Bar in Carrabelle. It is located on a dead-end road by a boat ramp, where the shrimp boats dock. Heading west on Route 19, go through the town of Carrabelle and over the bridge (Carrabelle River). Make the first left, and follow it all the way to the end, about 1 mile. The Tiki Bar is on the left. They have a fenced-in area where you can leave your vehicle over night (for a nominal fee).
Launched at 9 AM with a plan to be picked up at the Tiki Bar at 6 PM. I was paddling alone in a Mohawk Solo 14' canoe. Since this was a one day trip, I was traveling very light - cooler of "beverage", fishing rods and a lunch. Had no idea what I might encounter. I had not talked to anyone who had paddle it, and was simply looking at a map.
First mile, or so, was a dream! Nice 1-2 MPH current and beautiful reflections off the tea colored river. Lots of cypress trees both in the river and along the banks. No pollution (litter) and there were numerous white sand bars. I would liken it to the first 10 miles on the Suwannee River, just below the "sill", but with less of a current. Then the river began to narrow, and took a decidedly "winding " path. There were times that I thought it did a complete 360 degree turn." Dead falls" became more numerous. There was evidence that the river had been cleared of Dead falls, at one time, but that was long ago. Over the next 3 miles I had 4 "carry-outs" and just as many close calls (lying flat in the bottom of the canoe to slip under a fallen tree). I began to wonder if, in fact, the river was "passable".If not, what would I do?? But, that is part of the allure of paddling solo in unknown waters, a sense of exploration.
At about mile 5, I heard voices down river. Turned out to be 2 men and a boy, in two canoes. They had put in the night before, just below where I did, and camped on a sand bar. Their "take out" was the first developed State campsite (which at this point I did not know existed). They were familiar with the river and gave me some valuable information: That there were 8 new campsites, and that I could expect a tidal influence about 3 miles further down river. They also said it was the first time they had ever encountered another paddler.
The river widened again and the "winding" became less acute. No more problems with Dead falls, but I had lost the current. The cypress trees were far behind and the landscape was changing to scrub and pine. Not nearly as pretty as the upper river. Since I was paddling solo, I was well ahead of the other paddlers. Found their vehicle and checked out the campsite (as I did at the next 5 sites) All had brand new picnic tables and fire rings, but they looked little used. They are all accessible by road, so I would imagine that they are used more by "teenagers", on Friday night, then by paddlers.
At about mile 9, the tidal current was slightly against me, and I was also bucking a head wind. I began to have doubts about making my 6 PM pick up point. This seemed like a good time for a break, so I ate a sandwich, had a few beers, and fished for ½ hour. Caught 2 bluegills and a catfish. I had calculated the trip with respect to the tide. Low tide on Carrabelle was at 7 PM, so it should be in my favor for the last 8 miles. It was, but the wind was not! As the landscape gradually changed to all scrub pine, and later to marsh grass, the wind became more of a factor. I also saw the first power boat about 7 miles north of Carrabelle. A short distance further down river, I came across the first house. I knew I was getting close, but not close enough.
I picked up the paddling pace, but nightfall arrived before I reached the Route 98 bridge. Fortunately this section of the river is heavily populated, so I was able to navigate by the lights and buoy markers . Finally docked at the Tiki Bar at 8:30 PM. My "ride" had given up on me and returned to camp with my truck. He figured (rightfully so) that I had "laid up" for the night. So, I carried the canoe inside the fence, had a few beers at the bar, and started to walk back to camp - 20 miles!! Fortunately, a young couple in a pickup truck offered me a ride. Nice people in Florida. They drove me right to my campsite.
The (upper) New River offers a unique paddling experience; a challenge, beauty and solitude. I would not attempt the entire 20 mile trip in one day. Stay overnight in one of the camp sites. Any further inquiries, feel free to E-mail me. I have also paddled many other Florida rivers, and the Everglades.
For more info contact -- John Depa firstname.lastname@example.org
John promised us some photos -- so check back later.
From Roger K. Thomas Athens, GA.
Paddling The upper Amicalola Creek - White water -- North Central Georgia.
A whitewater experience.
