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

Henry David Thoreau

A Day Late and …….

Wednesday April 9, 2014
Suwannee River State Park
Live Oak, Florida






We are out early this morning to check out the boat ramp and get the kayaks in the water.  But here’s what we find.  The park stewards were out even earlier to block of the boat ramp.  RATS!  We missed it by a day.   Thwarted in the thing we most wanted to do while here. Paddle!

Well the water has come up even more since yesterday as we knew it would.  The fence is sinking into the river.






While we are contemplating what to do about this new turn of events, we take a walk along the cabins road and see the apparently very nice new 2 bedroom cabins for rent at the park.  They are locked of course so we can only take pictures of the screened in porches with beautiful porch swing, 2 wooden paddled ceiling fans, a large picnic table, 2 single rattan rockers and one double rocker.  We can peek in the windows and see the single room with 2 sofas, a dining table, a breakfast bar and a kitchen.  We can peek in the front bedroom window and see two twin beds.   The other bedroom appears to have a double bed.  There is a single bath. Our attempts to take pictures through the windows don’t turn out.









Trails rather than paddling is at least a tiny bit disappointing.




We decide to hike the trails on the other side of the ramp and hope they aren’t underwater too.  We doubt it since one of them is the Earthworks trail. There is a nice wooden bridge over the fortification side nearest the river.

These earthworks were erected, equipped and manned by the Confederate Army to defend the railroad bridge and head of navigation on the Suwannee River.  This bridge was the union objective as they marched west from Jacksonville in the Union campaign of 1864.  They were defeated and turned back at the battle of Olustee 50 miles east of here.

At that time there was a wood formation atop the earthen walls with holes at the bottom every so often so that rifles could be fired from the safety of the interior.  It’s amazing to think that this large Earthen bowl was dug out by hand and the walls piled up.






From the top of the berm, you can easily see the river.


The current railroad bridge is located just to the left of the above picture.  I’m not sure if there is anything left of the one being defended.  I don’t think so.  But the current bridge hosts trains with LOUD horns so be aware if you come here. 




Beyond there we come to the overlook of the Withlacoochee River joining the Suwannee for its trip south.  I was quite confused at one point about this because there is a Withlacoochee River further south in Florida as well.  Two different rivers with the same name seems pretty confusing to me.  I couldn’t easily find any information about why they both have the same name just that the Northern With originates in Georgia and the Southern With originates in the Green Swamp.

The Withlacoochee here dead ends, as it were, into the Suwannee and together they flow South to Cedar Key and into the gulf.

Right now both rivers are seriously swollen.  The Withlacoochee is on the left joining the Suwannee as it comes in from the right.   There is a primitive campsite for kayakers doing the Suwannee River Kayak Trail on the bank opposite right between the two rivers.  What a great time it would be to kayak camp down the Suwannee or the Withlacoochee and camp along the way.





Beyond this point we come to a platform overlook which appears to be mainly for the flood gauge.   David goes up to take a look.



37.3 at the top and 15.7 at this spot today.  That’s less than we found over on the Lime Sink Run yesterday.








Just beyond this point we find a trail sign of which we were totally unaware. 


These trails were not on the main map we were given.  Of course Suwannacoochee Spring via the Old Suwannee River Bridge sounds terrific.  We assume that it’s length is somewhere between the 11 mile and the 2 mile so we set off to see where the trail goes.




Pretty right away, it goes across the railroad tracks.  Well that makes sense since I has to come to the “old Suwannee River Bridge”.




The trail takes us down a nice old Florida sand road and past some very old Florida cracker houses.




This one is said to be the site of the now ghost town of Ellaville.





But then we come to Highway 90 and the signs seem to indicate that we must turn right, walk along the highway and over the auto bridge on the river.  Without a map, I’m not willing to do that so we’ll save the Suwannacoochee Spring for a time when I can see if there is a map for this trail on line.



We go back down the road, over the railroad tracks, through the picnic area and pick up the Sandhill Trail. 




This is a very different habitat than the parts of the park we have visited before.  It is a dry upland pine forest.  It is a long leaf pine sand hill very dependent on fire.  Turkey oaks and pines thrive here.   And so does this little fella who is trying to hide in the forest litter.






The trail crosses the old Stage Coach Road which in the 1800’s was used to reach the ferry at the point where the Suwannee and the Withlacoochee Rivers meet.  People and wares were traveling from Pensacola to Jacksonville on this road.




