It was a beautiful Sunday morning on the Chipola River with low water levels and near perfect temperatures when twenty two members of the FPCKC and West Florida Canoe Club set out for a day of fun on the water. Our group set out from the Peacock Landing boat launch and despite the low water levels from an ongoing drought there was plenty of water thanks to the Chipola’s sixty-three documented springs.
The first part of the trip was relaxing and quite serene as the members soaked in their surroundings. Low water gave an above average clarity to the usually milky waters allowing clear views of the underlying river bed. Above the water, exposed limestone formations lined the river bank providing a better glimpse into the life of the river.
Snakes, turtles and fish were out in abundance. It was also that time of year for jumping Gulf Sturgeon but luckily none were encountered on today’s trip. The previous day’s report noted a Gulf Sturgeon jumping directly behind one of the group member’s kayak while they were paddling on the lower section of Holmes Creek.
Downstream from the Peacock Landing boat launch were several shoals that livened things up for the group. At the half way point everyone stopped along a limestone bank for a lunch-break and general chit-chat. Following lunch the group ran a few more shoals and eagerly anticipated their arrival at Look & Tremble rapids, a small class I-II rapid during low water.
Before arriving at the rapids the group had to first navigate large groups of tubers that put in at a bridge a half mile above the rapids. Tubing is a fun activity, however, the presence of alligators in the river makes one question the wisdom of being a floating snack food. Despite the obstacles presented by the tubers, they turned out to be pleasant and polite unlike some groups we’ve encountered on past trips.
A low-water cave before the rapids gave us all a great photo opportunity and a fun place to explore. From now on I’ll be including a flashlight in my dry bag so I don’t miss out on any spelunking.
Upon arriving at Look & Tremble the group spread out and formed a lineup for running the rapids. I drifted back to photograph as our first brave soul, Wes, approached the rapids and then immediately disappeared from my viewfinder as he took the first drop. Robin tackled the rapids second and also disappeared over the drop. After those filming results I portaged on the right in order to find a better position to film the remaining members as they tackled Look & Tremble.
Our group did very well except for one capsize and a swamped canoe. A couple of canoes received some minor damage from impacting rocks hidden beneath the rapid but they report that it should be easily repaired. Despite it all several members dragged their boats back upstream to run the rapids a few more times. In Florida, whitewater lovers have to take of every opportunity presented.
Access Points for this review:
Peacock Landing: From US 90 or I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south to CR 278 (about 7 miles south of I-10 exit). Turn right on CR 278 and proceed less than a mile to the boat landing on the left side of the road just before the bridge.
CR274 Bridge: From US 90 0r I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south to CR 274 (about 11 miles south of I-10 exit). Turn right on CR 274 in Altha and travel west about two miles, look for dirt road and boat ramp sign on the right, follow less than a mile to the boat ramp.
Chipola River Paddling Guide