BIG SHOALS STATE PARK
Limestone bluffs towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida. When the water level on the Suwannee is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater designation. “Shooting” the Shoals is not recommended due to sharp outcroppings and other unseen hazards. Only experienced canoers and kayakers should attempt to navigate the Shoals. Please use the portage area available for portaging around the Big Shoals. A smaller set of rapids downstream is called Little Shoals. During much of the year the water is too low to create rapids, but the riverbed and banks display rocky outcrops, overhangs, and sand bars. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time when you visit. With over 28 miles of trails, the park is full of opportunities to hike, bike, horseback ride, walk or run, have a picnic, go fishing, bird watch, or just sit by the river to mediate or enjoy the moment.
If you have the chance to visit during the late afternoon, the park is the home to a busy bat house at the Big Shoals entrance. Hundreds of Mexican Free-Tailed Bats fly out each evening at sunset to feast on insects, a sight that is wondrous to behold. Before sunset you can walk directly underneath the wooden structure and hear the tiny squeaks and clicks from within, but be careful where you stand. While a bat will almost never fly into you, (they are not in fact, blind) accidents can happen, and it is best to stand out of firing range lest you leave the park smelling like bat guano.
Pets are allowed at the park, they must be kept on a handheld leash that is six feet or shorter and be well-behaved at all times. We also ask that you pick up after your pets and properly dispose of their droppings.
Any of the 28 miles of trails you choose is sure to lead to an adventure that you will never forget, so come out and find yours today.
The Florida Park Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission, Suwannee River Water Management District and the Florida Forest Service collaboratively manage the public lands around Big Shoals, providing some of the best recreation and preserved land in the area.
Please be aware that limited hunting is permitted during select seasons inside the neighboring Big Shoals Wildlife Management Area. Some of the park’s roads and trails traverse through the Wildlife Management Area. Hunting is strictly prohibited within state park boundaries. Hunting regulations and area maps can be found by visiting Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Check current river levels at http://www.mysuwanneeriver.org/realtime/river-levels.php
Little Shoals Entrance
11330 S.E. County Road 135
White Springs, FL 32096
Big Shoals Entrance
18738 S.E. 94th Street
White Springs, FL 32096
Visitors who wish to view the Big Shoals rapids should park at the Big Shoals parking area and hike one (1) mile on the Big Shoals hiking trail (Yellow Blaze trail). There is no vehicle access to either the Big Shoals or Little Shoals rapids.
A walk to the namesake feature of this park along the Big Shoals Trail will appeal to all your senses. Stunning views and exciting flora and fauna can be seen along the Big Shoals Trail. Meander down the trail under the hickory's and oaks, witness the Old Godwin Bridge piers as you continue up the bluff. Soon you'll begin to hear the thundering sound of the Shoals, a sound that is both relaxing and exhilarating. As the river picks up speed so does the sound, increasing your anticipation the closer you get. The air begins to dampen and cool as you round the curve towards the overlook. Take a deep breath and witness the humbling and awe-inspiring power of the whitewater as it rushes over the limestone outcroppings, agatized corals and downed trees. This is Big Shoals.
The Big Shoals Trail is also an excellent trail for birding, leading along the river to wet lowlands good for songbirds such as the hooded warbler and Acadian flycatcher, as well as waders like the black-crowned night-heron and wood stork. When you reach the Shoals don’t forget to look up, as bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites and a variety of hawks are often seen flying over.
The Big Shoals Trail is an out and back trail to the Shoals. The Palmetto Trail continues along the river and into the interior of the park.
The Woodpecker trail is 3.4 miles of quiet, serene, and scenic paved trail that connects the Little Shoals and Big Shoals park entrances. Walkers, pets (on leash) and bikes are welcome on this peaceful trail through the woods. The Little Shoals trail entrance starts across from the picnic pavilion and offers access roads through sandhills and hardwood hammocks, with other trails winding down to the Little Shoals section of the river. Moss draped oaks and tons of wildflowers can be seen along the trail. Gopher tortoises, wild turkey and deer are usually the only traffic you will come across. Depending on the time of day you are hiking, you may hear sparrows singing, hawks calling or even a great horned owl hooting away. The Big Shoals entrance provides access to the Long Branch Trail, The Palmetto Trail, and Big Shoals Trail.
The Long Branch Trail begins near the canoe launch and heads upriver for a relaxing hike through the scrubby flatwoods and shady hardwood forests. Southern magnolias and live oak trees shade the trail, Keep an eye out for the greenfly orchid, its purplish green flowers seeming almost suspended above glossy evergreen leaves. It can be found on shaded limbs of southern magnolia and live oak trees as well as other hardwoods in swamps and on bluffs. The tupelo trees overhang the serene calmness of the river and add a vibrant pop of color in the autumn months.