Yes, you can boat, fish, and swim on rivers and lakes during the stay-home period, in both Florida and Georgia, as long as you keep your distance. Don’t gather in large groups unless you want your favorite river or lake access to get closed, not to mention unless you want to get or transmit the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, for which there is no vaccine. Stay six feet apart, no large groups (usually no more than 10), and on the water stay at least 10 feet apart or 50 feet apart in Florida.
Below is a snapshot of conditions today. Check on your local park or ramp or launch before going for current conditions.
Also check on bacterial conditions, especially since last night’s rain.
Here’s a handy map that shows status of Florida boat ramps and launches. Red means closed. Blue means open.
Tony Acevedo, SaltStrong, 31 March 2020, This Map Shows Which Boat Ramps Are Closed & Which Are Open,
There’s a lot that’s unknown right now, but thanks to the [Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission] FWC, it’s easy to tell whether your favorite boat ramp is closed or not.
They’ve put together this interactive map that shows information about each boat ramp in Florida, including which ones are closed and which ones are open.
Go to the interactive map here:
There’s a lot of blue on this map.
For example, I heard yesterday that supposedly all boat ramps in Duval County are closed. Nope, most are open. Marilyn Parker, News4Jax, 4 April 2020, Boating remains an escape as Florida stay-at-home order takes hold: Many of the boat ramps throughout the state remain open to the public.
Boat Ramps remain open in Jacksonville even with the stay-at-home order in place across the state.
Florida Fish and Wildlife is requiring boats to be 50 feet apart and there can’t be more than 10 people on board.
Dozens of boats were out on the water near the St. Johns River Marina Boat Ramp on Saturday, and most of them seem to be complying.
As one group leaves, another gets ready to hit the water.
“Well, there’s not a lot of other things to do so I figure we’d get out on the water and keep our social distancing on the river,” said David Edwards.
Since all Florida state parks are closed, boat ramps or launches in state parks are also closed. Most other ramps or launches are open.
Suwannee River Basin in Florida
Most Florida boat ramps and launches in the Suwannee River Basin remain open.
Estuary and Lower Suwannee River Basin
Don’t go to Cedar Key to boat; it’s closed for that, and more.
Shawn Yorks, Chiefland Citizen, 26 March 2020, Cedar Key off limits to day visitors.
After a nearly two hour meeting, the city commission voted 5-0 to stop daily tourist access to the island. The action went into effect at noon March 24.
Permanent and short-term residents who have been in Cedar Key for a while will continue to have access, essential deliveries will continue, just daily “day-trippers” will be restricted. Hotels are encouraged not to accept any reservations for the foreseeable future, as well.
“The commission, in their meeting a while back, discussed just following Levy County’s emergency management directives,” said Mayor Heath Davis. “The discussion (Monday) is if we want to further that, a little bit more limiting.”
But nearby, Shell Mound Boat Ramp and Boat Launch remain open.
Near the mouth of the Suwannee River, at Suwannee, Suwannee Boat Ramp, Anderson Landing, and Munden Creek Primitive Ramp (owned by Dixie County) are closed, but privately-owned Miller’s Marina and Suwannee Marine Ramps remain open.
Up the river, most ramps are open except Manatee Springs State Park Usher Landing and Canoe Launch are closed, as is Fanning Springs State Park Launch.
Santa Fe and Ichetucknee Rivers
Ichetucknee State Park is closed, so you can’t boat there.
On the Santa Fe River, most access is open, except for Tudeen Boat Ramp (FWC), Santa Fe River Park Ramp (Gilchrist County), O’Leno SP Canoe Launch. Rum Island Ramp (Columbia County) was already closed for maintenance.
Middle Suwannee River Basin
Ivey Ramp (Town of Branford) and Lafayette Blue Springs SP Ramp are closed. Everything else is open.
Upper Suwannee River Basin
Closed are the ramps and launches at state parks: Big Shoals, Suwannee River, Madison Blue Spring, and Twin Rivers State Forest, which includes Sullivan Launch, plus Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center Launch (FDEP) in White Springs. Everything else is open.
Well, except for a bunch of lakes near Lake City, and Cherry Lake Boat Ramp (Madison County): those are closed.
Bobby Poitevint, WALB News, 1 April 2020, ‘It’s perfectly legal’: Law enforcement offers boating do’s and don’t’s during COVID-19 crisis,
Col. Thomas Barnard is the law enforcement director for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He believes people want to follow the social distancing regulations now in place….
“It’s perfectly legal to be out on your state waterways, that’s not a problem. Just be mindful that you don’t bunch up in groups and just be mindful that you have 10 or less onboard your boat,” instructed Barnard.
Groups of 10 or more have to be six feet apart. You should also keep enough distance between boats when beached to ensure that people in the boat are keeping with social distancing guidelines.
Georgia state parks remain open, although “Visitor centers, museums, and other buildings are closed to the public.”
We know being in nature is comforting, so most State Parks and Historic Sites remain open. Trails, boat ramps, fishing docks, campsites, cabins and golf courses remain open, allowing you to enjoy being outside. However, we need everyone’s help in social distancing and following guidelines. Please consider staying in your community and visiting your local park. Visiting Georgia’s most well-known state parks is not recommended at this time. We are fortunate to have a large State Park System covering more than 84,000 acres, so we recommend exploring lesser-known or close-to-home parks and historic sites.
You can’t rent boats, bikes, disc golf, or cabins, but you can generally reserve shelters for groups of 10 or fewer people.
So far as we know, this all applies to both Reed Bingham State Park between Adel and Moultrie, and Stephen C. Foster State Park (SCFSP) near Fargo, which are the only Georgia State Parks in the Suwannee River Basin.
However, Guided Boat Tours at SCFSP “are suspended until further notice”.
So bring your own boat if you want to go to Reed Bingham SP or the Okefenokee Swap, or Banks Lake NWR.
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is open although the visitor center near Folkston is closed.
The private Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross is closed.
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-DNR) Boat Ramps remain open. The ones in Lowndes County, Georgia, are run by the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks & Recreation Authority (VLPRA). Last we asked VLPRA, they said all VLPRA river ramps are open.
However, VLPRA has many other parks and facilities. VLPRA, 5 April 2020, COVID-19 UPDATE,
Out of an abundance of caution and in keeping with the Local Emergency Management Purpose Order and Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks & Recreation Authority is implementing the following changes until further notice.
- All parks and facilities are closed to the public including the Administrative Office, the Senior Center, the Mildred Hunter Community Center, and the Craig Center. If you need to reach us, please call 229-259-3507 during regular business hours (Monday-Friday from 8:30AM-5:00PM)
- All programs including sports, special events, and rentals are postponed.
- New reservations are suspended.
In the meantime, we will continue to provide recreation activities through our Facebook page, facebook.com/vlpra as well as here on our website.
There are many other public river access points in the Suwannee River Basin in Georgia (see map below). So far as we know, all of those are open.
Most of the many boat ramps and launches shown on this map are open. Except those in Florida State Parks and some county parks.
WWALS composite map of All Landings and Boat Ramps in the Suwannee River Basin.
Remember, check on your local park or ramp or launch before going for current conditions. And stay 6 feet apart in the parking lot and on the ramp, and on the water (50 feet in Florida).
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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