Exploring the Suwannee

Some time ago my friend Gus and I had some time to kill and not much to do so we decided to take my bow rider up to Cedar Key which is about 100 miles to the north of Tampa...in a way we wanted to explore and see if it was a good place to take the sailboats sometime later...his is identical to mine, a Catalina 27. The charts show shallows surrounding Cedar Key for miles and sure enough, there were, with ditches in all directions going out to little islands and the gulf. The water was dark brown sturred up from recent winds.... uninteresting. We had a nice mullet lunch, a tour of the touristy town and looked at the maps and charts..oysters were out of season....dang!....Hummm the Suwannee River is only 20 miles north of us!!

Away we went and launched the boat at Fowler's Bluff, a small settlement in the bush about 10 miles up from the gulf....The Suwannee is beautiful, big and pristine...biggest surprise is there is not much sign of civilization...you can sometimes go 4 or 5 miles without seeing any sign at all...there are cottages in little groups here and there and a little town now and then when a back road nears the river, but for the most part it is unspoiled wilderness. There are turtles every where...food for the gators...Tall trees to the waters edge and swamp as you go into the forest. Aquatic weeds grow on the sunny side for the manatee to munch on...didn't know about manatee till I came to Fla. They are mammals about 12 feet long and weigh up to 2000 pounds..They are very common on the Suwannee. They are very tame and you can swim with them. It is common for them to approach you and roll over to have their tummy rubbed.

We saw what looked like a tree house and went to investigate...it was more of an observation platform about 15 ft up in a tree with a ladder and a deck walk extending into the swamp...we walked the deck for about a quarter of a mile with no end in sight...next trip I will follow it to the end and perhaps spend the night on the platform...its big enough for my tent. A carved plaque says it was built by Michael and his Dad..The quality of work makes it look like a government job ie: parks dept, but apparently it was just some kid and his dad who built it in 1989..The pressure treated wood is still fine..

..Which reminds me to tell you about my new deck in the back yard..its 24 x 20 with another piece 6x12...Thought I could do it for under a grand but it came to 1700 and that was a surprise...still I love it and spend a lot of time on it...coffee in the morning.....lunch....reading the mail....evenings are nice too as it still cools down enough after the sun goes down. It will be great for a party..soon it will be too hot and humid and the bugs will be in full force but I wont mind cuz ill be in Canada!! Had to buy a gasoline powered blower to blast the leaves off the deck..My oak trees drop about 3000 pounds of leaves on the back yard each year....they all have to be bagged and put out front for trash pick up..I compost some.

Back to the river..There are lots of Springs feeding the Suwannee...often they are only a 100 yards or so off the river so you can zip up the creek and into the spring for a swim. Typically they are about 100 ft across and 15-20 ft deep at the deepest part...the water is crystal clear and cold and fish abound .Some have been made into parks by the state..

After lunch we headed back to Fowler's Bluff where we hoped to stay at a near by motel...well sort of a motel...the manager had gone home as it was after 5 so we had to drive the 20 miles back to 19 hwy to find a real motel ....got one with a pool and had a refreshing dip before crashing for the night...up at dawn and back to the boat after coffee..this time we went down stream to the gulf and the fishing village of Suwannee...grouper stew for lunch..yum yum...lots of canals to explore..a fast ride out into the gulf...have to follow the markers because of the shoals for several miles through savannah grass islands and sand bars till you reach deep water..Apparently the trout fishing is really good here...lots of professional guides etc..

We see some sheriff's deputies and a chain gang working on one of the roads...10 miles back to Fowler's Bluff and put the boat on the trailer to relaunch at 19 hwy bridge...the launch site is steep and the trailer lights go under water...shit..hope we don't get a ticket on the way home for driving with no trailer lights...got some stick on reflectors later at K-Mart just for safety..will be a pain in the ass to fix those lights when I get home....continuing upstream the river narrows and there are more boats and cottages as we are close to the town of Chiefton...river shallows...we strike the sand bottom several times.. no markers....can't tell where the shallows are as the river is brown with tanic acid from the tree leaves..all Florida rivers are like this and apparently the tanic acid is and important part of the ecology here...its just like tea....finally we ground good and spin out the prop hub....shit, what next...now we can only limp along at about 5 knots so it is time to turn around and head back to the car at 19 hwy...we were expecting to go upstream to the junction of the Sante Fe river, about 30 miles away. From there one can continue up either river for another 30 miles or so..The Suwannee continues up into Georgia to the Land of the Trembling Earth (Okefenokee Swamp) and it is almost 250 miles in length. Oh well, its still been an adventure and we have seen 40 miles of the river...There is a 4 day weekend starting tomorrow with another sailing adventure ahead. Its a rough life but someone has to do it..Time for a swim before we head back to Tampa.

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