Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

White Springs and Big Shoals

Sunday April 13, 2014
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
White Springs, Florida


Sunday April 13


First thing to report today is that after sniffing around and researching David has thwarted Murphy’s plan to force us to call a repairman for the brake lights problem.  He investigated the brake lamp switch by the brake pedal.  By removing the two wiring harnesses and manually depressing the button that activates the switch, he was able to make the brake lights work again.

My HERO!   Take THAT Murphy!!!





Today we check out the little town of White Springs.

The park is actually in the town.  You drive right through the flashing light in the center of town and if you don’t curve right on Route 41 you’ll find yourself driving in the driveway.   So it isn’t far to go to see what the little town is all about.



Apparently White Springs was a big and fashionable place in the late 1800’s.  The spring was “discovered” by Bryant and Elizabeth Sheffield  in 1835 after they purchased land on the Suwannee River.  Mr. Sheffield believed his health was greatly improved by swimming in the spring and drinking its waters.  He invited his friends down to do the same.  One thing led to another and soon a resort town was booming with 14 luxury hotels and a 4 tiered bathhouse building of gated concrete and coquina around the spring.   It remained a popular tourist destination until the 1970’s.   Is that when the mouse came to Florida I wonder?


We walk out of the campground and just beyond the gate, on the right, is what is left of the bathhouse. Like many of the springs we’ve seen along the Suwannee, this one is RIGHT on the river. It is really amazing just how many springs are on the Suwannee River.



An early advertisement claimed that the spring waters cured everything from rheumatism and indigestion to dandruff and insomnia.



The last White Spring Surphur Springs Bathhouse constructed in 1906.P1080095



Only $21.50 a day for room and meals.  Then you can add all sorts of things to your bill.  Like treatment for high blood pressure for $3.00 or hot sulphur tub baths for $1.00.  Considering the average wage was $526 a year, this was obviously a place for the wealthy.





Today the spring has only the covered surround walkway on top of its original foundation there in the water.  No swimming or taking of the waters is allow.  That seems a shame until you find out that back in the 80’s  at Union Carbide’s phosphate plant their digging resulted in a huge water geyser.  They had hit the aquifer and just coincidentally, of course, the spring dried up.  The company sold out and nothing happened.  I’m not surprised. The little town dried up as well although they are really trying to make a come back.






Riverside                                                              Spring side







On around the town we find remnants of its earliest years and of its heyday. 


Some are being restored to their former glory with loving care. We also find  fallen beauties being ignored and new prospects like Sharon’s Eatery.


The only one of the original hotels remaining, The Telford, 1902 where you can again spend the night and have meals in their dining room.P1080115


Across the street is an original boarding house built in 1886.














In the afternoon we drive over to Big Shoals State Park a mere 6 miles away. 


IMG_1643There are actually two shoals, big shoals and little shoals.  We pass little shoals up since we’re pretty sure we won’t be able to see any shoals because of the high water on the Suwannee River.  So we’ll try the big. We’re here and it was one of the things we wanted to do.   Besides if I go, I can get my passport stamped!  Smile





First thing is to have a picnic way down up on the Suwannee River.




Of course we find the boat launch closed. 


We probably wouldn’t have used it anyway since the river here is pretty picky as you can see in the water level recommendations.   Below 51 feet and the water is too low.  Over 60 and you’d better be an expert paddler in white water.  If I’m ever here when it’s between 51 and 60 then I might paddle it but I suspect that is during times of the year when I’m not in Florida.   The river today is over 70’.







So off we go on the 2.5 mile trail to see the Big Shoals for ourselves.





The hike is really lovely weaving back and forth between the riverine forest and the river bank.  Even though the river is up so high, the bluff is higher still and the trail is not washed out.







It’s almost too funny when we get to Big Shoals and find the look out is closed. 


HA!   You aren’t even allowed to look at the river when it is this high.  But as you can see, this is a rule we decide to disobey.  The platform is plenty solid.  It even looks new.  It just has no steps.   But they have blocked it off with more than just the tape used on the canoe launches.







Here the Suwannee River elevations drops 9 feet in less than 1/4 mile creating the the Big Shoals; Florida’s most extensive river rapids system.  The river bed is lined with limestone outcroppings commonly described as karst topography, a common north Florida geologic formation.  Dangerous sink holes and  beautiful caverns are two results of these landscapes where the bedrock terrain has been dissolved by physical and chemical weathering.  

Depending on the stage of the Suwannee River , the big shoals rapids can range from no flow during drought periods.  The entire river bed is a Class III rapid when the water levels are between 59 and 64 feet.


