Big Parks, Big Springs–Small Parks, Small Springs–A Few Suwannee River Favorites!
The Swanee River (Old Folks at Home)
words and music by Stephen C. Foster (1826-1864)
FIRST VERSE Way down upon de Swanee Ribber, Far, far away, Dere's wha my heart is turning ebber, Dere's wha de old folks stay. All up and down de whole creation Sadly I roam, Still longing for de old plantation, And for de old folks at home. CHORUS All de world am sad and dreary, Eb-rywhere I roam; , *how my heart grows weary, Far from de old folks at home!
The Suwannee River begins in southern Georgia, in the Okefenokee Swamp, and meanders through our Natural North Florida region until it ends, some 240 miles downstream, at the town of Suwannee at the Gulf of Mexico. And, by the way, Stephen Foster never saw the river!
The river is navigable from the town of White Springs to the Gulf, about 170 miles, and its most interesting features are its springs. Some are in large state parks and others are in small county parks, but all offer lots of fun for visitors–year round!
If you’re traveling along US19, you’ll cross the Suwannee River at Fanning Springs. That’s where you’ll find Fanning Springs State Park, and one of our largest springs. This park offers swimming, camping and has several cabins for rent. There’s even a dock where you can tie your boat up while you visit the park.
While not adjacent to US19/98 like Fanning Springs State Park, Manatee Springs State Park is an easy drive from nearby Chiefland. It, like Fanning Springs, has a large first-magnitude spring that’s a comfortable 72-degrees F all year round. You’ll also find camping opportunities for RVs and for tents, as well as a concession offering food and canoe/kayak rentals. Scuba diving is permitted at this park.
Otter Springs Park and Hart Springs Park are county parks, located in Gilchrist County, just north of Fanning Springs.
Paddling The Spring Run at Otter Springs
Otter Springs Park is a large campground, that hosts all sorts of RV and tent campers. The spring is small and located away from the busy campground. It’s mile-long run to the Suwannee River makes this a destination for paddlers who enjoy an off-the-beaten path adventure.
Hart Springs Park is located just a mile or so upriver from Otter Springs. RV camping is permitted, and you’ll find this the busier of the two parks. It’s been recently updated and is a favorite picnic and swimming spot for families. Tube and kayak rentals are also available there, and there’s access to the park by power boat from the Suwannee River.