Further along the trail we come to the Columbus Cemetery which is all that remains of the town of Columbus.  This mid 19th century town had a population of 500 people in its prime and it was here that the Earthen works were built in the Civil War.  All that remains is this cemetery with 23 graves.  Most of them from the early 19th Century to the early 20th century.  Too many of them children.   The plots are separated into 4 fenced areas for some reason.  I thought they might be family plots but there were numerous names in each other than the first and largest Cannon plot.






This tombstone was carved in the shape of a log of wood.  It is a Woodmen of the World memorial to Jackson Cannon.  Based on the birth and death dates of Jun3 20, 1877 – November 24, 1916, I’d say he was probably  the son of Mother and Father.   I found some pretty interesting information about these grave markers if you are interested.  http://agraveinterest.blogspot.com/2011/06/woodmen-of-world-and-tree-stone-grave.html











Another interesting marker was alone in a wrought iron fenced area and had six large very weathered conch shells from the headstone to the footstone.





The trail leads you right into the cemetery and right out of it.





I see this odd fruit looking sort of thing on the trail and picked it up.  It is soft and spongy.  Squeezing it a little too hard caused it to pop and here’s what is inside.  Does anyone know what this is?  We see little bits of others in the same area but none at any other point on the trail.





The trail loops back and we take the stage coach road back to Winnona whose side yard faces it.  An interesting morning finishing the trails in the park.




At the risk of this post becoming not just too long but way too long, I’m going to go on with what we did this afternoon.


My plan for staying in Suwannee River State Park was to be here for a week so we could not only kayak on the Suwannee but visit nearby parks for kayaking and particularly to swim in the springs. 

Some of you may remember my goal to swim in all of Florida’s public springs.   The plan was first altered when I was unable to get reservations through the week-end.  Those week-end warriors at work.  Now it seems this deluge has put a complete end to that idea.  I check on line with the 3 places I intended to visit and find they are all closed to swimming and diving, due to spring brown out and rising water levels causing unsafe swimming conditions and limited visibility. The boat ramps have been closed due to high water levels and swift moving water that are “deemed unsafe for recreation”.




We decide to drive over to the closest one, Madison Blue Spring, anyway to scope it out. 


It’s a cute little park with a small trailer as the entrance station.  There is no one there today.

It is one of Florida´s newest state parks, but I haven’t been able to find out who owned it before the state got it.  It is a  first magnitude spring and apparently is a popular spot for swimming. About 82 feet wide and 25 feet deep, the spring bubbles up into a limestone basin along the west bank of the Withlacoochee River.   The water flow from a large cavern 25 feet deep contributes to 23.7 percent of flow into the opposite direction of the Withlacoochee River, resulting in a large arc of clear water and swept river bottom.












I did find information that said it was used by local inhabitants as a fresh water source and I found some old pictures of Madison Blue Spring as a camping and swimming spot in the 30’s and 50’s. http://www.floridastateparks.org/history/parkhistory.cfm?parkid=186

The park is a day use area. There are no campsites at the park now. It seems to be most popular with divers and swimmers. There is a small boat ramp but they do not rent boats at the park.

It’s a small spring area still very natural except for the fence all around it.  I guess to protect the stupid but it takes a way from the beauty of the little spring pool.  Still, I’d love to swim in it.



Not surprisingly, the spring entry deck is completely under water




The water is up to the top step.



But the water is still crystal clear and you can see the steps going down into the spring.  I’m surprised that the brown Suwannee hasn’t come up into the spring as close as the river is to it.  I suspect that’s because of the strength of the water flowing out of this first magnitude spring.





Sure wish I’d brought my suit anyway!

The housing for the lifebuoy has sprung open and the ring is floating away.   Could I get in trouble if I just swim in to get it and bring it back??  Wish I’d brought my suit in spite of their on line warnings, I’d try go in and get it.  There is no one here and clearly the spring has no “brown out” yet.





The depth indicator isn’t much use since it is completely under water and can’t be read.




There are also steps on the side of the platform but they too are underwater all the way down.  Doesn’t that water look inviting??







From this vantage point you can clearly see the difference in the muddy Withlacoochee and the beautiful spring water.  There is almost a line where they meet.




Is this the kayak launch?

There is no one here to show us where the kayak launch is so David assumes it must be this ramp on the far side of the spring.  Although I am a little skeptical that they would have boats launched directly into the spring especially when there are people swimming in it. But we look all around for some place to launch into the river directly and don’t find anything.





Looking from the far side of the spring, you can again see the brown river.




You can see the lifebuoy off to the left and the opening to the river straight ahead.




The double steps from the platform are visible in the beautiful blue water.




My visit has made me sure that I want to return here to both kayak and swim at some future time.  Judging from this map of the springs in Northern Florida, I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to swim in them all.  Every red dot is a spring.  Look at the ones running down the Suwannee alone.   But this blue beauty is for sure high on my list!



