Mystery: Withlacoochee River Distributary 2021-01-01

Update 2022-01-10: Chitty Bend East Distributary, Withlacoochee River –Shirley Kokidko 2022-01-07.

Update 2021-12-28: KUR: M2 Blue cave system, Madison County, Florida.

Where exactly does Withlacoochee River water run into this creek, about three hundred feet into the woods, and disappear into a sinkhole? Left (east) bank, which is state land, or right (west) bank, which is private land? If it doesn’t have an observation platform, where is the one pictured? Maybe you can help us resolve this mystery.

One thing is clear: do not paddle into this distributary! When the river is high, the current is high, and you will have a hard time gettin back out. There are deadfalls and a sinkhole at the end.

[Platform, Distributary]
Platform, Distributary

Here’s where this mystery started:

“Some 7 miles downriver from CR 150, there is a 10- to 12-foot opening in the high banks on the east side where water comes rushing out of the river. If followed, this stream flows for 75 to 100 yards and then disappears under a high bank. In Florida, whole rivers disappear in this manner, but it is unusual to lose just part of a river.”

That’s from Canoeing & Kayaking Florida, Menasha Ridge Press; 2nd edition (November 11, 2007), by Johnny Molloy, Elizabeth F. Carter et al., Page 122, Georgia State Line to Suwannee River S.P. Hm, I see there’s now a third edition of November 11, 2016.

Helen Crowley says she and Shirley Kokidko and Don Crowley paddled past there on January 1, 2021. She sent this picture as of the distributary.

[Creek with platform --Helen Crowley, 2021-01-01]
Creek with platform –Helen Crowley, 2021-01-01

Susan Liden says:

I hike to the spot all the time, its a series of sinkholes or karst windows, I have yet to go there by kayak.

Susan sent a map. The arrow points across the river to the right (east) bank where the distributary is. The hand-drawn dots indicate sinkholes.

[Map: Distributary and sinkholes --Susan Liden]
Map: Distributary and sinkholes –Susan Liden

Zooming in on the WWALS map of the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail (WLRWT), you can see what looks like a waterway right there. I’ve marked the distributary confluence and the sinkhole on the WLRWT map.

[Chitty East Distributary, WWALS WLRWT Map]
Chitty East Distributary, WWALS WLRWT Map

That’s in Twin Rivers State Park Chitty Bend East.

[Chitty East, Twin Rivers State Forest]
Chitty East, Twin Rivers State Forest

Chitty Bend East is about halfway between Hardee (Rossetter) Spring and the Suwannee River.

[Twin Rivers State Forest]
Twin Rivers State Forest

Complication: Caitlyn Peca at Twin Rivers State Forest says there is no such platform. She wonders if maybe what Helen saw was on the other side of the river, on private land.

The east (left) bank there is Hamilton County Parcel ID – 4401-010, in 187.5 acres owned by Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD).

The west (right) bank is Madison County Parcel ID – 05-1N-11-6166-000-000 on NE CHITTY BEND TRL, in 95.17 acres, WEST DALE TRUSTEE, WEST LISA TRUSTEE.

But all of Helen, Shirley, Susan, and Suzy Hall (who has also been there) remember the distributary as being on the left (right bank).

Susan Liden sent some pictures, including this one, with a hiker for scale at the confluence of the distributary with the Withlacoochee River. She also sent latlong coordinates, which are within a few feet of the point I picked for the WLRWT map.

[Distributary to River with Hiker --Susan Liden]
Distributary to River with Hiker –Susan Liden

Susan also sent pictures of the sinkhole, including this one. More of her pictures are on the WWALS website.

[Opaque --Susan Liden]
Opaque –Susan Liden

Caitlyn Peca sent a map of sinkholes TRSF has found in the Chitty Bend East Hamilton County property. As you can see, there are sinkholes marked right by where it seems the sinkhole at the end of this distributary must be.

[TRSF SinkHoles]
TRSF SinkHoles

One thing everybody agrees on.

Suzy Sparkman Hall:

A word of warning. I would NOT advise kayaking up into this sink at least not during low water. Thankfully, you can get out and pull your yak back out to the river if you do go a short way (when level is low).

Shirley Kokidko:

Also when the water is high, the swift current is not easy to paddle against. and there is no getting out and pulling your kayak then.

Suzy Sparkman Hall:

Absolutely. Wasn’t sure if the current was as bad when high. But that is good to know! I did have to get out and tow out.

So, please don’t paddle or drift into this distributary.

And if you can help resolve the mystery of where that platform is, we’re all ears.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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