Updated: Oct 18, 2020
A 5+ hour drive away, the Suwannee River State Park was so worth it! Located along the Florida Georgia line, pops of colored leaves and crisp air welcomed us as a reward for our journey. From the moment we arrived, we knew it was going to be a great trip. Pine needles blanketed the campsite and large trees shaded our area, allowing just the right amount of sun to shine through. Thus, setup had a special stroll about it as we didn't have to fear for pending rain or intense rays. Having booked this campsite at the start of the pandemic, we were able to reserve the last and smallest campsite that most rv's would never fit it. So, it sure was a good thing we are pop up cabin glampers. Of course, both our boat and truck couldn't both fit in the site with us as in other parks. Lucky for us, the boat parking was super close and well laid out so once we unloaded all the items off the boat, my boys were quick about getting the boat in it's spot before completing our setup. It was Labor Day weekend after all and there it was as if all us long weekend campers got the memo to arrive right at 2pm.
Once set up, frozen drink consumed and feeling accomplished, we set off to explore and check out the boat ramp. It was another long one, we are sensing a trend in long and narrow boat ramps for north/central Florida for sure!
Though we didn't actually put in the water our first night, I thought it important to showcase the boat ramp right away to add context and visuals as I continue on with the post. With that in mind, directly to the east of the shallow water at the foot of the boat ramp, was a delightful mini spring and waterfall. A bridge that was part of one of the trails, allowed hikers a view from above but I am convinced the view from the shore was the best. We ended up following that water's edge for about a mile, walking across the stream with ease. It was so beautiful yet felt adventurous without being too rigorous. A great way to explore! That evening, we did have a great time doing a little glampin' putting, playing Skipbo,and working on our foot step for the rope swing we had hopes to customize on the Suwannee. Our hotdogs were delicious and the campfire just the right size as we settled in for a three night stay.
That next morning we were up with a little extra pep in our step. Well rested and a light breakfast of English muffins with peanut butter to fuel our bodies, we hopped in the truck to fetch the boat and begin our journey with plans to head west on the Suwannee River. Because the water was so shallow at shore of the boat ramp, we really had to push the boat off but once it was in we moored up the beach near the fresh spring so the boys could catch some fresh bait.
It didn't take but fifteen minutes into our journey when we reached the Suwannacoochee Spring. We pulled up and climbed over to the old dam wall that helped supply water for the small town of Ellaville back in the late 1800's. As my boys figured out how to navigate the rope swing with the giant bamboo stick for retrieval, Nemo and I climbed ahead a little more to learn about this ghost town. It really was a cool spot to see firsthand.
This was also the favorite rope swing of the trip, not that we knew it then but be sure to watch closely as Dad goes first and see what is missing after his jump.
This area is called the Suwannacoochee because this spring is formed at the intersection of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers. As we headed south down the Withlacoochee fishing with crickets and the few small fished of fresh bait, there was amazing rock formations and a few residences to see up close. We did an about face about two hours into the journey and followed the north flowing current back towards the Suwannee, visiting the rope swing again.
As we began to take the Suwannee River east, we had a light lunch of egg salad sliders and fresh watermelon with barbecue chips. It was a perfect meal for the boat.
As we roamed, so many amazing sandy beaches simply appeared out of nowhere in this direction; it was so cool to see. One interesting thing about the miles of the Suwannee we were on, there was no No Wake zones. So, you could be full throttle if you wanted; some folks were. Many of the other boats had john boats or flat boats and really had fun taking the curves as faster speeds. Fish and Wildlife were out and pretty nice to anyone they stopped that Labor Day weekend including us. Side note, be sure have your boat's registration on the left side so it can be viewed by oncoming boats. About four hours into the trip, that handsome husband of mine realized his new hat was missing. Good thing I had his jump on video because my innocence was quickly validated as a result. Wondering if we went back to find it? We did... but we never did find it.
Wish would have taken pictures of us trying to get our boat back onto the trailer. Not only was there a mom with three kids and a grandma just hanging out in their boat at the only spot to moor up, the wind had picked up and the current was pretty fierce. It took four tries and Charlie having to pull the boat a bit with a rope in order to get the boat on. Needless to say, once back at camp we had to restock on ice. The gas station/local convenient store and eatery was fresh out. Though, we did grab a dozen of their sweet chili wings to sample as we made the ten plus miles east to the next closest store. Stocked up on ice and scored a cool souvenir for Charlie before heading back to camp with plans of grilling and chilling. Once the coolers were drained and then refreshed, we made a delicious meal of grilled bbq chicken with dad's favorite tuna pasta salad, artichoke salad and s'mores. No games that night, just stories and branding of a second step to adorn a new rope swing for the next day; it was a perfect end to a stellar day.