Bill and Justin McDaniel joined me in paddling what most books call
"Amicalola Creek," but the sign on the river bridge at GA 53, which was
added a few years ago, says it is "Amicalola River." Whatever it is, the
Amicalola is a tributary of the Etowah River. To find the Amicalola on a
state map of Georgia, look for Gainesville in north central Georgia.
Follow GA 53 west from Gainesville for 20 miles to Dawsonville. Eight
miles passed Dawsonville, GA 53 crosses the Amicalola. It may not be
labeled on the map (it is not labeled on the map that the Georgia Highway
Department issues) but if you follow the blue river/creek line on the map
southeastward from the GA 53 crossing, it will dead end into the Etowah
River after about 7 miles; the Etowah should be labeled.
Let me say right off that it is a beautiful; river almost always
paddleable, and it is surrounded by beautiful mountainous forest. The
first 2-3 miles of the upper Amicalola where we paddled was only 20-30
feet across. After that and the merger with Cochran's Creek after about
3.5 miles, it was somewhat wider. The paddle-able part of the upper and
all of the lower Amicalola are completely within Dawson Forest, a
state-owned wildlife management area. There is almost no development
along it, except for two bridges and one abandoned house, more of a cabin,
really, at the upper Amicalola take-out that was constructed by and
formerly used by the Department of Natural Resources. The upper A is a
beautiful but reasonably gentle mountain river. This was my third time on
the upper A, the previous time being last spring or summer. The upper A
has about eight class II or II+ rapids and many smaller ones.
A brief comment about rapids...rapids are rated I-VI with I being easy and
VI being dangerous and being further characterized with the admonition
that a VI should be attempted only by strong parties of expert canoeists
or kayakers. Sometimes class VI rapids gain their rating, in part, due to
their association with fatalities. Improved equipment and, I suppose,
paddlers have resulted in the downgrading of some rapids over the past 30
years. For example, Randy Carter's "Canoeing White Water" published in
1967 rated Nantahala Falls near Bryson City, North Carolina, a class IV-V,
but in recent years it has been rated III-IV, depending on water level.
While I do not disagree with that, there are other rapids that I still
view as being best represented by their former ratings rather than their
downgraded ratings, and there are rapids that, perhaps, should be
downgraded but which have retained their ratings. In short, there seems
to be much inconsistency.
There is little coverage in canoeing books regarding the upper Amicalola.
What coverage there is mentions class II but in specific reference only to
the biggest ledge (unnamed in any sources I have seen) and described
below. Arguably that ledge is a III by older standards, and I think there
are a couple of other rapids that might rate III on the upper A in
comparison to some well known IIIs, such as, Horseshoe Rapid on the
Chattahoochee River or Patton's Run on the Nantahala. Two of the better
rapids on the upper A follow in short order after the ledge, and three
come in the last 20 minutes of the 10 mile section.
Recent ice storm or winds have caused a lot of tree damage compared to
when I was there less than a year ago. There were at least 10-12 places
along the way where trees have fallen completely across the creek, most
often, mid-sized hemlocks. Most of them we could pass under, although it
was tight at times. However, to pass three of the trees, I had to stand
on the tree trunk and haul my canoe over. Bill and Justin were able to
stay in their kayaks and use body motion and arm-leverage to get over
them. About an hour into the trip, we arrived at the biggest ledge on
that section. The ledge is about 60 feet wide left to right as you face
downriver at which point it is interrupted by a low boulder of a few feet
width and finally there is a 6-8 feet wide curving channel that is usually
congested with logs and limbs. The preferred run is a narrow channel
immediately adjacent and to the left of the low boulder where the water
pours over at a 70-80 degree drop of about 6 feet. The drop requires a
slight maneuver to avoid a rock about mid-way down. Within a very few
minutes after the ledge, there are two good technical class II+'s to be
A nice clearing on river left is available just ahead of the ledge, and
that is where we stopped to have lunch and scout the ledge before paddling
over it. To prepare lunch I brought a small, one-burner Coleman gas
stove, so we could boil hotdogs, and I had a small cooler for the
beverages and perishables. We had buns, mustard, catsup, sweet finely
chopped onions, and pickle relish ... and were those dogs good ... especially
after an hour of paddling and with it being about 1:30 PM before we bit
into the first one. In fact, I am getting hungry now thinking about them!
The area of the clearing would be excellent for camping, and there are
other camping possibilities along the 10-mile stretch.
