Stew, Sam, and Dave from south Florida brought fast kayaks to the most upstream put-in on the Withlacoochee River. It was a tad twistier and deadfalled than they expected, but after making only seven miles the first day, they sped up all the way to the Suwannee River.
One kayak got a leak on the trailer from Suwannee Canoe Outpost; a first, said outfitter Dave Pharr.
The paddler and I sought glue at the only thing open on a Sunday, the Adel Walmart, then recently opened.
Boat fixed, they headed out.
Here is an excerpt from their Withlacoochee Trip Report, Feb 18 – 22, 2018, so you’ll know what to expect if you try this:
As we began, Dave turned around to see John the riverkeeper standing on the bridge looking down at us. He yelled “Where is the river?!” John pointed straight into the woods. That was an omen because as soon as we went around 200 yards, we lost the river due to the overflow going over and through the woods. No problem, we’ve done this before, so we continue.
The trees were very close together but we knew the river was narrow up here. Very soon we could not paddle due to it being too shallow, trees too close together, various downfall and log jams.
So we alternately paddled, walked, paddled, pulled our fully loaded kayaks over and around fallen trees, and repeated as necessary — which was constant. Our legs and shins were getting bumped and cut as we walked into things underwater. We tried not to think about alligators and snakes as we pulled our boats through the marsh feeling like Humphrey Bogart in “The African Queen.” It was exhausting, but really stressed us out because it was unexpected. Had we known ahead of time we would have been mentally prepared. After around and hour and a half we looked at each other and said, “Maybe we should go back” but then decided we wouldn’t be able to find our way back either. We knew if we kept following the flow we would eventually get back into the river.
Using a GPS, stored maps, and perseverance, they made it through. They went only seven miles the first day, halfway to Hagan Bridge Landing. Maybe half a mile upstream from Camp Tygart, though, where they could have pulled out. If their island was in the oxbow just upstream from what we’re calling Biles Branch, they could have gone about 200 feet downstream and thrown themselves on the mercy of the landowner. But they were well-prepared and did not need to do that. If you try this, please also prepare well, so you also don’t have to disturb nearby landowners.
Video: David Bracknell.
Withlacoochee River (North) in Georgia
8 miles south of Hwy 37, Feb 19, 2018.
In the video, crows announce the paddlers. At night they heard many owls. They smelled jasmine from yellow flowers on vines, which were yellow jessamine.
This outing is why we now recommend Youngs Mill Creek Landing on the west (Cook County) side of the river, because it has a paved access road.
Ray City Landing on the east (Berrien County) side has a very rough pot-holed dirt access road, not usable to drive down to the river with boats.
There are more pictures on the WWALS website. Click on any small picture to see a larger one.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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