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

Henry David Thoreau

Kayaking the Chipola River

Tuesday April 7, 2015
Florida Caverns State Park
Marianna, Florida



As I mentioned in my earlier post on Florida Caverns, there are a lot of great things to do here.  Today is the day to kayak the Chipola River.  We set out from the boat dock which is just down the road from the campground.  As is usual for us, since we have no way of doing a shuttle, we paddle upstream and will float back down.  Actually, the park will not allow you to go down river.  Apparently the rapids and the debris on the river make it too dangerous. 

I’m surprised at that since our experience of the river is that it is peaceful and calm.  This is a lovely river which is bounded by the park on both sides.  It is completely natural and undeveloped.  A real rarity these days.




We haven’t gone far when we see this smiling face from the bank.  My what big teeth you have.





The water is fairly high on the banks.  It’s a beautiful day for a paddle.




Up river I see another one of those what does this look like to you pictures.  Any suggestions?




David finds a very interesting pair of cypress trees and drives his kayak right through.



We see only a few other people on the river today.  We pass this family of 5 in their canoe.  The daughter shouts at me, “my dad caught a fish, my dad caught a fish.”   Indeed he did.  She was pretty excited.




We are paddling up the right side of the river like good boating rules observers when the water seems to become clearer and clearer.




We can see the sandy bottom and the green vegetation as though the water were glass.   We turn up in the direction from which that water is flowing and find a gorgeous spring.



David gets there before I do.  The color is just amazing.  You can see the very dark blue just in front of him which must be the deepest spot where the spring water is coming.




The only structure we see all day is the red cabin back up on a small rise above the spring.  I can hardly imagine if this were my front yard.  It is breathtaking.




I sit in this one spot for quite a long time just watching the fish and the water streaming up.  Everything is quiet.  The only sounds are the songs of the birds until another pair of kayakers come up.   We are just sitting at the head of the spring run when they appear.  We chat a bit and they leave and we have it all to ourselves again.  I know it would be polite to leave when they come but I just can’t do it.




The green to the right of my paddle is the trees overhead reflected in the crystal clear water.




I’m mesmerized.  David takes the camera.





I slowly paddle all around the circle of the spring looking closely at it from every direction. 






Reluctantly I know we  have to leave some time right and there is more river to see, more than we can possibly see today but I wonder what could even begin to top this.


Back down the spring run we paddle.





As I am making my way further up the river, I see this enormous alligator sliding into the water from the bank.  He’s right in front of me.  Oh boy,  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a bigger alligator.  His body and head reach out to the reflection of the tree trunk.  I sure wish I could have gotten my camera clicking in time to get his head.  But look at this tail.   Looks like a dragon.





David has the most amazing scanning skills.  He’s going by this debris in the river when he stops and turns around.  Look carefully at what he’s looking where the tree has fallen on top of the log.


Here’s a little bit closer picture of it.

He spots this snake curled around at the spot where the tree is in contact with the log.



I have to paddle all the way around the back to see who is looking at me.  I’m wondering if it is the banded water snake.




We move on up the heavily tree lined river passing massive cypress and various obstacles in the water as we go.





Because we are paddling upstream, I am not able to keep paddling and take pictures of some of the obstacles we have to go under and in two cases over.   But I am able to take pictures of the lovely banks of this rather café au lait colored river.   It’s color is the reason we were so easily able to recognize the nearby presence of a spring.







Here is one obstacle from a distance.   The couple we met at the spring were returning down river and when asked how far they went, they said they came to the log across the river that was only about an inch or so submerged.  You can’t go beyond that they said.   David is contemplating it there on the left.  He agrees, probably the end of the line..




But I try it and after several attempts manage to get myself over.  Too bad he doesn’t have a camera to record my efforts.  I couldn’t get turned around to watch him as he also managed the up and over.  I guess he thinks, well if she can, I can.



But ultimately we’ve been out about 4 hours when we come to a bigger problem and just decide not to tackle it so we turn around and float back.  The current seems much slower going with the river than against it.  Very relaxing.




Although one very exciting thing on the way back happens when float around a bend.   I came into view of the enormous alligator who this time does not slide right off the bank.  I must have startled him coming quietly down on his side of the river.  He bounds off the shore at the very same spot and the splash of him seriously BOUNDING into the water sounds like a bomb has been dropped.   Talk about adrenalin.  It all happens so fast that a picture is impossible.  Sure wish I had recognized the spot and known I was coming to it so I might have been ready.  He was huge.  I really want a good look at him.

The rest of the paddle continues to be serene on this really wonderful river.



I have to get one picture of David with the night driving glasses on.  I didn’t see him take them out of the car so they made me laugh when I noticed them.  He says it gives an interesting cast to things during the day. 




Not too far from the take out, the first alligator of the earlier afternoon has moved slightly to a different spot but he is still smiling and quite congenial for pictures.   He looks like he’s posing doesn’t he?   Every good Florida river needs an alligator star.