There were also many trout fisherman and two women along the way, 20
maybe, as season on the Amicalola opened the week before, March 18. The
Creek had been well stocked, one fisherman said, with some trophy-sized
trout. But we only saw one of the fishermen that we passed, actually
hooking a trout. He released it, and I did not get a good view, so I
don't know if the fish was undersize or if he was just a catch-and-release
fisherman...many are. Most of the fishermen were not very forthcoming that
day, and we usually passed them quietly, trying not to disturb their
fishing any more than was necessary in order to get beyond them.
There was almost always a good current ... except when some pools of slow
water back up ahead of the rapids. Our total paddling time for the 10
miles was 2.75 hours ... so - I guess we were averaging about 3.6 mph ... and
that includes the slow downs forced by the fallen trees. We often paddled
steadily, but I would not say hard. The take-out is just above the GA 53
bridge, which is also the beginning of the lower Amicalola.
The lower A is a different story. It is also a 10 mile paddle. It starts
with a highly technical class IV rapid about 300 yards below the bridge
and offers non-stop class II-III action for the couple of miles. There
are countless class IIs and several class IIIs in the first five miles,
after which it tapers off and finally slows down after merging with the
Etowah to become flat but with a good current for the final three miles.
Those first 5-7 miles are spectacularly beautiful. I have paddled the
lower A about five times. The second time, March 1990, was the highest,
boldest, and fastest of the five.
Remind me to tell you about the three swims I took that cold March day
back in the year of 1990. (Hmmm...March 24 actually, nearly 10 years
previous to the warm and pleasant day described above.) Of course I blame
two of those swims on the fact that when I was carrying my canoe on my
shoulders, using a wooden yoke-design center thwart as a carrying yoke,
and descending the steep bridge embankment, I accidentally rammed the
canoe in the bridge piling and broke the thwart across my neck. It didn't
hurt me, but I don't recommend paddling the lower Amicalola in a canoe
without a center thwart! In some of the rapids, one gets pitched forward
forcefully, and without a center thwart to brace against ... brrrrrrrr..
Finally, in case it is useful to know, I am 60 years old, in good health,
and in reasonably good physical condition. I have been a canoeist for
more than 25 year, mostly white water but also extensively in the
Okefenokee, twice on canoe-camping trips on the Suwannee, and one
canoe-camping trip on the St. Marys River in the vicinity of the
Okefenokee. I love those south Georgia and north Florida trips as much as
I love the white water ones. As a white water paddler, I am not a high
risk taker, as class IV is my absolute upper limit. Bill McDaniel, about
45, and Justin his 13 year old son are highly capable kayakers.
Canoeing the St. Mary's River
by William A. Logan
The St. Mary's river forms the easternmost part of the Florida-Georgia border, and begins
just inside south Georgia. It is formed by water draining from the southeastern corner of the great Okefenokee Swamp. Coming out of the swamp as a very narrow stream, it meanders due south for ten miles before turning east roughly six miles, then turning north for 29 miles. At that point it makes a large nine mile "double S," turning east, north, east, then north and finally again east.
From that point it is roughly 40 miles to the coast, mostly
east-southeast. If one counts all
the curves and bends, it is well over 100 miles in length. The water level varies greatly from season to season. It can vary by as much as 15 to 20 feet from the dry season to the wet season. At low water, we found the water level was influenced by the coastal tides as much as 50 miles inland; at high water, I suspect the tidal effect still occurs, but probably not as much. (Note: The St. Marys 'Canoe Trail' is 63.5 miles long. The trail begins five miles north of Maclenny FL. at the Florida - Georgia State Rd. 23, and ends at Camp Pinckney Park near Folkston, one-half mile beyond the US-1 bridge.)
Me and my canoeing partners, Mac McCullough and Chuck Littleton, decided to check
out the St. Mary's for a future trip which would include the rest of our canoeing cronies.
Mac and I are both retirees; Chuck is a retired Deputy Sheriff, of 28 years. All of us truly
enjoy canoeing and camping the beautiful rivers of Florida. Our friends call us a bunch of
"old nuts," but we just ignore them with a grin, saying to ourselves "you have no idea
what you're missing."
