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Home / Travel / USFSP category travels a Suwannee River for category on outdoor leadership
USFSP category travels a Suwannee River for category on outdoor leadership

USFSP category travels a Suwannee River for category on outdoor leadership

Paige McDaniel suspicion she knew a Suwannee.

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The 20-year-old from Naples had paddled a stream in a open when a H2O was high and fast. She had been a tiny nervous. She knew that one erring cadence could dump her and all her camping rigging into a swift, dim water. But somehow, a comparison from Naples had finished it through.

Now, 6 months later, she was behind on a banks again, this time as a training assistant.

“The H2O is so many lower,” she told her dug-out mate. “This is like a totally opposite river.”

Atangel Hernandez, a 22-year-old from Spring Hill, wasn’t listening. The determined stand-up comic was prepared to strike a water. He had spent many of his college years behind a mechanism screen. The awaiting of a dug-out outing down Florida’s iconic stream had him some-more vehement than a recover of a new Star Wars video game.

Then it happened … a dash followed by a shriek.

Hernandez, who played core for his high propagandize football team, stepped into a dug-out somewhat left of center, afterwards both he, McDaniel and a dug-out full of apparatus went for a swim.

“When do people tip over,” we asked a category after both students were stable and sound on dry land.

“Getting in and out of a canoe,” they answered in unison.

“Getting in and out of a canoe,” we responded. “But this is only a teenager setback. We improvise. We adapt. We overcome.”

Welcome to Outdoor Leadership 101. The class, offering any open and tumble during a University of South Florida St. Petersburg, is designed to force undergraduates to exam their boundary and advantage a collection they need to make decisions in formidable situations.


When formulating a synopsis several years ago, we motionless a Suwannee would be a ideal classroom. we initial saw this stream in a open of 1980. we was a youth during USF, new to Florida, and trafficked many of it in an old, beat-up aluminum canoe.

Since then, we have substantially paddled a Suwannee dozens of times, any outing sensitive though never a same. Over a years, I’ve been cold, wet, tired, hungry, thirsty, sunburned, bitten by bugs and even charged by a large longhorn gator in a center of a night. The Suwannee taught me many about Florida, though even some-more about myself.

For a students, many of whom had never been on an overnight campout, let alone a multi-day forest outing down a furious Florida river, it was a possibility to see their home state, tender and uncensored.

• • •

At a conduct waters on a southern corner of a good Okefenokee Swamp, it doesn’t demeanour like many of a river. By Florida standards, some competence call it a creek, a teenager waterway, frequency value a song.

But conduct downstream, along a ancient shoreline they call a Cody Scarp, and a stream gains a tiny confidence. The stream picks adult as a H2O flows by high limestone banks and down opposite Big Shoals, a closest thing this sea-level state has to a genuine set of rapids.


By a time we get to White Springs, site of an aged stay built nearby a H2O hole long-held dedicated by a area’s strange inhabitants, a stream runs in all a glory.

“Wild and untried … that’s how I’d report it,” pronounced McDaniel, who schooled so many about herself on her initial outing down a Suwannee she had to come behind again.

Like many Floridians, McDaniel didn’t know many about this iconic Florida stream other than that it is mentioned in a state song. Like a author Stephen Foster, she had never seen, let alone paddled, a state’s many famous river.

Foster, a Yankee, had never stepped feet in Florida when he wrote Old Folks during Home. It didn’t matter a name was indeed Su-wan-nee, with 3 graphic syllables. He only forsaken a “u” and condensed it to “Swannee” so it would rhyme.

The Florida Legislature, tickled that somebody would write about a internal river, named it a state strain in 1935, thereby sentencing generations of Florida propagandize children to perpetually misspell a name Suwannee.

But a USF students — who hailed from all over Florida — didn’t wish to play Trivial Pursuit. They came to see a Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, a five-year, $10 million corner bid of state and internal governments. The 170-mile track has a complement of hubs — tiny towns, state parks and remote stream camps — conveniently located one day’s transport apart.

McDaniel and her classmates put in during White Springs on a Tuesday morning for a three-day, 39-mile outing to Suwannee River State Park.

Canoeing takes time, and during initial it is tough for students who live in an age of widespread commerce and satellite communication to delayed down and consider about a journey, not only a destination.

“It doesn’t take prolonged to forget about all a things we consider we have to do,” McDaniel said. “Once you’re paddling, we concentration on a river.

“You feel like we are partial of something many bigger.”


• • •

Humans have lived along a Suwannee for some-more than 10,000 years. When a Spanish Conquistador Panfilo de Narvaez arrived during a banks in a open of 1528, a area was home to Timucua Indians.

The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail harkens behind to a time when a easiest approach to get from one place to another was by water, not by land.

Kayla Robbins, an environmental scholarship vital from Daytona Beach, suspicion about a purpose a stream played via history.

“As we were paddling we suspicion about all those people who contingency have trafficked a same track over a years,” she said. “It is flattering extraordinary when we stop to consider about it.”

The famed naturalist William Bartram visited a Suwannee in a summer of 1774. He remarkable a river’s well-developed clarity, that has undetermined historians ever since, for one of a things people notice initial about a Suwannee is a dim paint of a water.

“It’s kind of spooky,” pronounced Robbins, a 22-year-old who grew adult on a Atlantic Ocean and had never unequivocally explored a state’s internal waterways. “I don’t like it when we can’t see a bottom … we don’t know what’s down there.”

The tea-like tone comes from a tannins leached by a depressed leaves and roots of trees during a river’s headwaters in a Okefenokee.

