Hamilton County, FL
Driving south on Interstate Highway 75 through Georgia, one wonders when one will ever reach Florida. A small standard green sign with the words “Florida State Line” finally appears. Immediately below, the sign matter-of-factly states “Hamilton County.” The sign flashes by. Then, 200 yards later the eye catches sight of the blue and white “Welcome to Florida” sign. The Hamilton County sign is soon forgotten. It shouldn’t be, however, as Hamilton County has several outstanding attractions for paddlers, hikers, bicyclists, outdoorsmen and even music lovers.
Hamilton County is home to the towns of Jasper, White Springs and Jennings. It is the only county in Florida that does not share a land connection to the rest of the state. On the east and south it is bordered by the famous Suwannee River and on the west by the Withlacoochee River. The mysterious Alapaha River also runs through the county from Georgia south to the Suwannee River. It is in Hamilton County where the Alapaha River goes underground and, for most of the year, a long section of the riverbed is dry.
Hamilton County is home to the 888-acre Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in the quaint small town of White Springs. The state park is a memorial to Stephen Foster, composer of “Old Folks at Home,” commonly referred to as “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River.” The park holds a museum of Stephen Foster memorabilia as well as a carillon tower which plays his compositions throughout the day. Camping is also available at the park.
White Springs is home to the first hub of the 235-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. The entire trail takes over a week to paddle; however, visitors can rent kayaks in town for trips as short as a few hours. This section of the Suwannee River holds the state’s only Class 3 whitewater rafting opportunity: Big Shoals and Little Shoals. These are short segments of approximately one mile in length. Kayaks and canoes can be rented at American Canoe Adventures in the small town of White Springs.
Hikers can enjoy a section of the 1,300-mile the Florida National Scenic Trail, which passes through Hamilton County adjacent to the Suwannee River. A particularly nice section of trail can be found in Suwannee River State Park, which is located at the confluence of the Suwannee and Withlacoochee Rivers.
Horse riding oppotunities are available at McCulley Farms, a horse ranch (bring-your-own-horse) located near the Withlacoochee River and Twin Rivers State Forest. MuCulley Farms hoses a Withlacoochee Trail Ride twice per year; once in the spring and again in the fall. The farm is also frequented by paddlers and campers.
White Springs is also home of the Suwannee Bicycle Association. The non-profit promotes bicycling in the county and hosts several organized bicycle rides throughout the year, including the Idadaride in late January, the Suwannee Sweetheart in February, the Spring Pedal and Paddle in early May and the Fat Tire Festival in late October. Additionally, two routes are available for year-round riding; the 55-mile Jasper to White Springs out-and-back as well as the 45-mile White Springs Woodpecker Loop.
Speaking of events, Hamilton County is home to the Florida Folk Festival, a three-day celebration of the music, dance, stories, crafts and food that make Florida unique which is held over the Memorial Day weekend at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park.
The 11,000-acre Bienville Plantation, also located near White Springs, is one of America’s most renowned quail hunting and bass fishing locations. It caters to individual sportsmen, as well as families and corporations. The plantation hoses the Party in the Pines Music Festival in late October.
Accommodations can be found in Jasper, where there are several modern hotels. RV enthusiasts and campers can find campgrounds in Jennings, the Stephen Foster State Folk Cultural Center and Suwannee River State Park. There is even a bed and breakfast in White Springs.
More information about Hamilton County attractions, accommodations and events can be found below. More detailed information about the town of Jasper can be found here.