We enjoy the camaraderie, camping alongside the river on sugar-white
sand bars, the
sweet smell of pristine forests, and the peace and quiet. Owls calling in the distance, gators
sun themselves on sandbars, deer suspiciously observe us from behind bushes, and once
and awhile we see an otter playing in the river ahead of us. It's wonderful to glide silently
down the river hearing nothing but the wind in the trees and the singing of the birds. It's
got to be the best prescription in the world for stress or frazzled nerves. It's simply good
for one's soul.
We planned our trip for the 28th of August. Early the morning of that day, I picked Mac
up and we headed north to rendezvous with Chuck at Roger Gidden's Canoe Country
Outpost, on US Hwy. 1, five miles south of Folkston, GA. We'd made arrangements with
Roger to transport us to our put-in point the following morning. We'd originally intended
to primitive camp there; however, Roger's cabin was so inviting (two bedrooms - one with
a waterbed - a fully-equipped kitchen, including a washing machine) we decided to opt for
a bed and shower, getting a good rest before our jump off on the river the following morning. We all agreed it turned out to be a very good decision, and the price was very reasonable.
Monday, August 29
We were up early, had breakfast and began unloading our equipment. A few minutes later
Roger drove up and we loaded everything into one of his vans and then put our canoes on
his canoe trailer.
9:00 a.m. We struck out for our put-in point at Hwy 2 bridge, near St. George, GA. We could have gotten an earlier start but since we had all the time in the world, we decided to be "really laid back" on this trip. We planned to fish along the way and stop whenever we felt like it, with no schedules. We arrived at the Hwy 2 bridge at about 9:30, and unloaded our gear and stowed it in our canoes.
10:00 a.m. We were on the water. We were surprised to see the water so low. At that point,
one could walk across the river since it was only about two feet deep. I should mention that
we first planned to put in about ten miles farther upstream, but Roger talked us out of it.
According to him, the river was so low that we would spend more time dragging and pulling
over logs than paddling. After seeing the river here, we were glad we took his advice.
The river was moving at a very lazy pace which we estimated to be about one mile per hour.
Paddling also at a very lazy pace, we estimated we were moving at somewhere around two
mph. The temperature was perfect, somewhere in the low seventies, and there was a slight
breeze. We commented how lucky we were that it was also a tail wind. We were in "hog
heaven" - one could not ask for better canoeing weather. As it turned out, we had
wonderful weather the whole trip.
I had brought along a 35mm camera and my Industrial Camcorder so I began taking lots
of stills and video footage. As I took my shots, I would invariably get all crossed up, fall
behind and have work my tail off to catch up. The other guys were almost effortlessly
gliding down the river, and I would have to really work to catch them (but if I hadn't, we
wouldn't have gotten any trip footage).
Along about noon we pulled up on a nice sand bar for a short stretch break and lunch.
After we finished eating, because the river had several large logs in the deep bend outer
side we decided to try our luck fishing, first trying plastic worms. Nothing. Then we tried
top water plugs, but none of us even got a bump so we packed up and headed downstream.
We'd spent about 45 minutes at this stop.
1:45 p.m. We were stopped by a large blown-down tree which completely crossed the river.
However, with a machete we cut some of the branches and were able to get through without
having to drag our canoes around it.
3:00 p.m. We came to a superb high white sandbar that had a good flat surface. Chuck
suggested that since we weren't in a hurry, we put down early for the night. We agreed
and soon had a camp set up. We had supper and sat around discussing the day, the river,
and telling jokes. At dusk, we tried fishing again, using top water and plastic worms and
again were stumped. It was a little after dark when we decided to hit the sack. We commented that we'd heard no owls and that seemed strange. We checked the time; 9:00 p.m.
Mac commented that he couldn't remember the last time he'd gone to bed
at 9:00 p.m.,
going on to say that he never goes to bed before 1:00 a.m. and didn't think he'd be able to
sleep at all. However, in less than an hour he was snoring up a storm. I grinned and rolled
over, and was soon also fast asleep. On the subject of snoring, Chuck would win first place
in a snoring contest, hands down. For this reason, he usually positions his tent far away from everybody else. He was a good 30 feet from us and still sounded like an air boat chasing a pack of wild hogs. We jokingly ribbed him that he'd soon need a new tent because the seams will all be worked loose from the vibrations. He just flashes his usual good-natured grin and takes the ribbing in stride. He's heard it all before.
