One of the best canoe trips in Florida for seeing the state’s wildlife is down the Chipola River, where you’ll also come across some wonderful hidden springs. The river belongs to the Florida Cavern State Park system, which is located in the community of Marianna, and is quite easy to navigate.
One of the best places to enter the water is to head to the state park and to the Chipola River Sink boat ramp. The river was named by the Choctaw Native Indians and it translates into ‘sweet water’ in English. This could be due to the dozens of freshwater springs that can be found along the river.
(photo by swept14)
When entering the water of the upper Chipola River at the boat ramp, you’ll be heading upstream because there’s a submerged cave if you go downstream and the river basically disappears there and come out a few hundred yards later. The downstream section of the river features a manmade cut which was built to enable loggers to float trees downstream. However, it’s now clogged up and is a preserved wildlife habitat.
The boat ramp provides adventurists with some historical facts and information about the local area and river and also warns people about the ever-present alligators. The visitor center there also rents out canoes if you don’t have your own. Once you start heading upstream you’ll notice it’s not really too strenuous. You’ll also get a good look at some cypress swamps.
The first spring, called Crack in the Woods, is about a mile up the river. A few hundred yards later is the Baltzell Spring group. This is quite an amazing sight as there are several spring vents with some wonderful aquatic plant life. A lot of canoeists turn around here and float back down the river at a leisurely pace.
However, you can keep heading upstream if you’d like more of a challenge as the river begins to narrow. In total, there is just over 50 miles of river to explore in the Chipola River Paddling Trail.
Many people make the trip to see some of Florida’s most interesting wildlife, including the alligator. Most of these creatures will stay away from humans, but since they’re predators you need to make sure you always keep a safe distance between you and them. The river and surrounding area is also home to several types of birds such as the great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, and horned owl. There are numerous types of fish and turtles here as well as river otters.
You can usually canoe the upper Chipola River in a few hours and it’s an ideal way to explore the state park. There’s a recreation area known as the Blue Hole which features a spring-fed pond where you can cool off in the water. In addition, there is a good number of biking, equestrian, and hiking trails to explore as well as the cave.
You can stay overnight in the park if you’d like to spend some time there as there is a campground with about 40 sites in it. This is a good idea if you’d like to check out some of the other nearby local sites such as Jackson Blue Hole, Merritt Mill Pond, Falling Waters State Park, and the Econfina and Holmes Rivers. As long as you’re careful around the alligators, you should enjoy a wonderful outdoor adventure here.