Paddlers preparing for season's first big adventure

Paddlers on a previous trip on the Suwannee River. (Photo courtesy of Paddle Florida Inc.)

Published: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 3:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 3:05 p.m.

Experienced and novice paddlers are invited to canoe or kayak on Paddle Florida Inc.'s first trip of the paddling season, a 65-mile, five-day journey along the Suwannee and Withlacoochee rivers.


If you go

What: Paddle Florida Inc.'s Suwannee River trip (from Madison Blue Springs State Park to Branford).
When: Oct. 26-31
Cost: $275 for adults, $250 for senior citizens and college students, $225 for 8-17 year olds, and children under seven are free. The recommended meal plan is an additional $150 per person, which provides three meals a day. The Paddle Florida Lite option, which allows paddlers to do only certain days of a trip, costs $60 per person per day and $30 for meals each day.
Deadline to register: Friday. To register and for more information, visit

The trip, which will give participants a chance to see springs, wildlife and to camp along the river and enjoy live entertainment, is Oct. 26 to 31. The deadline for early registration is Friday.

Water levels are up right now after all the recent rains, meaning paddling should be easy, said executive director Bill Richards.

This trip is the first of five that the organization will offer during this paddling season, which is October to April.

Paddle Florida Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting canoeing and kayaking in Florida and promoting water conservation. It offers one trip through each of Florida's five water management districts a season.

Richards said that while water levels are high now, people still need to learn the importance of conserving water, he said.

During the Suwannee trip, country musician Tom Shed will perform on Oct. 29 during dinner. Grant Peeples, another country music performer, will play on Oct. 30.

Paddle Florida Inc. offers an alternate option for those who can't or don't want to go on the whole trip, Richards said. People can register to paddle for certain days of a trip instead of going on the whole trip, through the Paddle Florida Lite program.

The next trip after the Suwannee trip is a 30-mile trip down the Wekiva River to the St. Johns River from Nov. 30- Dec. 3. The registration deadline is Nov. 16.

From Jan. 18-21, paddlers can canoe and kayak 35 miles through the Florida Keys. This is the hardest trip, Richards said. The registration deadline is Jan. 4.

Paddlers can make a 60-mile journey from Lake Panasoffkee through swamps and streams to the Gulf of Mexico Feb. 13-18. The deadline to register is Jan. 30.

There will be a 76-mile trip March 16-22 down the Ochlockonee River in the Panhandle. The registration deadline is March 2.

Since Paddle Florida started in 2008, Richards said he has had people from 8-80 years old and from 28 states go on paddling trips.

"Anyone can do it," Richards said. "Once you're out there, it's easy. I've had people paddle for the first time on a trip and say it's easier than they thought."

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