Holmes Creek begins in southern Alabama and continues southward into the Choctawhatchee River Basin. The navigable portion of the creek is located in Washington county about three miles north of the town of Vernon or 36 miles north of Panama City. Once underway paddlers are soon treated to the discovery of several natural karst springs of varying magnitudes along the creek’s journey toward the Choctawhatchee.
Holmes Creek is a slow moving river with an easy current approximately 1-2 mph unless after a heavy rain. The water is a a rich tea color from the tannins of decaying leaf material found throughout the neighboring swamp system. The channel itself winds across a sand bottom as it makes its way past mixed hardwoods, sand hills and tupelo-cypress swamp systems.
Snorkel in the Natural Springs
Half a mile below Cotton Landing is Cypress Spring, a level 2 magnitude spring of incredible beauty producing over 79 million gallons of flow daily from twenty-six feet beneath the surface of the pool. There are several vents in the pool and one cave that has been explored to 75 feet. The pool is only accessible by boat and all of the surrounding land is privately owned.
A couple of miles farther down the creek from Cypress Spring is Beckton Spring which is smaller but still produces over 25 million gallons of flow per day. This is another area accessible only by boat but is well worth the short paddle to get to it. Throughout the rest of the paddle along Holmes Creek there are numerous seep springs and smaller unnamed spring runs that can be explored as time permits.
Wildlife Along Holmes Creek
The thriving plant and animal life along Holmes Creek is abundant and will have bird and animal watchers alike reaching for their cameras. Ibis, crane, pileated woodpeckers, egrets and red shouldered hawks soar overhead while otters, beavers, turtle and an occasional alligator prowl the shoreline. Within the creek spring system are also several variety of freshwater snail native only to this region.
Fishing is another popular activity along the river and bass, shellcracker, redbreasts and bream can be found in abundance. The area is also the breeding ground for alligator gar and the protected gulf sturgeon.
Launch Locations for Canoes and Kayaks Along Holmes Creek
There are multiple launch sites along both sides of Holmes Creek giving paddlers a lot of flexibility over the length of the trip that they want to plan. Start with a short out and back paddle to the springs at Cotton Landing three miles north of Vernon on C.R. 277 or plan a full day exploring up to nineteen miles along the length of Holmes Creek.
South of Cotton Landing are a number of alternate put-in locations. Culpepper Landing is located at C.R. 277 and is an easy paddle back upstream to Cypress and Beckton Springs. Vernon Wayside Park is located in town off of S.R. 79.
South of town find Fanning Branch Landing accessible from S.R. 79 on Two Creeks Boulevard. The next available takeout is at Brunson Landing located on C.R. 278 followed by Hightower Springs Landing located off S.R. 79 on Hightower Springs Road.
Live Oak Landing is the final takeout. Turn at S.R. 284 and drive 1.3 miles to Hancock Road and proceed one mile to Live Oak Landing Road.
For those that need to rent kayaks check with the Holmes Creek Canoe Livery at 850-956-2074.
While in the area be sure to check out Econfina Creek and the Chipola River. Holmes, Econfina and Chipola hold a place within Florida’s Greenways and Trails System and are worth the trip. Plan a vacation and stay at nearby St. Andrews State Park and enjoy Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast.
This article copyrighted by Beverly Hill