Paddling Around the Big Bend
Hop into a kayak or canoe and find peaceful adventure on area waterways
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courtesy Leon County Tourism/Visit Tallahassee
Moss-draped cypress and oak trees line the Wakulla River, which provides the most popular paddling route in the Tallahassee area. Paddlers often encounter manatees.
Leon County and the surrounding areas from state line to coast are some of the most beautiful in the world — and perfect for exploring from the water.
The specific geologic terrain in and around Tallahassee is part of what renowned naturalist and scientist E.O. Wilson calls the most biodiverse in the Northern Hemisphere. Grab your kayak or canoe and paddle through the incredible scenery that includes more species of flora and fauna than anywhere else above the Equator.
There are five rivers that are easily accessible from Tallahassee and offer a perfect weekend adventure for paddling enthusiasts. From beginner to seasoned paddlers, these day trips offer an amazing array of sights and experiences right in your backyard.
The Florida Park Service provides in-depth information on Florida’s Designated Paddling Trails on its website, including maps, narrative descriptions and photos. The five closest rivers to Tallahassee are also among the most beautiful. Visit: http://goo.gl/qq07lI
This river is 50 miles long and is a beautiful ride through Wakulla and Leon counties along tall limestone banks and unique cypress trees. The route takes you through the Apalachicola National Forest to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, with many white sandbars for resting your arms.
The Sopchoppy is the iconic, tea-colored tannic water of the South, and home to deer and other wildlife. The Florida National Scenic Trail follows portions of this waterway and includes many wild plants such as azaleas and native flowers. This gorgeous river is characterized by canopy oaks, brown-to-black water and interesting wood formations along its route.
The paddling corridor on the Sopchoppy is a breathtaking 15 miles, but it isn’t suitable for beginners or children because of the complex turns and navigation required. In some places, the steep banks make access to the water difficult — making it very important to check the water level at the U.S. Geological Survey’s website (usgs.gov) before you go.
If You Go: There are five access points along the Sopchoppy, and it’s important to check the ever-fluctuating water levels before you plan your trip. Best for experienced paddlers. Use TNT Hide-A-Way as your outfitter for the Sopchoppy: (850) 925-6412.
Ochlockonee River (Upper and Lower)
The 206-mile Ochlockonee River begins in south-central Georgia and flows southwest along western Leon County. The pristine, deep river is the dividing line between Leon and Gadsden counties, and widens into the popular fishing and recreational area Lake Talquin Reservoir before continuing its flow to Ochlockonee Bay.
The narrow, 27-mile upper portion of the Ochlockonee flows into Lake Talquin and twists around cypress stumps, or “knees.” While most of the corridor is undeveloped — and therefore unspoiled and wild — the first 15 miles is a very difficult paddling course filled with many logjams and blockages. The Florida Park Service recommends paddling the 12 miles of river below Old Bainbridge Road, which has fewer challenges and typical south Leon County scenery.