Apalachicola National Forest
|Apalachicola River (Wikipedia)|
Canoes have carried people and materials on Florida's rivers, lakes, and streams for thousands of years. They offered the native peoples an easy way to move loads long before overland transportation was developed. Now, with highways crisscrossing the landscape, Florida's quiet waterways offer a chance to escape backward in time to the undeveloped Florida of centuries ago.
Two of the three national forests in Florida—Apalachicola and the Ocala—contain more than 700 lakes and ponds and four major rivers. The third, Osceola, has much less open water and is not a major canoeing destination. Neither the Ocala nor the Apalachicola has whitewater such as you'll find in the mountains, but both have a variety of terrific streams. Each stream has its own characteristics that make it unlike any other. Some, like Alexander Spring Creek, begin broad with slow moving water and then become narrow and deep downstream. Others, like Juniper Creek, start scarcely wider than the canoe and end up more than a hundred feet wide.
You can usually cover about 2-1/2 miles per hour in open streams, assuming you stop now and then to enjoy the scenery. In streams with obstructing logs you will move at about 1-1/2 miles per hour. You won't find roads running parallel alongside the stream. You may have to duck under low-hanging branches or lift the canoe over partly submerged logs. The streams are left in these primitive conditions to provide a challenge and a sense of achievement, and to let visitors experience the quiet beauty of the unspoiled environment. Because there's no whitewater, safety considerations tend toward submerged logs and to a lesser extent, alligators and snakes. The greatest stress will be keeping from getting lost, or finding a place to camp. So before you head out on your trip, order the maps you need from the USGS.
Of course you don't have to take your own canoe on the jet. Both the Ocala and the Apalachicola forests have canoe rental concessions. Check with the rangers stations about where to rent. It would be a good idea to make a reservation.
Enjoy! And please carry out your trash and leave those wildflowers and cypress knees be.
The careful canoeist faces little danger in Florida streams, which lack the whitewaters of mountain rivers. However, canoes might turn over usually after striking an underwater log or rock. Sometimes canoes capsize when people trade places and violate the rule that only one person should move at a time.
Don't panic if you suddenly find yourself in the water. Usually you can touch bottom. Hang on to the canoe, which will float. Guide it to a shallow spot and empty it by rolling it over on the bank. Equipment such as cameras, camping gear, and lunches can be kept dry and safe if placed in plastic bags and tied to a thwart.
State law requires a Coast Guard-approved flotation device for everyone. Life jackets should be worn by all non-swimmers or elderly people; a flotation cushion will do for others.
Snakes may be seen resting on limbs. Most are non-poisonous, all will leave you alone if you don't bother them. Alligators won't bother you in a canoe as long as you keep at least 10 feet away. Don't permit your dog to swim in creeks or ponds or it may become a meal for a 'gator.
Perhaps the greatest danger is from sunburn. A large hat, long sleeves, or suntan lotion help prevent overexposure.
For more detailed descriptions of the canoe areas, use the following U.S. Geological Survey topographical map quadrangles. These map quadrangles can be obtained at local map and chart dealers or write to:
U.S. Geological Survey
Map Information Office
Washington, DC 20242
Oklockonee River - Lake Talquin, Smith Creek, Thousand Yard Bay, Sanborn, Mcintyre, St. Teresa
Bradford Brook - Tallahassee
Lost Creek - Arran
Lower Oklawaha River - Lake Delancy, Welaka
Upper Oklawaha River - Lynne, Ft. McCoy
Eaton Creek - Lake Kerr, Fort McCoy
Juniper Creek - Juniper Springs
Farles Prairie - Sellers Lake - Farles Lake, Juniper Springs, Alexander Springs
Alexander Creek - Alexander Springs, Lake Woodruff
Upper Sopchoppy River - Bradwell Bay, Crawfordville West
Owl Creek - Forbes
River Styx - Kennedy Creek
Kennedy Creek - Kennedy Creek
New River - Sumatra, Owens Bridge
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication