Near the city of Crestview, Florida, is a first-rate yet often overlooked paddling and float trip destination along the Florida panhandle. Created from the flow of several smaller tributaries, Gum, Horseshoe, Pond, Long, Pinelog, Turkey Hen, Juniper, and Titi Creeks, the peaceful and slow-moving Shoal flows 27 miles to join with the Yellow River, another notable paddling destination.
What Paddlers Can Expect on the Shoal River
The navigable section of the Shoal River begins at the Ray Lynn Barnes Landing on Highway 90 just east of Crestview and continues approximately 9.5 miles to the first take-out at Hwy 85 south of Crestview. Along the Shoal’s shallow course lie numerous large sandbars offering plenty of opportunities for paddlers to stop for a picnic lunch or even to make camp if the weather and water levels are favorable.
The shallow Shoal, usually only one to four feet deep, winds through beautiful hardwood forests. The land surrounding the Shoal is mostly undeveloped with only a bridge or two to break up the scenery. Paddlers may occasionally encounter a submerged log or two, but no log jams. Closer to the take-out point near Hwy 85 just south of Crestview the first hints of civilization appear in the form of a few scattered homes nestled high along the banks of the river.
The water of the river itself is a light tannic color, appearing almost golden in the sunlight as it ripples across the shifting sand bottom. The river hosts an abundance of fish and turtles, and paddlers may see fisherman trying their luck in lily covered side pools along the river. Wildlife along the river is abundant. Red-cockaded woodpeckers are common as are the red-shouldered hawks that soar overhead. The surrounding forest is home to Florida black bear, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, fox and coyote.
Planning a Float Trip on Shoal River
The main paddling section for the Shoal River begins at the Ray Lynn Barnes Landing on Highway 90 east of Crestview and continues to a takeout on Highway 85 south of Crestview. For those paddlers wishing to continue past this point to the Yellow River or Gin Hole Landing, a low-cost recreation permit must first be obtained from the Eglin Division of Natural Resources, known locally as the Jackson Guard. The office is located at 107 Highway 85 in Niceville, FL, and can be reached by calling (850) 882-4164 for more information.
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill