Cycling Florida's Suwannee River

Gar Pond & Big Shoals
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The dark waters of the Suwannee River roll past tall white banks of sand and limestone. This is the"upland" region of northern Florida, where a big, slow-moving river can meander nearly 300 miles from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico and only descend about 120 feet. The most exciting biking along the course of the Suwannee is just south of its source, past one of the many springs that gurgle up from limestone caverns.

White Springs, Florida, is hardly a large community. Two flashing lights are the extent of traffic control through the small town. But if you do any off-road biking in Florida, you have heard of the great trails nearby. During the period when the Save Our Rivers program was buying up critical watershed around the state, the Suwannee Bicycle Association (SBA) made an effort to meet with policy makers of the Suwannee River Water Management District. The result? Fifteen excellent trails in this region and counting.

The museum for Stephen Foster's musical efforts sits on the banks of the river he made famous, just down the road from where the SBA has its office. Of all the parks I've visited in Florida, the one in White Springs offered to be the best bargain. Not only was the camping fee the lowest I've encountered, its location allowed me to get up in the morning and pedal off to some of the state's better single-tracks. After a short mile or so on US 41, I was able to pedal five different trails, and most included tight trails winding along the river.

I have long associated the rocking rhythms and pleasures of riding a mountain bike with paddling a canoe. For those who agree, there is no better place in Florida than the upper Suwannee River to come for a vacation combining the two means of exploration. If you don't paddle, not to worry. You'll find more than enough two-wheeled fun to keep you happy year-round. The Gar Pond Trail and Big Shoals Trail are just a sampling of the outstanding terrain to be discovered in this region.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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