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Reported: June 2013; latest update: Dec. 2014

Chipola River - Scenic Paddling in Florida's Panhandle

The Chipola River flows 89 miles through Jackson, Calhoun and Gulf Counties to the Apalachicola River. The 51 mile Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail runs from just below Florida Caverns State Park to Scott's Ferry near the Dead Lakes, and the Upper Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail runs 4.5 miles from Christoff Landing to Florida Caverns State Park - the trails are separated due to the river running underground. Fed by 63 springs (33 of which are first magnitude), this scenic river runs through river swamp and hardwood forest, and limestone bluffs and caves can be seen. This is a part of Florida unlike the popular perceptions of the state! (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map
Distance: 51 mile Chipola River Paddling Trail, 4.5 mile Upper Chipola River Paddling Trail, 89 miles total
Location: Calhoun, Jackson and Gulf Counties
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal
: No
Launch points: Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail: Florida Caverns State Park; Paddling Trail: SR 166/Yancey Bridge, Hinson Conservation and Recreation Area, SR 280 Bridge/Magnolia Road, SR 278 Bridge/Peacock Bridge Road, Johnny Boy Landing, CR 274 Bridge, Lamb Eddy Landing, SR 20 Bridge, Jehue Landing, SR 71 Bridge at Scott’s Ferry. Upper Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail: Christoff Landing, Florida Caverns State Park (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Downstream: Marianna, Altha; Upstream: Florida Caverns State Park (links, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Florida Caverns State Park, Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, Blue Springs Recreational Area

The river has many springs but can  be a greenish brown because of the farmland along the upper river, and turns muddy after it rains. During low water, shoals are present. Below the SR 274 bridge are the “Look and Tremble” rapids which less experienced paddlers might want to portage around. The caves along the upper paddling trail are a unique sight, and diving, snorkeling, tubing are popular on the Chipola. The river is good for fishing, but the shallow water and limestone river bottom limit powerboats. Along the lower river, the river widens but remains shallow. Wildlife includes alligators, turtles, deer and snakes, and birds including hawks, herons and egrets.

At Florida Caverns State Park, the Chipola goes underground and re-emerges downstream. The 51 mile paddling trail starts within Florida Caverns State Park, but the first mile is not navigable so launch at the SR166/Yancey Road Bridge. Along the paddling trail the limestone walls and caves are a unique sight. Explore on your own, or use the outfitters who can provide drop-off services (multi-day trips are also available). Some of the popular trips are:

  • Yancey Bridge to Magnolia Road (10 miles) - visit a dry cave at "The Ovens"
  • Hinson Conservation Area to Magnolia Road (4.5 miles)
  • Spring Creek dam to Magnolia Road (3.7 miles)
  • Peacock Bridge to Lamb Eddy Landing (11 miles) - "Look and Tremble" rapids are here
  • Johnny Boy Landing to Lamb Eddy Landing (4.5 miles)
Paddling on the Chipola River
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
We made two trips:
  1. We paddled upstream on the Upper Chipola River Designated Paddling Trail, launching at the Chipola River Sink Boat Ramp (where the river goes underground) at Florida Caverns State Park.
  2. The Chipola River Paddling Trail starts downriver after the river re-emerges, we paddled down Spring Creek to the CR280/Magnolia Road Bridge.
Upper Chipola River Lower Chipola River
Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe
At Florida Caverns State Park Spring Creek to
CR280/Magnolia Road Bridge
Other Launches
Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe
CR 278 Peacock Bridge Lamb Eddy Landing
Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe
SR 20 Bridge
Wildlife and Flowers
Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, CanoePaddle Chipola River, Florida Panhandle - Kayak, Canoe
Turtles Deer On top of the log is a water moccasin Turtles These were seen all along Spring Creek
Florida Caverns State Park
Florida Caverns State Park, developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's, has a Visitor Center with interpretative exhibits, bicycling, hiking and equestrian trails, camping, picnicking, playground, and a golf course. The most popular feature is the cave tour (the only one in Florida). There are multiple caves in the park but only one is open to the public. Note: No cave tours are offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Park admission fee, additional for cave tour. Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park
Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park
Entrance to
the cave
Inside the cave, formations include limestone stalactites,
stalagmites, soda straws, flowstones, and draperies.
Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park Paddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State ParkPaddle Chipola River, Florida Caverns State Park
Park Visitor Center Hiking trail Blue Hole Spring was closed when we visited. A second-magnitude spring feeding the Chipola, picnic area and restrooms.

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

- Florida Office of Greenways and Trails -Chipola River Paddling Trail (pdf)
- Florida Office of Greenways and Trails - Upper Chipola River Paddling Trail (pdf)
- Northwest Florida Water Management District - Chipola River

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