Take a leisurely float trip on one of Florida’s premiere rivers, Blackwater River, located in the northwest panhandle of Florida; a pristine, shifting sand bottom river, perfect for a long leisurely float trip.
With an average current of 2-3 mph, and an average year round temperature of 68 degrees, the Blackwater River is a good choice for both seasoned and first time canoeists, kayakers or tubers. As an added bonus, Florida’s mild climate makes this river enjoyable for any time of year.
Located in the Blackwater State Forest just east of Pensacola and Milton, the Blackwater River is designated a Florida Canoe Trail. The navigable portion of Blackwater stretches 31 miles, although there are several access points available which allows for variations in the length of the trip. Have a picnic lunch on any of the numerous sandbars, or plan a longer trip and enjoy camping on them.
Okaloosa, the Land of Black Water
Along the river, expect to experience nature at its finest without houses or stores to spoil the view. The water itself is a tannic color that contrasts vividly against the white sandbars. Blackwater is a translation of the Creek word, “oka-lusa,” meaning “water black.” The leaves from the numerous Atlantic white cedars, water oak, and long-leaf pine trees that line the riverbank are what contribute to the color of the water.
Florida has developed the Florida Greenways program and owns most of the adjacent lands to Blackwater, even designating a 590-acre portion of the land for the Blackwater State Park. The Greenways program has helped to keep the area undeveloped and in a natural state, allowing both people and animals to benefit.
A variety of birds and animals thrive along the river. Its common to spot white-tailed deer or even the occasional bobcat along the riverbank. Bird enthusiasts will be pleased with the variety of wading birds, song birds, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and even wild turkey that frequent the area. Turtles and fish are also abundant along the waterway.
Due to the water’s low temperature, don’t expect to see any of Florida’s famed alligators though. They prefer warmer, muddy bottomed water. The tubers appreciate the lack of alligators as well. For a special treat, keep a sharp eye out and an elusive river otter may be spotted while it plays along the river bank.
Blackwater River Outfitters
Blackwater is serviced by several independent canoe outfitters, located throughout the Blackwater State Forest. For a nominal fee, they provide canoe, kayak, or tube rentals and will shuttle travelers to access points along the river, and also pick them up upon exit. Shuttle service is also available, for a small fee, for those with their own personal watercraft.
Be sure to bring a cooler, food, something to drink, and plenty of sunscreen. Then, just leave your worries behind and enjoy the trip. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed on Blackwater River, so bear this in mind when planning a visit.
While in the area, be sure to check out Blackwater State Park. The park offers full facility camping, hiking trails, swimming, fishing, picnic pavilions, restrooms, and more. The park itself does allow pets, just be sure to follow the rules while visiting with pets.
A detailed map containing multiple put-in and take-out locations is located here courtesy of Florida’s DEP Greenways and Trails program.
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill