|Florida Nature: Big Shoals Public Lands|
in the southeastern corner of Hamilton County, Big Shoals Public Lands was purchased from the Nature Conservancy by
the State of Florida in 1986 through the Conservation and Recreational
Lands (CARL) program. It was designated as a state forest in March of
Big Shoals State Forest comprises 1,673 acres of the 3,919 acre Big Shoals Public Lands. The Suwannee River flows along the entire southern boundary of Big Shoals Public Land.. The State Forest portion is located on the northern side of the Public Lands.
Big Shoals State park is located on County Road 135, one mile northeast of U.S. 41 in White Springs, Florida. Big Shoals State park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. Limestone bluffs, towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River, afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. When the water level on the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification, attracting thrill-seeking canoe and kayak enthusiasts. This is a very special place. The Suwannee's tea-like waters act as a natural purifier and its high banks and clean edges are park-like. Just upstream, views from the high bluff at the plantation's "campsite" are unlike anything seen in Florida. Live oaks, beech trees, and palms strain to reach across the river but fail to make it even a quarter of the way across this wide stretch of water. Above the Shoals, at the plantation itself, the water is very deep with the rapids acting like a natural dam backing the river for miles resulting in a unique lake effect. The result is excellent boating recreation for the owner and guests. A smaller set of rapids downstream is called Little Shoals. Over 28 miles of wooded trails provide opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and wildlife viewing. The Woodpecker Trail, a 3.4 mile long multipurpose paved trail, connects the Little Shoals and Big Shoals entrances to the park.
The river offers excellent opportunities for freshwater fishing. The fishing is excellent and due to limited public access, others are rarely seen. The entire adjacent river frontage from Deep Creek is either Big Shoals State Park or Big Shoals State Forest. Almost all signs of civilization are completely absent. The only local landing is the historic private landing on the plantation itself, Brown's Landing. From this site, outboards are easily launched or canoes picked up from a float down Deep Creek itself or down the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. The Florida National Scenic Trail runs along the property's south boundary. This trail is Florida's version of the Appalachian Trail and runs some 1,400 miles through the state.
Florida's first tourist attraction was located just downstream from the plantation at White Sulphur Springs. Between the purifying spring and the shoals, the area was the epicenter for ecotourism and by the late 1800's there were 14 hotels and a private train taking such notable tourists as Henry Ford and Theodore Roosevelt to enjoy the area's natural resources. Today, the hotels are gone and the bathing tourists have been replaced by nature lovers and those on canoes and kayaks. Signs of the era are still seen on the plantation with the historic Brown's Ferry Crossing, Brown's Landing, and even the ruins of Godwin Bridge. Today, with both the ferry and bridge long gone and with the famous Shoals impossible to navigate upstream, this stretch of river is as protected from human disturbance now as it was when it was a part of the Timucuan Indian Nation over 400 year ago. Certainly there is nowhere else in Florida that can make the same claim.
Birding enthusiasts will find a large variety of species at Big Shoals, including herons and egrets, wood ducks, red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks, woodpeckers, barred owls, ruby-throated hummingbirds, warblers, vireos, wrens, swallows and thrashers. Wild turkeys are usually plentiful and wading birds make regular visits. Bald eagles, northern mockingbirds, scarlet tanagers, and indigo buntings also have been counted. Wading birds, gopher tortoise, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and timber rattlers are among the more populous species found at Big Shoals Public Lands. Marked trails offer many opportunities for viewing wildlife at both the Big Shoals and Little Shoals entrances.
Big Shoals Public Lands Florida
Big Shoals State park is located on County Road 135, one mile northeast of U.S. 41 in White Springs, Florida. Big Shoals State park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. Limestone bluffs, towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River, afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. When the water level on the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification, attracting thrill-seeking canoe and kayak enthusiasts.
Big Shoals State Park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida. For anyone who wants to enjoy Floridian nature, this is a must visit vacation spot. Big Shoals rapids make an ideal water ride for canoe and kayak enthusiasts. Fishing is also available, along with opportunities for hiking and birding. Big Shoals is Floridian Nature at it's best!
Written by: Brenda Arnold
Big Shoals State Park
Date published: 10/22/2013
5 / 5 stars