Paddling in Florida's Pure Water Wilderness is a Spiritual Experience
as you silently dip your paddle into a creek, river or
the Gulf and glide along.
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Paddling - Canoe or Kayak - - -

The Interactive Maps in this section may show only the approximate area within
The Pure Water Wilderness area, not the entire river.

Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail

This 105-mile trail runs from the St. Marks River to Yankeetown. The area boasts one of the longest and wildest publicly-owned coastal wetlands in the United States, and a striking array of bird and marine life. White pelicans visit in winter and great egrets dot marshy expanses, white as snowflakes. Bald eagles and ospreys entertain with their aerial maneuvers, and in the often clear waters, one can spot crabs, fishes, sea turtles, manatees, cannonball jellyfish and small sharks and rays.

Camping is available at six designated areas, which all require permits. Camping venues include the Econfina River State Park, Rock Island, Spring Warrior Creek, Sponge Point, Dallus Creek, Steinhatchee, Sink Creek, and Butler Island. Trip plans and permit information are available on the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission's website. The FWC prints a paddling guide that is available to order for $15.00.

The Cedar Keys

The Cedar Key area is a paddler's paradise, with locations for every taste from open Gulf waters to grass flats. There are numerous islands, the largest one being the town of Cedar Key, and the smaller ones are managed by the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. Hiking on the larger islands can be difficult due to the dense vegetation, consisting of hardy plants and shrubs, such as Spanish bayonet, salt bush, wild olive, yaupon, red cedar, palmetto and prickly pear cactus. The overstory consists of pines, cabbage palms, mangroves, red bay, laurel oak and live oak. On the smaller islands, grasses and low scrub are dominant. Begin your trip at Shell Mound for an interesting archaeological side trip. See the National Wildlife Refuge Official Map.

DIRECTIONS: From Gainesville, take SR 24 (Archer Road) southwest approximately 60 miles until you come to the Gulf of Mexico and the town of Cedar Key. From U.S. 19, turn southwest on SR 24 at Otter Creek until you run into Cedar Key.

Ichetucknee River

The Ichetucknee River originates at Ichetucknee Springs State Park ($4.25 per person admission fee) in Columbia County but conjoins with the Santa Fe River which borders Gilchrist County. The route is a relatively short one but is well worth the trip, as the spring run is pristine and unspoiled. When you put in near the head spring, limerock walls rise up on the banks, then gently slope down to flatland. Wildlife abounds in this area. The water is clear and cold. Further down, the cypress flats are spectacular. You can take out at the US Highway 27 Bridge, or travel to the Santa Fe River and take out at the US 129 Bridge. Go early; there is a daily limit of to river users.

In the busy season the Ichetucknee is a favorite of tubers from all over the country. Try to take a canoe or kayak in the river in an off season.

DIRECTIONS: From the north, take I-75 south to exit 423. Take SR 47 south, turn on CR 238 and follow the park signs. From the south, take I-75 north to exit 399. Take US 441 north to the city of High Springs. Take US 27 north to Ft. White, stay on US 27 north approximately 4 miles to the South Park Entrance. See park map with specific directions for head spring.

Santa Fe River

The Santa Fe River dips underground at O'Leno State Park. It reappears approximately three miles later at River Rise State Park. From River Rise to the SR 47 bridge, the river may be too low to paddle and you may have to portage.

The Santa Fe is blessed with numerous crystal-clear freshwater springs, some on private property, and some private springs accessible by paying an entrance fee. It is a river completely fed by springs, so depending on rainfall, some of the river may be impassible, or flooded (creating a no-wake zone). Diverse wildlife and birds can be seen year-round.

Numerous put-ins are available, see the Boat Ramps on the Santa Fe page.

Suwannee River

Enjoy the lower Suwannee River, which is full of beautiful crystal clear springs, manatees, and other wildlife.  It is protected by several county and state parks, preserves, and national wildlife refuges. The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail officially begins at the Suwannee River State Park in White Springs and continues for nearly 150 miles to the Gulf of Mexico at the Town of Suwannee. The river features limerock walls, class III rapids near the Aucilla River, and crystal-clear freshwater springs all along the route. Diverse wildlife of all types are present all year, from hawks and eagles circling overhead to sturgeon jumping in May and June. The Suwannee River Water Management District, in partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, has created the "Suwannee River Wilderness Trail" that coordinates a system of river "hubs" and camps that allow the paddler to plan their trip down the river into easy to advanced one-day sections. For more information or to book your trip, call 1-800-868-9914. Numerous put-ins are available; go to the Suwannee River Boat Ramps page.

Visit National Geographic's Interactive Map on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail website
Waccasassa River

The Waccasassa River in Levy County is a small spring-fed river that runs through the coastal hammock to the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on rainfall some portions of the river may need to be portaged. The Waccasassa River Preserve State Park surrounds portions of the river and the tidal creeks that feed it. Devil's Hammock State Preserve also protects parts of the river, go to the printable map which contains put-in spots.

The river is winding and unpredictable, and has sometimes passable tidal creeks.

The Waccasassa River is host to the Wild Hog Canoe & Kayak Race every April.

Wthlacoochee River

There are two rivers in Florida called the Withlacoochee River; the one covered here is the more southern river that originates in Polk County and empties into the Gulf of Mexico at Yankeetown. In the early 1900s a dam was built for hydroelectricity and creates Lake Rousseau, a large recreational lake at the southern boundary of Levy County. When building the Cross-Florida Barge Canal, the river was diverted from its natural course and the diversion forms Inglis Island. Near the Gulf, the river is tidal and flows west on the ebb tide and east on the incoming tide. Limestone banks flatten out to tidal marshes near the mouth.

The Withlacoochee has been designated an "Outstanding Florida Waterway."


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