The Choctawhatchee River is Florida’s fourth longest river, traveling approximately 170 miles from its beginnings in Alabama to the Choctawhatchee River basin, bay and into the Gulf of Mexico. This alluvial river encompasses a broad flood plain that nourishes farmland and old growth hardwood forests. Among its secrets are at least 13 springs, a history of pirates and rumors of the elusive Ivory-billed woodpecker hidden among the wetlands.
Scenic and Wild Choctawhatchee River
Of the 13 documented springs, two are standouts. The first, Blue Spring, is just south of Geneva, Alabama and is only about 100 feet off the main river. Another notable spring, Morrison Spring, can be found south of I-10 in Walton County, Florida, and is accessible by paddling about 3/4 of a mile up Morrison Spring Run. The spring pool is about 300 feet in circumference and the spring vent lies 46 feet below the surface. Cave divers often dive and train here, exploring three cavities within the cave system.
Wildlife along the river consists of a variety of animals native to the region including alligator, bald eagle, osprey, bobcat, fox and river otter. Feral hogs, introduced to Florida in the 1500s, are also frequently seen along the lowlands. There have been several scientific forays into the area searching for evidence of the believed-to-be extinct Ivory-billed woodpecker.
Planning a Float Trip on the Choctawhatchee River
There is a distinct lack of canoe liveries servicing the Chochtawhatchee River so paddlers will need to leave a drop-off vehicle at their destination or arrange to be picked up by a friend or family member upon completion. Most standard trips on the Choctawhatchee cover between 10 and 17 miles per day with paddlers stopping to camp wherever is convenient. This sometimes winds up being along farm land, so be respectful and make an effort to obtain permission from the landowner whenever possible, and don’t camp where no trespassing signs are posted.
Because the river is prone to flooding several times a year paddlers must be diligent in checking weather forecasts and water levels prior to embarking on a trip. The river is mostly undeveloped and camping options are limited to the amount of available exposed sand bars that shift and change after each flood. The river is also absent of state parks or hiking trails, although the Florida Trail Association has plans to create a Choctawhatchee River Trail in the near future.
A trip on the Choctawhatchee can be tackled in several sections. The upper section is good from just north of Midland, Ala, beginning at Road 36 and traveling all the way to Geneva, Ala. There are a few drop pools and small rapids along this section so plan accordingly. They can also be bypassed by putting in at the 123/134 bridge at Newton, Ala.
Florida paddlers often begin their trips in Geneva, Ala, or at Hwy 2 near Pittman, Fla. The next take-out location south is Hwy 90 at Caryville, Fla. A listing of launch sites for Florida can be found at FishingDestinGuide. It is possible to paddle the river to its mouth at the Choctawhatchee Bay and land at Point Washington, however the lower section of the Choctawhatchee can become confusing so it is best to do so with the aide of a guide or GPS.
This article is copyrighted by Beverly Hill