Trip Report:
Fargo to Cone Bridge
29 miles

February 2008

2 nights

River level: 52.3 feet at White Springs
Day One, February 3rd—4 hours paddling

For this trip, I put in at the Fargo, Georgia boat ramp on the Suwannee, ready for two days and two nights of decompression.  I call these winter solo
camping trips of mine “decompression trips” because on them I recharge, relax, and let go of whatever stress, anxiety, or tension I have.

I also use the time to see my current life more clearly, so that when I return to “real life” I have a fresh, new perspective.  Of course, these river trips are just
as much a part of my “real life” as is the life I wake up to on most days!

I just have to make “decompression” a priority and make time in my “real life” for this other kind of “real life” experience.  In that way, I think I can be more
effective upon my return than I was before I got on the river.  The other option is to let the compression build, and that isn't good for my work, my play, my
family, or anyone or anything else in my “real life.”

“Real life” is lived where I am.  If I’m on the river, out in Nature and away from the stress and hurrying that so many human endeavors create—so much the
better.

This section of the Suwannee River is unique.  Come to think of it, I could say that about
any section of the river.  Up here, the banks are low, with gradual
slopes and many sandy beaches.  I saw
at least 20 good beaches in four hours of paddling.  I saw this small shoal, too.

I also had this
thought.

A “good” beach to me is one where at least four people could camp comfortably—with no ATV tracks, “No Trespassing” signs, or nearby houses.  When I’m
on the Suwannee River in Georgia, I keep in mind that land owners on the river technically own half of the river, too.  That means two things: 1) If I’m on the
river, I’m legally on someone’s property all the time and 2) if I’m camping, it’s because of the graciousness of the landowner that I’m able to camp here.

This doesn’t apply in Florida, where property lines along the river end at the “mean high water mark”—meaning that any sandy beach is part of the river
bottom and therefore public property.  (When river camping, it’s always a good idea to check local laws and regulations to determine what’s legal and what’
s not.)

Some of the beaches I saw would be good at this water level, but might be submerged at 55 feet.  Many others were high and dry, good for another 3 to 4
feet of water.

The scenery on the Upper Suwannee is gorgeous.  There are loads of
sandy beaches in most sections, and when the banks start to get higher and
steeper you see many limestone outcroppings as well.  Wildlife you might see includes deer, turkey, many kinds of birds, turtles, and of course alligators.  
There's also a fair number of little creeks, waterfalls, and springs.

Which leads me to share
this thought.

This section has a relatively high number of gators, compared to the rest of the river—but relatively few compared to the section from the Okefenokee
Swamp to the Fargo boat ramp.

I
camped near the state line for my first night.  There was plenty of firewood, and the still quietness of my surroundings made for good decompression.  I
had enjoyed daytime temperatures near 80 degrees, and the cool night air made my sleeping bag very comfortable.  The sunshine and fair weather
continued throughout my trip.

I also had
another thought.

Day Two, February 4th—6.75 hours paddling

I’m not a morning person, but on the river I don’t sleep in much.  I ate breakfast, broke down camp, and was on the river by 10:00.  There’s no need to rush
out here, since I plan paddling days that are easy to achieve.  This gives me plenty of time to relax, stop and rest, or explore if I want to.  There were "a few
creatures around, early morning," according to my voice recording.

I saw
eleven good beaches from 10 to noon.  Also, in a 15-minute period right around noon, there were two places where the river split and came back
together.  In these spots, I could either take the long way around or go through a
“shortcut.”  I won’t tell you which way to go, but I chose correctly both
times.  (I don’t want to take out
all the adventure of your trip by telling you everything!)

Around noon, the current I was enjoying (because it meant I could be lazy and drift) slowed to a stop.  At about 1:30, I arrived at
Roline (ROW-line, not ro-
LEEN) boat ramp, one of our regular put-ins.  Judging from my paddle time, it feels like the section from Fargo to here is about 17 miles.  I had paddled for
about 7 ½ hours, in all.  I stopped for lunch on the nice, large beach across from the boat ramp.  I wouldn’t have camped here since it had a “No
Trespassing” sign.

I only saw one good beach in the hour and a half above Roline.  (FYI, camping isn’t allowed at Roline.)  However, I saw
eight good beaches in the two
hours I paddled from Roline to Turner Bridge boat ramp.  I also took a picture of
the first limestone outcropping I saw, which was about an hour below
Roline.

Twenty minutes down river from Turner Bridge is a section about 100 yards long that I call “
The Bowling Balls.”  I had kayaked through here with two
friends in 2007, in the middle of the drought.  It was a single-day trip, so we had very little gear, but we still had to “portage” our boats (i.e. drag them over
the rocks in ankle-deep water).  The rocks here are like bowling balls, and they can be a significant ankle-break hazard.  One of my companions had cried
in frustration as she dragged her boat and traversed the rocks.  None of us were hurt, though.

At 52.3 feet, there was about
15 inches of water through this section—plenty even for a loaded canoe.

In another twenty minutes, I passed
Highway Six, another popular put-in for our customers.  There’s a little shoal right above the bridge that is a good
indicator of how passable the rest of the river is.  You can see it from the road on the bridge.

I found a nice beach on the right, about 13 minutes below the bridge.  Campsites were getting a bit harder to find.  This beach was low, and most of it would
probably be under another two feet of water.

Day 3, February 5th—3 hours paddling

On my last morning, I was late: I didn’t hit the water until 10:02, missing my planned put-in time by a full two minutes.  I was happy anyway.

Within 10 minutes, I noticed again that there was very little current.  Within an hour, there were lots of high banks on river right, with water trickling in from
many spots.  This part of the river is almost like its own world, or like you’ve arrived suddenly in some other place.  To me, anyway.  There are also a
couple of little waterfalls.

The first three good beaches I saw were after an hour, two hours, and three hours paddling from my campsite, respectively.  There was still
virtually no current after two hours of paddling.  Nevertheless, during this time I had
my best moment, ever, on the river.

I took a 45-minute lunch break shortly after 1:00, on a good beach.  There was one more good beach after this one in the 37-minute paddle from my lunch
spot to
Cone Bridge boat ramp, where I took out.  About five minutes above the takeout, the bank suddenly gets 30 feet tall on river right.  Quite a
landmark for Cone Bridge, I think.

Paddle times:

Fargo to Roline: 7.5 hours
Roline to Turner Bridge: 2 hours
Turner Bridge to Highway 6: 0.75 hours
Highway 6 to Cone Bridge: 3 hours