Big Shoals Public Lands – Florida’s only Class III rapids

White Springs, FL has so many outdoor activities that our month here has flown by with biking, hiking and fishing to keep us busy. With several days of intermittent rain, we decided to head out to Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park and Big Shoals Public Lands.

Stephen Foster State Park had high ratings for their camping sites, however it didn’t offer a monthly rate which made it too expensive for us.  The high ratings are deserved – the majority of the sites are large and have privacy with large scrub oak and magnolia trees and shoulder high palmetto bushes. The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail runs through the park so there is hiking plus they rent canoes. It probably could get busy at different times of year since it has a large museum and living history area.

Always looking for free/cheap options, we timed our visit so we could enjoy a free concert.  The park is named for Steven Foster and his most famous songs (we only knew the “way down upon the Suwannee River”) can be heard emanating from the park’s 97-bell carillon at various times throughout the day.

Music with a view

Park Bell Tower


The rain was letting up, so we set out to hike at the Big Shoals.  There are two different areas — Big and Little Shoals.  You can hike in each of the two areas down to the Suwannee River and large loop areas through palmettos and pine trees.  Don’t believe the trail signage — there are no ‘moderately strenuous’ trails unless you do not walk much.

We hiked down to the Class III rapids portion of the river and since the water level is up substantially, the water was REALLY moving.  The Suwannee is a black river because of the pine tree tannins and the root beer color of the water makes looking at the waves even more interesting.  The rapids section of the river is no more than 300 feet and we plotted as to how we would kayak this portion if we were in the water.


Root beer waves

Root beer waves

A passerby goaded Glenn into a picture

A passerby goaded Glenn into a picture

Big Shoals Hiking Trail

Big Shoals Hiking Trail

We stopped in White Springs to investigate a large structure near the river.  Turns out it is a natural spring that an enterprising entrepreneur  in the early 1800’s built a barrier around it so bathers could enjoy ‘natural healing water’.  In its heyday, the hotel was built three stories high on top of the round cement structure.

Spring House

White Springs – first Florida tourist attraction

The "Healing" Springs

The “Healing” Springs


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