Length: 71 miles (linear) from Big Shoals State Park to Winquepin St.
This is the only segment of the Florida Trail which runs almost continuously beside a major river. The terrain varies from hardwood hammocks, high sandhills, and limestone rock bluffs to swamps and flat dirt roads. The trail crosses many small streams, up and down steep ravines, and several swamps. At times of high water these sections can be very wet or unpassable. This section of trail is managed by the Suwannee River Water Management District, Stephen Foster State Park, Suwannee River State Park, and Twin Rivers State Forest.
The Suwannee River has tannin rich tea-colored water, stained by cypress trees and oak leaves. It is fed by springs, which are seen as clear blue water where they enter the river.. Striking white sand beaches occur on river bends, providing perfect places to camp or swim.
Along the trail, you’ll see clusters of huge cypress and oak trees in the middle of primitive swamps. White lilies, wild azalea, sparkleberries, dogwood and redbud grow along the path, as do giant tupelo trees. At the western end, there is an abundance of spruce pine growing around rugged surface limestone punctuated by sinkholes. Many types of animals including otter, beaver and water birds may be seen. In the fall, a muted color change in the leaves is a reminder of autumn’s touch. Devil’s Mountain, a picturesque bluff over 130 feet above the water, is named after the Devil’s walking stick, a strange barbed shrub which grows there.
This section of trail is especially notable for its rugged terrain and geologic features. Take the blue-blazed side trail to Disappearing Creek to watch a creek swallowed whole by a sinkhole; pause and look out over a whirlpool in the river; watch the water tumble down the rock hillside at the Mill Creek waterfall; walk along the edge of Holton Spring. The Holton Creek Tract is home to the second largest bald cypress tree in the world as well as the world’s tallest live oak tree. For more information contact the Suwannee Chapter and the Sandhill Chapter of the FTA.
Once the trail leaves Suwanee River State Park it enters the Twin Rivers State Forest. They lands here are owned by the Suwannee River Water Management District. It is managed by two state agencies; Florida Division of Forestry (primary) and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (hunting).
There are four primitive campsites along the trail. Two are within the Ellaville Unit, and the Black and Mill Creek North Units each have one. Other points of interest along the trail include the Big Oak Trail, a loop trail on the peninsula formed by the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers, the Stroud Family Cemetery, and the Drew Mansion Ruins. To reach this historic site and picnic area, follow the blue-blazed trail just south of the railroad tracks close to old US 90 (0.5 mile round trip). It was at this point that historians believe Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto crossed the Suwannee River in September 1539 on his quest to the Mississippi River. The picnic area is also the site of the Drew Mansion Ruins, once the plantation home of Governor Drew during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. A blue blazed interpretive trail leads you around the historic site. From the picnic area, the Big Oak Trail leads east across the river into the main part of the park.
To the west of CR 53, the Florida Trail follows forest roads owned and managed by private timber companies. This is a spirited effort of the companies in cooperation with the Florida Trail Association. Hikers have the opportunity to witness ongoing commercial forestry activities. The companies also lease out the hunting rights to their lands. For more information contact the Suwannee Chapter