Tuesday, August 30
We leisurely laid in our sleeping bags until well after it was light. Eventually I heard Chuck
rustling around in his tent putting his gear together, so I knew he was awake. I got up and put coffee on and soon the others came out. The dew had been so heavy it looked like we'd had a hard rain during the night. Everything was sopping wet. Shortly, I strolled down to the water and checked the marker I'd placed at the water's edge the night before. We were pleased to see that the water had come up about three inches during the night. Once again Mac and I made a few casts, hoping to catch a bass for supper, but again we were stumped. They were just not interested.
9:00 a.m. Back on the water. The temperature was absolutely perfect, by our estimate
around 70 degrees. The water was calm as glass except for the slight flow one could detect
if you looked closely. There was not a sound except for the birds and the infrequent word
spoken between us. Occasionally we would hear a semi-truck off in the distance to the west. We assumed it was probably logging trucks on Hwy. 121. Mac was in front as we paddled silently down the river in single file. Shortly, he spotted a doe and her fawn watching us from the trees. They quickly disappeared into the brush as Chuck and I approached. We had seen deer tracks on almost every sand bar at which we'd stopped, but these were the only deer we actually saw.
A short time later Mac surprised a small gator sunning itself on a sand bar. It was only
about a foot and a half long. After that we watched closely but saw no more gators.
However, we did see at least six places where a gator had slid into the water from its
sandy resting place. None looked as if they had been any more than four feet in length.
All day we kept our eyes and ears peeled for the sight and sound of a feeding bass, but
saw or heard nothing except for the occasional boil of a lazy gar. We were paddling at just
above the speed of the flow of the river. Again, we estimated our speed to be no more than
two miles per hour.
Most of the river, from our put-in point to here, had averaged thirty to
forty feet across,
well lined with thick forest and vegetation, so not often were we paddling in bright sunlight.
Paddling slowly and often shaded made it a very enjoyable run. Though we had no set
pattern, we seemed to average a 15-20 minute stretch break every two hours or so.
4:00 p.m. We came upon a beautiful white sugar-sand bar on the Georgia side and decided
to put down and relax for the evening. We had supper and were sitting around enjoying the
evening when Chuck decided we need a campfire. As he and Mac started the fire, I again
tried to conjure up a bass and again, the same result; nothing. Shortly I returned and joined
Mac and Chuck at their camp fire. While sitting and talking, we heard a few owls down
river so I decided to have a little fun and answered them. In no time a couple of them lit in
a tree right across from camp and started making quite a fuss. One must have been a big
ole' guy because he was quite loud, and his raucous laugh and "whooing" were extremely
comical. We all had a good laugh and enjoyed the "owl conversations" for about 15 minutes before they decided they'd been conned and departed for the unknown. (If you have never heard owls "in conversation" in a close group, you have something to look forward to. I mention a similar incident only much larger group and more comical, in my book) About 10:00 p.m. we turned in and slept well for most of the night. We heard strange sounds during the night but when we checked, we saw nothing. Next morning we found fresh deer and coon tracks in camp at the water's edge, but nothing in camp had been bothered.
Wednesday, August 31
Once again, we slept late and after a leisurely breakfast, began the task of breaking camp.
As before, everything was sopping wet from the dew. The major problem packing up was not the water, but the sand that stuck to everything. Chuck joked that we were taking enough sand with us to start a small garden. 9:30 a.m. We are back on the water. The weather was absolutely perfect for canoeing. Cool, with a very slight breeze, and again at our back.
About 10:45 we came to some very tall pilings across the river. It was obvious that there
had been a bridge here many years ago (excellent landmark).
About a mile or two north of the pilings we noticed a big change in the river. It widened
considerably and seemed to get deeper, though there were still occasional shallow spots
where we could touch the bottom with our paddles. Where before we'd had a lot of switchbacks and tight bends, it now became much straighter and for longer distances. However, the water also did not have as much noticeable current, which was probably partly due to an incoming tide. We lunched from 12:45 till 1:15, then got out our map and determined where we thought we were.