Today there are no shoals in sight though the river is running pretty fast toward Cedar Key and the gulf.  The shoals are hidden beneath the Suwannee.






The water is so high, the tree branches are creating riffles that churn up the dark Suwannee.  


The Suwannee is considered a black water river with a deep slow moving channel that flows through forested swamps and wetlands as vegetation decays in water.  Tannins are leached out resulting in transparent acidic water that is darkly stained resembling tea or coffee.   I was really surprised to learn that most major black water rivers are in the Amazon River system and in the Southern United States. 








We head back and really enjoy the shady forest path on this 85 degree day.





Only one more stop.


Before we head for home, we stop off at the gopher tortoise hole I had seen near the picnic grounds. The owner is at home but evidentially not receiving visitors as he has his head in his hole.





  1. Were you a troublemaker in school? Tisk, tisk, for disregarding that barrier!

    I don't recall. Is there a Florida State Parks passport book?

  2. Grand old homes, a grocery that looks like it could open tomorrow and a tortoise not accepting visitors is a lot to see in a day. Hope you are enjoying the cooler weather. I got my blog fixed so now I can reply if you are someone else comments.

  3. One of the things that most amazes me is the sheer number of state parks in Florida! It's nothing to find your next one 5 miles down the road from where you currently are...or, in your case, 6 miles :)
    BTW, I agree with Judy. You must have been a troublemaker at school :) Don't show this post to any of her 5th grade visitors :)

  4. OK you guys - you are picking on the wrong person. Who do you see actually on that blocked off over look? And who do you see taking his picture from outside the barrier??? :-))

  5. Oh, this looks like a lovely stop. I don't think I even know what a "shoal" is! Safe travels.

  6. Always great when Murphy can be sent packing:) We found White Springs and interesting place.

  7. Yet another nice trail and thank goodness above all this high water. It's David that's the trouble maker right? You just take pictures. And that new camera and you are doing a great job.

  8. We started to feel like they had just CLOSED Florida this winter...especially the Pan Handle;o(( But you TWO managed to find plenty to explore!!

  9. Guess in laughing with the others about your unruly behavior at the lookout, I was just curious as to exactly HOW David got out there. Did he crawl between that "X" where they'd blocked off the ramp? And you are going to have to come clean....did you or did not not follow him? I'm guessing yes. Don't think he took all those pics of the water. It's been several years since we were in White Springs and at that time, they weren't making much headway towards revitalization. Would like to check it out again. I do remember that old hotel which we loved, but I am not sure it was even open at that time.

  10. Always good when Murphy's sent packing by a handyman who works for food and board ;-)

  11. Interesting post about an interesting place! There are a lot of mineral springs out west too, and they all claim to cure what ails ya :)

  12. That is a blast from the past! 14 hotels for the wealthy...my goodness. Nature's wonders do provide for profit. The hikes around the river look nice even if you couldnt exactly see the shouls. So much water! Tortoise ...he's a shy guy.

  13. Love the pink boarding house :-). Such a diversity to things to do and see in that area, what a great place to spend some time. Even with the elevated river (or maybe because of it) you guys have discovered lots of fun adventures.

  14. I guess you already have left SFFCC. I hope you got a chance to eat at the Telford. It's pretty good as I remember.

    I'm glad David was able to fix the brake lights. That kind of stuff can be very tricky. We had trouble with ours when we installed the new hitch. The guy had a heck of a time figuring out what our problem was, and he was a professional. Good job David!

    Can't wait to see where you are now. I'm enjoying re-visiting all these areas that are so familiar to me. I learn something about each one that I didn't learn myself when I was there!

  15. Loved the tortise hole..... Happy Easter!!!!

  16. Seems like there were many of these warm springs around in the south. Too bad this isn't entertainment enough for people today. I love the pink boarding house!

    Mr. Gopher is so cute. He making sure know one gets into his home!

  17. Glorious jello plans… beautiful trip … I finally sold my piano … that was my fifth downsizing item. I bought a keyboard though … very light and fun. Nothing like a piano for this old girl but it does relax me… SINGING to the top my lungs rolling along down the road… yeah!

    I am exactly with you .. a flat tax… jeeeeez that would be so simple… eliminate the need for the IRS and save a lot of trees … the paperwork is just ridiculous… and if you have money you can pay someone to find the loopholes… silly

  18. Wow you covered a lot of territory here with all of White Springs (well almost all) and the Big Shoals Public Lands hike on the swollen Suwanee. It was hard to imagine the shoals with 15 or 20 feet of water covering them, but we tried. BTW, the "X" formed by the 2x4's across the caution tape on the observation deck made it much easier to step up and over onto the deck than if they had just taped it off. That was Caution tape right?


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