Some assume that Bartram competence have visited a Suwannee in a time of drought. Less dim H2O from a engulf means some-more transparent H2O from springs — and a Suwannee has hundreds of them.

Pulling into a alighting during a Woods Ferry River Camp during a finish of a initial day nobody had to be reminded to be careful. One capsized dug-out was enough.


A vital member of a students’ training knowledge is logistics. How do we get rigging and food from a wharf to a camp? Everybody’s tired. Nobody wants to make a fire, prep food, prepare or purify up. But there are no quick food drive-thru windows on a Suwannee. So a students contingency rally, infrequently grudgingly, though eventually they lift together.

After a rib-sticking beef meal baked in a cast-iron pot and a intercourse of a campfire, a organisation had a new franchise on life.

“Honestly, we was prepared to give adult after transfer a canoe,” pronounced Hernandez, a lineman from Pasco County. “But we know … we finished it this far. So because not all a way?”

His classmates were blissful that he rallied. With roughly one-third of a 39 miles behind them, they still had a lot of paddling ahead.

• • •

The subsequent day, adult during 5, packaged and prepared to go by 7, a train of canoes finished good time in a cold morning air, interlude once to check out a tiny unnamed rivulet that fed a river.

Nobody knows accurately how many freshwater springs distortion in a Suwannee Basin, though a vital ones — Troy, Fanning and Ichetucknee — are vital attractions.

Some things haven’t changed. Back in a midst 1800s, many believed Florida’s freshwater springs had recovering properties. A hotel was built during Suwannee Springs to support to northern visitors. The review even had a bottling plant so those who couldn’t make a outing could still advantage from a Suwannee’s healing powers.

Most boot a suspicion of Suwannee lizard oil. Some, including McDaniel, consider those old-timers competence have been on to something.

“When we initial got on a river, we was so stressed out with school,” she recalled. “The stream has a approach of withdrawal we feeling totally recharged.”


But a Suwannee did some-more than only heal rheumatism. After a Civil War, steamboats trafficked adult and down a river, transporting people, stock and trade products to a interior. The final steamboat, a City of Hawkinsville, finished a final run in 1922, and now sits on a bottom 100 yards south of a tyrannise stand during Old Town.

Today, boats powered by gasoline instead of steam, run adult and down a river. Instead of dodging Confederate cannonballs, they drive transparent of sturgeon, a antiquated fish that loves to jump, generally during a warm, summer months.

“I kept watchful to see one,” pronounced Robbins, a surfer lady from Daytona. “I am used to a sea with lots of fish. At initial we suspicion a whole suspicion of a freshwater stream was kind of boring, though after a day or so we started to comprehend that a Suwannee had a possess kind of beauty.”

Limestone stone formations along a stream bank, hulk cypress trees and soaring live oaks on a bluffs above finished adult for a miss of wildlife.


“This is a genuine Florida,” she added. “I consider it is something that everybody should see.”

The second day was a longest for a students. After scarcely 8 hours in a canoe, they were blissful to see a staircase that led to a Holton Creek River Camp. Their chores — unloading a canoes, regulating cooking and creation a glow — were finished quickly. They took advantage of a additional time to talk.

Jake Fox, a 21-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, had never ventured into Florida’s interior. “I’m a saltwater man … we fish, dive, though always in a ocean,” he said. “I had no suspicion what to expect.”

The Styrofoam cups, dull bottles and cosmetic bags Fox had grown accustomed to saying in a canals of South Florida were absent on a Suwannee.

“It unequivocally blew me divided to see how good stable and purify a shoreline was,” Fox said. “Why can’t we do that everywhere in a state?”

Fox, who pronounced he considers himself an independent, middle-of-the highway kind of man when it comes to politics, pronounced his 3 days on a Suwannee finished him some-more wakeful of a frail state of Florida’s environment.

“It is now really one of my tip issues,” pronounced Fox, who skeleton to work in a word attention after he graduates. “I consider a whole knowledge will assistance me a improved sensitive voter.”

The Suwannee does have a troubles. The old-timers contend that many of a springs that feed a stream don’t put out like they used to — too many people regulating H2O for farms, homes and businesses.

Water peculiarity has deteriorated, too, interjection to leaky septic tanks and rural runoff. The change is not manifest to a eye, though yearly health advisories uncover how frail a stream is. Still, a Suwannee flows on.

“You can tell that this is an aged stream … ancient,” pronounced Jared Allen, a former college football actor from Brandon who recently went behind to propagandize after an damage forced him to a sidelines. “You can only demeanour during these high limestone banks and comprehend that it has seen some history.”

Married with a immature daughter, a 27-year-old is a tiny comparison and a bit wiser than his associate students. As a object forsaken next a live oaks around a glow array during a camp, and a barred owls started caterwauling, Allen pronounced he felt like he stepped behind in time.

“Sitting adult there on that high by that hook in a river, with H2O all around, we couldn’t assistance though consider about all those who had been in that same mark before me,” he said. “How propitious are we to get to still suffer it. we can’t wait to come behind and uncover my tiny girl.”


• • •

On a third and final day, everybody is concerned to conduct home. They are sleepy and cranky, though when a vessel ramp during Suwannee River State Park finally comes into sight, they start to have second thoughts.

As we lift a canoes adult a high embankment, we hear them creation skeleton for another trip, this time but their teacher.

I stop and grin and consider of a quote from Lao Tzu that we share during a commencement of any semester: “A personality is best when people hardly know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

It creates me stop and smile.

Outdoors Editor Terry Tomalin teaches Leadership in a Great Outdoors each open and tumble during a University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Contact him at or (727) 893-8808. Follow @TomalinTimes.

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