As it turned out, we were using the wrong landing as a landmark. Because of that, we
were 12 miles off on our calculations. Thinking that we were farther north than we actually
were, I decided to call Roger on the cell phone and let him know that we would see him
sooner than planned. I reached him and had got out just enough to give him the false
information when the phone died. That was a surprise because it was perfect before the
trip and I had fully charged it before leaving.
Because we thought we were farther north than we actually were, nothing on the map
matched (no surprise). We suspected Roger had placed Tompkins Landing in the wrong
location (we were working from a tracing of topo maps).
4:15 p.m. We passed two huge picnic tables on the right and a private camp
site. A few
minutes later we came to a large dirt ramp on the right. I can't remember for sure but
I think this was the ramp that the big trees had large white arrows painted on them
identifying the ramp (another good landmark). About 15 minutes later we passed two
very large houses high up on stilts, on the left side. We were doing our usual routine;
paddle a couple of hours and stop for a drink and a stretch, make a few casts, and move
on. The stretch stops were usually no more than 20 to 30 minutes. The scenery was pretty
much the same as it had been up to this point except the river seemed to get slightly wider
and we were no longer finding blown-down trees, though we still found an occasional hidden
log or stump. The cover along the banks remained about the same.
We soon passed several houses on the right, and a couple of spots on the
where inconsiderate people had dumped unsightly trash down the river bank. However,
this was the only area where we saw that. The rest of the river bank was clean and natural.
Again, the beautiful white sand bars were everywhere. Passing what we thought was the
correct landing, we expected to find "Trader's Hill" boat ramp about 6:00 p.m.
7:00 p.m. We finally gave up and put down for the night on another superb sand bar on the
Georgia side. We were setting up camp as the sun went down. Chuck and I again marked
the water level with sticks. One more time we tried our luck at fishing, only to have the
same result. Both Mac and I are avid bass fishermen and couldn't understand why neither
of us had gotten even a "bump." After supper we broke out our weather radio to check
the forecast, and we finally had a clue to the fishing problem. We learned that a large
weather front was bearing down on us and that we'd get a drop in temperature into the
low-to-mid 50's by morning. That was good news since it made for great sleeping bag
weather. Then it suddenly dawned on me why the fish weren't biting. I've heard that, for
some reason, just before a front moves in the fish will quit biting. I have no idea why this
is, but it was just the excuse I needed for getting stumped! (Grin)
After a good supper we decided to turn in early. Just before turning in, Chuck yelled out,
"Hey! The water has dropped almost six inches!" Sure enough, it had dropped six inches
since we had pulled in. We put down another marker, and hit the sack. The wind and cool
weather hit early, and we slept like babies until three in the morning, when Chuck let out a
scream that he couldn't see the canoes. We almost tore the tent door flap off getting out,
only to find that the water had risen about eight inches and the canoes were now floating,
facing straight toward the bank (before turning in we'd pulled them high up on the sand,
parallel to the water). What a relief it was that they were okay. If they hadn't been well tied
also, we would've lost them for sure. (TIP-- heed this) After making sure the canoes were
secure, we once again placed stakes at the water's edge, and went back to bed. We were
now fairly certain that the only thing that would cause such a drastic rise and fall of the
river was tidal fluctuation.
Thursday, September 1
Up around 7:30, the dew again had been like a heavy rain. Everything was soaked. After
breakfast, we checked our markers and the river was now down more than six inches.
Now we were certain -- that it was tidal fluctuation from the coast. Once more we leisurely packed and loaded our gear and got on the water about 9:30 a.m. We continued on, looking around each bend, thinking "Trader's Hill" ramp would be there. We consulted our map over and over and it was obvious something was drastically wrong, though we still had no idea what.
We finally did find one of the spots that Roger had marked on the map, but since we didn't know we'd misjudged our location, we were still confused. We were still looking for the concrete ramp of Traders Hill when we saw two fishermen who told us that the Trader's Hill ramp was still a long way ahead of us.
11:00 a.m. We passed the correct "Tompkins Landing." Now we finally knew where we
were. The night before we had worried that Roger had been expecting us much sooner,
because we had given him an erroneous location. Sure enough, he was worried and came
looking for us. We had just gotten the "Trader's Hill" ramp in sight when here comes
Roger flying up the river on his Jon boat. After much ado (and explanations), we finally
figured out that our problem had been judging our location by the wrong landing.