This is one of the nicest river paddles we have done.  I would love to do the Chipola again and other parts of this natural river as well.  I especially want another chance to get a good look at that giant gator.   I’m so glad the state of Florida, with this park, has protected the river for him and for us all.


  1. Okay, I've got to say that I'm not as enthusiastic about this paddle - huge alligators and a snake. I prefer turtles and birds. :-). Glad you had fun.

  2. Loved the photos of the spring portion of the river and my faves, the gators. They looked HUGE! Gonna earmark this post for future kayak expeditions AFTER getting a hard shell. Have decided not to take my Sea Eagle inflatable on trips where there are LOTS of gators....heheheheheh....

  3. We never made it to that river and it looks like we missed a good one when we lived in that area. I love coming to those surprise springs. That spring reminds me a little of Ginnie and Three Sisters...both lovely springs.

    I don't blame you, I wouldn't have left either.

    Good catch spotting that snake David. I almost put my hand on one once when I was going to use the branch to push my kayak away. I've since learned that lesson.

    So, do those yellow driving glasses work well? I've seen them advertised and since I can't see well at night, I wondered about them.

    BTW, your third comment on my blog finally posted. Not sure what's going on there.

  4. The thought of kayaking with alligatorsgives me goosebumps! That natural spring was mesmerizing. This is the kind of thing that could lure me to Florida!

  5. Really nice paddle, again :-). Florida does a great job with their parks.

  6. Won't be swimming in that river, EVER.

  7. Yep I vote for turtles and birds....I would have been lunch for sure when the gator bomb went off as I would have fallen into the river from pure fright.

  8. Yet another lovely river to paddle. That spring is so remarkable, I'd have wanted to just hang out there all day. I'm assuming that alligators don't usually bother boaters.

  9. That is a beautiful paddle and that is also one BIG gator!!! I prefer when they stay on the bank and I know where they are;o)) Love the photo of David through the Cypress Trees.

    The water at the spring head is spectacular. Cannot believe the color of the water and the reflection of the trees in the water. Yes, Nature is Amazing!!!

  10. That gator with the big teeth was smiling because he was thinking what a great snack you'd make! ;c)

    Another wonderful paddle, you certainly are getting your monies worth out of your kayaks!

  11. That spring was a great find! I can't get over how ice blue they are. Gorgeous! That is one big arm David found on that one cypress. Seeing the gators along the bank is such fun. Definitely not the place I feel comfortable taking our inflatable:) That sure looks like a young water moccasin. When we did our canoe trip with the ranger from Big Cypress there was a water moccasin on every other hanging tree branch. Once you spotted one, you saw them all over. It was king of creepy! Sure looks like another perfect day:)

    1. Actually I think you may be right now that I look more closely at his head, eye and the slant back to his mouth. I was expecting a moccasin to be mostly black but they can have stripes just like this. His face was really hard to see. Thanks for the heads up.

  12. Beautiful clear blue water...I wouldn't have left either!! Exciting paddle...felt I was there..seeing the different water colors and the gators and trees. Great picture of Dad in his night goggles-lol. Such fun :)

  13. Oh...the rock looks like a big turtle emerging from the deep! :)

  14. The spring looks quite peaceful... and the gators remind me of dinosaurs, which in a way they are.

  15. I vote for Cottonmouth ( water moccasin). Great gator pics.

  16. Beautiful paddle, but I much prefer when the gators stay on the banks. Especially the big ones!! Even though they're just trying to get away from us, they sound so scary when they hit the water. The Florida springs are such an amazing color -- I also find them mesmerizing.

  17. The green overhang reflected in the water is so beautiful! Love David's cypress arch 😀. The peacefulness of the river is so calming. Even from a dirt campground in NV! The smiling gator cracks me up. Like he's trying to make up for his bigger brother's rudeness up stream.......

  18. I would be very suspicious of a smiling gator:) If it keeps raining here in the mountains of GA, we might be able to paddle around the motorhome:(

  19. Wow, you both are brave to kayak by those big gators. Apparently they weren't hungry :) Beautiful paddle once again!

  20. Now that is one huge 'gator! I think that I'd be scooting out of there quickly! Do they ever "fuss" with a kayak or canoe?

  21. Always loved the spring water rivers of Florida when we were there but that was almost 50 years ago. Never remember seeing alligators along the Itchetucknee where we used to tube - or snakes for that matter. Probably because there were too many people frequenting the springs and river. It's nice to see so much wildlife. Seeing the Jack in a Pulpit reminds me of Mom. She always was pointing them out at our house in Braddock Heights MD.

  22. I agree this river is the best river that you have paddled so far. It is so clear and pristine. But the only scary part here are the alligators and snake, otherwise I will paddle here. Really, really neat.


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