  1. The fruit looks like it could be ginkgo. Was it stinky?

  2. I'm glad you didn't go in, Sherry... I mean... really! there could be a hidden ol bug in there ready to make you deathly ill. A little boy died in Florida from a parasite in the water and a little girl here in Arkansas ALMOST died.. her treatment was, hopefully, going to save the little boy but ... it didn't. Don't know what brown out is but it doesn't sound good... and look at the muddy river meeting that gorgeous spring... I've said it before and I'm saying it again ... nature is amazing...

    haven't a clue what that weird looking squishy fruit is ... Ugli? fruit? naw that's in Jamaica or Haiti or some place...

  3. Sounds like you had a nice day anyway. Keep making that list for the future and you'll never run out of things to do!

  4. Madison Blue Spring is sure a beauty. Hope to made it back there again. Surprised no mention of the mosquitoes here & there. They are everywhere, and dense too but for whatever reason I don't have any bites. Happy about that!

  5. It does look inviting. Seems you'll be a long while getting to all the springs in FL! Spring might not be the time do this. Nice photos.

  6. First of all,you will never write a post that is to long. Maybe others might think so, but your style of writing is so interesting to me, I could read it all day. It's like reading a good book. I chuckled to myself at your mention of your "goals." I have a list of those myself! Some we've made great headway on (i.e. state capital), others are likely a fleeting dream in the wind.

  7. Sorry the kayaking ws not to be, but looks lile a good hiking day nonetheless :) Such history. Madison Blue Spring looks beautiful - the water is so tropical and pristine looking. I'd want to swim too but the water sure is high right now!

  8. I am sure enjoying your posts at Suwanee River SP. I keep going back and forth from your pictures with all the flooding and mine when it was at the normal water levels. It's interesting to see the differences. The last time we drove by there (but didn't camp) the water was extremely low and you couldn't really kayak the river then either.

    I think Madison Blue Springs is one of the prettiest in Florida. My pictures from there show an entirely different place with the normal water levels. Hard to believe how high the water is now. Sorry you didn't get to swim. I don't think it would kill you. Go for it.

  9. In my version of the story your pictures at the Spring are just for evidence at your trial, and in reality you spent a leisurely afternoon skinny dipping in the crystal blue water :-).
    The hike was wonderful. I love the old Ellaville cracker houses back in the trees. Thanks for the great information - I agree your posts are never too long!

  10. Madison Blue Spring looked just lovely. Too bad that you couldn't get in and enjoy! My Mom always told me I must save something for 'next time'. I guess this is one of those times for you and David :-)

  11. I don't like it when rivers have the same names. . .it's so confusing to me. . .why do they do that?

    I was looking forward to your kayaking adventure, but it seems you found something to keep you occupied. . .way to go!

  12. Sorry you couldn't kayay the Suwannee, we were shut out also and hopping to see what you found; o (( We were completely shut out of the Lime Sink Trail ... it was closed and completely submerged!! We didchike part of the Oak Trail which is actually part of the Florida Trail. It was nice, but the best part was when we returned over the old railroad bridge and a Swallow-tailed Kite made an appearance. You may not believe this, but I actually did a post about it;o)) Hope the river goes down and you can kayak it at your next stop!!

  13. Water, water every where and not a drop to swim (or kayak) in! ;c)

    Don't ever worry about too long posts, I'm always sad when they end. You must have a tough time being the editor and having to decide what to leave in and what to leave out of all the incredible places you visit.

  14. The springs "look inviting" when I'm standing on solid ground. I'd drown just from fear wondering what was swimming with me if I got in one. Loved this post, Sherry. I think it was probably more interesting because it did rain. Your posts can never be too long--it always amazes me how you find the tiniest things and make them interesting to read about. I would love to be following behind you and David eavesdropping on your conversations. Just out of curiosity (I may have missed it), where did you get your love water--mainly swimming in springs?

  15. Another Cold front is moving through and of course some more of that 3 inches per hour rain. Might be time to consider high ground.
    I saw our local fishing dock level with the water yesterday and asked a local what what was up with that and he said a big low pressure over the ocean backs up the river and this happens at high tide. He told me to wait for an hour or so and watch it go down and it did slowly. Great pics with the new camera.

  16. Wow, Madison Blue Spring is gorgeous! Let's kayak it together next winter. So, just out of curiosity, how many of the Florida springs have you kayaked so far? And how many have you been swimming in? I like your goals.

  17. That is a pretty little park. Years ago, we rode our bikes out to that cemetery.

  18. That spring is so pretty! No wonder you were tempted to go in!


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