By the time Roger pulled alongside us, the tide was again coming in, and the wind had
increased to about 15 mph out of the east. Due east! At a point just downstream from
Trader's Hill, the river makes a turn and heads due east. That meant we would be bucking
head on, both the wind and the tide for the next ten miles. Roger suggested we take out at
Trader's Hill instead and we quickly decided he again was right. Chuck and I got in Roger's Jon boat and we headed down to his camp where our vehicles had been left. After about five minutes, the river got really wide and the wind was really blowing.
We were glad that we wouldn't have to paddle that last ten miles under those conditions.
We picked up our vehicles and made the short drive to Trader's Hill, and loaded up there.
Driving back to Folkston, we stopped for lunch and then went back to Roger's place and
used his shower to clean up, then donned clean clothes before heading home. That hot
shower felt wonderful. It was a great trip and we will be bringing our whole group (eight
retirees) back later for a rerun. Only next time, I'm hoping for higher water, and - of course
- a better understanding of where we are on the map ... The only problems we encountered on this trip were blown-down trees, along with stumps and logs right under the surface. Most were obvious since you can usually see the disturbance on the surface of the water. However, as the three of us soon learned, at low water there were many obstacles just below the surface that one could not see. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the water level was extremely low at that time. There were a few blow-downs through which we had to cut a path, but we were able to get around most.
For a couple, we had to lie almost flat in our canoes to get under. If
the water had been
higher, we would have had to drag our canoes around these. Speaking of dragging, on the
whole trip we actually lightly touched bottom in sandy shallows about a dozen times, though
we never once had to get out and drag our canoes. Also, to clarify, we experienced all of the above (shallows, blow-downs, unseen obstacles) only on the first half of our run. The second half the water was deep enough that we had no problems.
Again, Roger's place is right on the river and is called Canoe County Outpost. I highly
recommend him as he goes way out of his way to make sure you have a great trip. I might
also add that his canoes are all new Grummans and his prices are very reasonable. At the
time of our trip he had one super nice cabin, and a small area for primitive camping.
He's just moved his outfitting business out on the main highway, he no longer has the cabin. (What a shame - great cabin) He can be be reached at (904) 845-7224, or Rt. 4, Box 7225, Hilliard, FL, 32046. You can also reach him at: RP19451954@aol,com
We found Roger to be a very outgoing and personable fellow. He has an answering machine on when he is out. At this writing he has an excellent supply of canoes and has just added several kayaks. Give him a call! For those interested, we found the Trader's Hill
Campground (off Hwy 121, south of Folkston) to be extremely nice. They have paved streets and nice campsites and facilities, the boat ramp is concrete and in great condition. I recently returned and camped there for a couple days and was amazed to find their campsite fee was only $5.00 The oak trees here must be over 400 years old.
Again, it is one of the prettiest campgrounds I have been to in a long time. It's on the site of
an old court house (1854) so is a historical site. (and on the map) Great place to take the
family. I highly recommend it.
Back to the trip: For the average canoeist who moves faster than we did,
you can count on three nights from the Hwy. 2 bridge to Trader's Hill. Some might even do
it in two nights. There are no supplies along the way; however, if you have a map with
better coordinates, According to Roger, there is a fresh water supply point about midway.
Roger just informed me (3/19/2000) that he now has made an entirely new map with all the
info one might need. That will surely be very helpful. Most of the river's sand bars will easily accommodate five or six tents and a dozen canoes. If you decide to make this trip, please remember how important it is to keep the river and the camp sites clean. Whatever you take with you please make sure you take plenty of trash bags and take your trash with you. Leave nothing on the sand bar or in the river. Our group usually polices the area as we break camp and we leave the area cleaner than it was when we arrived. We hope you will do the same.
May you have smooth paddlin' and the winds always be at your back.
Bill Logan XXXgeezer1@cfl.rr.com REMOVE THE THREE X's OR THE E-MAIL WILL NOT WORK - (TO FOIL THE SUCKERS WHO SPYDER WEBSITES TO HARVEST E-MAIL ADDRESSES TO SELL)
Toccoa River, Georgia
Grab your paddle, Canoe or Kayak, and lets go paddling the Suwannee River from the Okefenokee Swamps of Georgia, through Florida, down river to the Gulf of Mexico.
This page last updated 9/2/00