With the addition of the Steinhatchee River, Florida now has 50 state paddling trails. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways & Trails designated the Steinhatchee River during the Taylor County Commission meeting on Sept. 16.
The Florida Paddling Trails Association also presented signs designating the communities of Keaton Beach and Steinhatchee as “Blueway Communities.” “We are proud to add the Steinhatchee River as our 50th designated state paddling trail,” said Florida State Park Director Donald Forgione. “Designation of the river creates well-deserved recognition of this excellent destination for paddling, fishing and wildlife viewing and will promote sustainable tourism and boost the economy for the local communities.” The scenic Steinhatchee River is the latest of Florida’s outstanding waterways to be designated a state paddling trail. The river’s spring-fed, tea-colored water meanders through a shady corridor of moss-draped trees flanking the river. It widens gradually as it flows through the colorful fishing villages of Steinhatchee and Jena before joining the Gulf of Mexico. The roughly eight-mile designated portion begins just below the historic Steinhatchee Falls, which has been an accessible river crossing for countless travelers through the ages. Wagon ruts can still be seen today where Native Americans, Spanish explorers and early settlers crossed the shallow limestone shelf that creates the low, cascading waterfall. Steinhatchee Falls offers a pleasant picnic area and hand-launch access for small fishing boats, canoes and kayaks. There is also a three-mile, multi-use trail that can be enjoyed by hikers, off-road cyclists and those seeking vibrant seasonal wildflowers and wildlife. Fishing from a boat or kayak is an interesting prospect for anglers, as both freshwater and saltwater species may be encountered depending upon the stretch of river. Delicious “pan fish” abound in the upper stretches of the Steinhatchee, while saltwater species appear as the river mingles with the Gulf waters. Improved boat ramps on both sides of the river in the towns of Steinhatchee and Jena mark the lower end of the paddling trail and provide good access for all types of boaters. Visitors are urged to bring binoculars and a camera to capture photos of the wildlife frequently seen along the river corridor and the Gulf coastline. In the fall, colorful monarchs and other butterflies feed upon wildflowers as they migrate southward. Spectacular flocks of white pelicans and other migrating birds are supported by vast tracts of public conservation land that bracket the Steinhatchee River, providing critical habitat for an array of wildlife species inland and along the coastline. For maps and information about the new paddling trail click here