It’s a new season with paddling trips scheduled that will please returning paddlers and introduce first-timers of all ages to some of Florida’s most beloved rivers, springs and waterways. All trips feature bird viewing opportunities, peaceful riverside and waterfront camping, plenty of hiking trails, outstanding evening entertainment, and the campfire camaraderie that makes Paddle Florida worth adding to your bucket-list.
Paddle Florida leads trips in different seasons and regions of the state, from the hardwood forests of the Panhandle to the mangrove islands of the Florida Keys. Fees for all trips include camping, a t-shirt, a boat decal, maps, evening entertainment, water descriptions, full vehicle support for all gear, and meals (if meal plan is purchased).
The 2013-2014 season offers date and location choices. Registration opens on May 1, 2013 and is available at www.paddleflorida.org.
•October 12-17: Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
•December 6-9: Wekiva/St.Johns River Ramble
•January 15-22: Florida Keys Challenge
•February 12-17: Wild, Wonderful Withlacoochee
•March 15-21: Dam to the Bay on the Ochlockonee
This October, spend six days way down upon the Suwannee River on Paddle Florida’s sixth annual trip on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. The trip starts at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and winds 73 miles downstream on a river flanked by limestone bluffs and crystal clear springs. As the Suwannee twists and turns, paddlers are likely to encounter sturgeon or mullet jumping, turtles sliding off logs, or an occasional gator sunning. It’s the best place to unwind and soak in North Florida’s spectacular outdoor playground before arriving in the small town of Branford, the trip’s destination.
Paddle Florida staff takes care of everything but the actual paddling on their trips, which are scouted in advance to ensure waterway conditions and shoreline camping spots maximize comfort and showcase nature’s best view. Meal plans and gear shuttling eliminates the need to weigh boats down with food and camping equipment. Lead and sweep boats guide paddlers on each day’s journey. With this level of support, paddlers of all ages and skill levels can enjoy an extended adventure in natural Florida.
Each evening, paddlers gather for open-air dining, entertainment from Florida artists or musicians, and educational presentations that explore the region’s water ecology and wildlife. Evening entertainment will be posted at www.paddleflorida.org as artists and speakers are confirmed for each trip.
Trip fees cover paddling, camping, and learning adventures. The Suwannee trip fee is $275 for adults, $250 for seniors and college students, $225 for youth aged 8-17, and children under 7 are free. The recommended meal plan is an additional $150 per person and provides three hearty meals per day. Can’t get away for the whole trip? Consider the Paddle Florida Lite option, which is $90 per day including meals. For more details on the daily itinerary and registration, visit: http://paddleflorida.org/suwannee12/details.htm .
Don’t have a canoe or kayak you can bring? Paddle Florida has an official outfitter for each trip. For the Suwannee trip, Suwannee Canoe Outpost provides Suwannee River paddlers with all their boating needs.
Paddle Florida leads multi-day, supported trips across the state to promote Florida as an international destination for nature-based tourism in general, and paddling in particular. Awarded non-profit status in 2011, the group promotes water conservation, wildlife preservation, springs restoration, and waterways protection. True to this mission, Paddle Florida coordinates voluntary cleanups on many of the waterways they visit. Previous years’ paddlers have collected and removed over 1,500 pounds of trash from Florida’s rivers. Paddle Florida’s timely mission aligns with water issues currently being debated across the state.