Way Up Upon the Suwannee River

January 01, 2016  •  43 Comments

Tupelo_PanoTupelo_Pano Persisting through decades of recurring floods raging out of the Okeefenokee Swamp, the tough old tupelos along the river banks and floodplains are the Upper Suwannee River's icons... its sentries... its survivors.  Often losing most of their upper branches and more of their root-earth to the battering waters and flotsam that envelop them, the gnarly trunks hold fast and sprout anew.


Each January, our band of brothers-in-adventure take a camping trip somewhere in our environs, often a paddling journey on a stretch of river wilderness.  This month we took in a section of the Upper Suwannee.  









Yours Truly. (We ate like kings. No freeze-dried fare for this merry band.)








Embarking in Fargo, Georgia, not far below the Swamp-origins of the River, we launched on a rising river with more rain in the forecast.

Foggy_Camp_PanoFoggy_Camp_Pano But camping sandbars were aplenty, including the one above, with a massive (photogenic) live oak.  That first night we were serenaded by the yip-howl songs of coyote not far from camp. And graced by a clear starry sky. Conversation around the fire was easy, flowing through a wide range of topics, as it does with us. Magically, all the worries and stresses of daily life melted away.

Fallen_Live_OakFallen_Live_Oak Fallen_Oak_at_DawnFallen_Oak_at_Dawn

dewdrop_webdewdrop_web Winter_Suwannee_PanoWinter_Suwannee_Pano


FireFire Moon_Over_Suwannee_CampMoon_Over_Suwannee_Camp


And plenty of great paddling with fantastic vistas around nearly every bend.


Tupelo_B&WTupelo_B&W Upper_Suwannee-5Upper_Suwannee-5



Tupelo_ReflectedTupelo_Reflected Steve_PaddlingSteve_Paddling

We did get the predicted doozy-of-a-rainstorm on the night of my birthday.  Camped on an island, we had spread out, each seeking strategic ground for tents and hammocks.  We put up a giant tarp under which our kitchen, firewood, chairs, Steve's tent, and miscellaneous other stuff hoped to stay dry.  Dave and I each added tarps over our sleeping spots in case we needed to pack up in the rain the next morning. Which we did.  

The big downpour, announced by a peal of thunder, hit us in the wee hours. I was awakened, but warm and relaxed in my sleeping bag... that is, until my night time imagination got ahold of a worry. I saw those swollen swamp waters barreling down the River, carrying away not only tupelo branches, but our boats as well, most of which were just inches above water level on the low sand bar.  It didn't take long for me to realize I wasn't going back to sleep until I made a foray into the dark deluge. After dragging the boats to higher ground (which turned out to be unnecessary), I made my way to the large tarp and was pleased to see our struggling fire still (barely) aflame and our tarp heroically holding fast in the wind and rain.  When I crawled back in bed, my sleeping bag was still warm and, as the rain lulled me to sleep, I appreciated that I could be in such a wild beautiful place for my birthday.



Steve, in the thick of discussion.  It gets pretty intense.

Dave (and Bram) opt for camping hammocks.  Pretty nice. I'm tempted.


My rig.


Enjoying the morning's light rain from our island perch.


Green Glen had a cool new Christmas present - a solar-powered, waterproof, inflatable, multi-colored LED lantern.


The water did rise by nearly a foot, but slowly over the next day.




Jacques atop old flotsam: a HUGE live oak trunk!


In between showers.


Fleetingly, the evening before, we had a pink-sky post-sunset that had me dancing around the island like a madman with a camera.

Rose_Lit_CreekRose_Lit_Creek Point_Camp_SunsetPoint_Camp_Sunset

Mark's Point -  at the rejoining river, downstream tip of the island. 


Side creeks, bulging from the big rain, also contributed to the rising river.



As our journey was ending, we reminisced about our previous Suwannee adventures, and made a commitment to keep at it until we've paddled every part from Swamp to Gulf.  May sound like pie-in-the-sky, but the 8 of us have been at these trips for 15 years (Suwannee on maybe a third of them).  I'm willing to bet that one of these years we'll be paddling the last miles out the River's mouth into to open Gulf.  

Thanks for joining me and my camera on this latest jaunt.  Hope you enjoyed it.  Please leave a comment here at the blog.  They are much appreciated.  And share the link freely.




Ra van Dyk(non-registered)
Thanks David. So inspiring.....the river, your photos, the camaraderie amongst old friends, the inspiration for similar adventures! Love the "Marlin".
Kathleen Laufenberg(non-registered)
Wow! Wonderful story, amazing pictures. Thanks for sharing! And happy belated birthday!
Gregg Jones(non-registered)
Hey David:
I am part of a similar group of guys from Gainesville Florida and we too have done stretches of the Suwannee and Santa Fe on camping canoe treks. We have been talking about taking on this stretch starting at the headwaters sometime soon. NOW- we are even more inspired thanks to your photo essay! Retirement comes for me this MAy and we will likely do it soon after that. Is there a particular time of year that's best for this trip?
Thanks again for your posting this, and, who knows, maybe we'll see you guys on the river someday!

Mike Perfit(non-registered)
Fantastic. Wonderful pictures. We have a similar group of brothers. MAG - Men are Great. That take similar outings but we haven't for a while. This should get us plenty psyched for it. Thanks for the inspiration.
Peggy Bowie(non-registered)
hello David, Alexis forwarded this to me and I'm so glad she did. Especially loved the black and white photos. And loved the pics of your friends. Gave your blog an intimate feel to see everyone that was there. Love to Crystal. Peggy
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