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Reported: May 2016

Paddling in the Apalachicola River WEA... Graham Creek and more area launches

The Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area (ARWEA) Paddling Trail System, located just above the river delta, contains 12 numbered paddling trips totalling over 100 miles. For recreational paddlers looking for wildlife and some rare photo opportunities, we recommend "Trip 1" - the short-trip option on Graham Creek and its tributaries. This is an out-and-back paddle, so unlike the long-trip option, no shuttle is required. (Detailed map and photos below)



View Larger Map
Distance: Various
Location: Gulf and Franklin Counties
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Numerous; documented here are Graham Creek, Gardner Landing, Bloody Bluff, Cash Creek, Whiskey George Creek, and Doyle Creek (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: None
Nearby Points of interest: Apalachicola, St. George Island

The ARWEA covers 86,140 acres and contains the largest expanse of floodplain forest in Florida. Much of the system is marsh-grass creek and flats, great for fishermen and campers, but not very scenic. The major freshwater components of the trail system, Graham Creek and East River offer a greater diversity of plants and wildlife. Alligators are common. Birdlife abounds.

A long-time favorite of locals, the Graham Creek and East River long-trip is about 7.3 miles one way, from the Graham Creek launch to East River, and ending at Gardner Landing. From here by road (some sandy stretches), it's a little over 3.5 miles back to the launch.

We decided to paddle a portion of the out-and-back short-trip on Graham Creek. The upper section of the creek, plus two short tributaries are especially scenic. We saw a couple of slowly cruising alligators, some kites, many blackbirds, lots of tupelo, and a few uniquely shaped cypress trees.

We recommend this area during cooler months, late autumn or early spring. April is often best, when the the trees are back in bloom, but the flies aren't as thick. The Wilderness Area is adjacent to Tate's Hell State Forest, and the name says it all. From May though September, the insects are brutal. If you are in the area and want to do some paddling during the warmer months, a good nearby option is Apalachicola Bay at St. George Island.

Paddling at Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Launches
For future trip planning purposes, we took photos at six launches
along SR 65 within the ARWEA
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Cash Creek Landing and view of the creek. That day, several families were picnicking and we enjoyed watching the children
at the ramp area
Whiskey George Creek Landing and view of the creek.
Easy on and off, ample parking.
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Doyle Creek Landing. The ramp has deteriorated and it's a sharp drop to the creek. Gardner Creek Landing and view of the creek. There are two ramps,
ample parking. A bike rack is provided for shuttling back to Graham Creek Landing,
but portions of the road are very sandy making for a strenuous bike ride.
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Graham Creek Landing. The landing is off SR 65 by the bridge.
See more photos and description below.
Bloody Bluff Landing is on the Apalachicola River. Its name is
from 1816 skirmishes between
American and Indian forces.
Paddling on Graham Creek and Tributaries
Graham Creek is a pristine blackwater creek through cypress and tupelo. We paddled upstream, under the SR65 bridge about a half mile to just past the railroad trestle. Here, Graham Creek splits to the right (impassable) and Deep Creek enters from the left. About 4 miles up Deep Creek, a primitive campsite (hand launch, picnic table, grill) marks the boundary of Tate's Hell State Forest. Heading back downstream, we went past the Graham Creek launch about .2 mile, where South Prong enters on the right. This is another one mile (round trip) of interesting paddling. Further downstream, Graham Creek widens and continues for about 2.5 miles before joining the East River. On this day, we only paddled a short distance before turning around. We had arrived too late in the season -  the yellow flies were out in force.
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Road from SR 65 to launch Launch at Graham Creek Landing Upstream from launch, SR 65 bridge Upstream on the creek Railroad trestle
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Tupelo and cypress line the creek Entering Deep Creek On Graham Creek towards the launch, SR 65 bridge Downstream from launch, creek widens Alligator
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Paddling on South Prong Re-entering Graham Creek from South Prong Continuing downstream
on the creek
Back to launch

More information on paddling at ARWEA (opens in a new window):

- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area Paddling Trails
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Trip 1 - Graham Creek and East River
- Florida Forest Service - Tate's Hell State Forest

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