One of the reasons for traveling to White Springs, Florida was the mention of white water rapids at Big Shoals State Park. After seeing the low level watermarks for the Suwannee River at Stephen Foster State Park, my expectations had diminished for this excursion, from canoeing to just hiking. Driving down County Road 135, I had not seen too many signs for navigating to the park. After taking a right onto Old Godwind Bridge Road, the pavement had turned to gravel. In the middle of the road had laid a dog and her four puppies. I had started to question out loud,” Is this the road to a state park?” The dogs had seemed unaffected by our encroaching vehicle. In a moment of clarity, I had switched off driving responsibilities with my friend to handle the dogs on the road. Snapping my fingers at the oldest dog, I had pointed to a nearby house. The dog, on cue, had responded wonderfully, moving her entourage out of the way. Another half mile down the road, the sign for Big Shoals had come into view.
After parking, we had walked down toward the canoe launch area. The Suwannee River’s appearance at this location had appeared more robust than the offering over at Stephen Foster. Walking back up toward the Pavilion, a small wooden fence had provided a great view of an overlook with 50 – 60 foot drop off to the river below. After this stop, we had proceeded out onto Big Shoals Hiking trail. Along the way, we had seen the remnants of an old bridge. Standing amongst the trees, the huge pillars had remained a testament to the history of the area. A mile in, we had heard the rumble of water. In excitement, we had both started jogging to another overlook with a similar drop-off like before. Down below, we had noticed the foaming rapids break upon the rocks. Wanting to get more pictures, we had scaled down the side of the limestone bluffs. At the water’s edge, we had both taken the opportunity for some pictures and video. The rapid were relatively nice but, nowhere near their optimal peak for canoeing. According to Florida State Parks website, to earn the class III classification for Big Shoals rapids, the water level had required being between 59 – 61 feet.
Scaling back up the estimated 80 foot bluffs, we had decided to double back on the hiking trail to the Pavilion. Near the Pavilion’s picnic area, another structure had caught my attention. The sign had read, “Bat Exhibit.” In the Florida Keys, I had seen another tower but, with a different architecture. Even though I was unable to see the bats, their sound echoed outside of the structure. The take away, bugs, specifically mosquitoes, were almost non-existent in the immediate area. Or maybe we were just lucky. In the end, Big Shoals State Park had offered a dynamic environment for canoeing, hiking and camping. If you had wanted to hit the rapids, suggest calling ahead for a water level report.
Big Shoals State Park
Address: 11330 S.E. County Road 135, White Springs, Florida 32096
Phone: (386) 397-4331
Big Shoals State Park (Florida State Parks)
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park @ White Springs, Florida (GarzaFX)