Waking on our final boating day, the air was crisp. To Floridians, it felt of fall. It was apparent it had rained while we slept but it wasn't muddy. So, we loaded up our cooler with lunch (I forgot the watermelon and fish dip which were to be features...whoops!) and we headed off. Super glad I always carry my versatile light blanket in my boating bag, because once we got launched and going; it was chilly. The mission today, check out the Spirit of the Suwannee, maybe hug a tree or two and conquer each rope swing we were to see. Gotta love a plan! So, we began our journey and stuck with it though we severely underestimated how far the Spirit of the Suwannee was. From start to finish, it ended up taking us just over 3 hours. But the experience there and back was worth it, even if the Spirit of the Suwannee wasn't quite what I envisioned.
Even with the chill in the air, we made sure to pull off and check out this rope swing right away. Charlie was fearless, after a few deep breaths and practice rope throws. The funny part is Nemo racing in after him. Heading northeast on the Suwannee there were plenty of swings and sites to see but there were hardly any other boaters for the morning hours, it was as if the whole river was just ours. About an hour and a half into the roam, we veered off onto the Alapaha River. It was really totally moss covered upon entry with a crazy whirlpool that we had to fight against to make it past. Honestly, for a minute there, I felt like we were possibly entering a fairy world through some sort of enchanted vortex. If it were, they ended up not taking us but it was pretty cool to see. My boys cast and cast, but we came out of this river's short visit empty handed.
Even with no fish yet for the trip, we were in awe of all the natural beauty along the Suwannee. Once past this bonus river, we came into more civilization. Past the sheriff's boys youth camp and several homesteads before coming up to river front homes of assorted sizes and values. We were nearing the Spirit of the Suwannee, I could feel it as a beautiful butterfly hitched a ride onboard the River Roamer. Yet, as we came around the bend and witnessed the man made giant slip and slides with upwards of a hundred plus campers, it dawned on me that my wish for the Spirit of the Suwannee might not be coming true. It is a campground and music park, I envisioned climbing up top and strolling about; climbing on a stage. Nope, it was super packed and anything worth seeing was not an easy pull up and jump out to explore type of a setup. So, it gave us a destination and nothing more. However, for what it is worth, all the campers seemed super happy.
As we headed back toward the Suwannee River State Park, we were going with the current this time so we were hopeful the journey would not be as long and that we'd have enough gas to make it. Of course, I was bound and determined to check out the baby waterfall I had seen while headed to the Spirit, it took a few "there it is" around a couple different bends, but by golly we found it and it was beautiful to see up close! The boys journeyed up the fall for quite a ways, I hung back with Nemo as he couldn't' make it up the rocks. Just being there by it was reward enough.
After an exploration pit stop and a few more rope swings, we were about an hour or so away from the campground when the skies broke loose and the rains came pouring down. So, we just played the music loud and took in the sites between rain drops. Charlie snuggled up next to me under the canopy top, I just love that so much; it makes me welcome the occasional rain storm.
Back at the boat ramp, the boys conquered the boat and trailer better but not without a little extra maneuvering in the pouring rain. Nemo and I headed back up to the site to scope out the scene. Our setup did pretty well thankfully and just a bit of tidying up needed to be done. After another hour or so the rain finally stopped. Poor Charlie picked up the bag of charcoal and the whole bottom gave out from the moisture, we had just enough to cook our steaks that evening.
Sure, it was a late dinner and everything was pretty wet but boy did we have fun. We went to bed showered, full and ready for some solid sleep before breaking down and the drive home.
The next morning we were all up by 7am with breakdown commencing right at 8am. My cup of coffee and English muffin was just what I needed while Charlie opted for baby powdered sugar donuts; one of the perks of camping. With all hands on deck, the work went fast and the shade from the trees with the cool air made it pleasurable to wrap up. Driving over to the boat to actually load it all up was not the most fun. I stepped in an ant pile right after Charlie had but we muddled through and showered before hitting the highway. To help avoid getting off the expressway in downtown Jacksonville full of circle ramps and such; I found a pizzeria that opened at 11am that was before the Jacksonville congestion bound to be there on Labor Day.
Five Star Pizza, it had great reviews so we ordered and it was ready right on time. They had a walk up window due to covid and didn't allow patrons to use the restroom; a bit of a bummer. Still, we tailgated and enjoyed our pizza, pepperoni cheese sticks and wings. Even had some leftovers to bring home and enjoy later. Nemo snored for the next three hours of our drive and we listened to several The Way I heard Its by Mike Rowe. Home by 5pm with our few pit stops along the way, the Suwannee River was a real adventure.
Hope you can take a moment to view our montage of fun; happy glamping!