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Reported: Oct. 2012; latest updated: Oct. 2015

Coldwater Creek... Paddling in Florida's Panhandle

Milton, Florida, calls itself the Canoe Capital of Florida, and the wealth of paddling opportunities in the area supports that name. One of the most beautiful and popular is Coldwater Creek, a premier Florida Panhandle paddling trail enjoyed by kayak or canoe.  (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map
Distance: 19 mile paddling trail (total is longer)
Location: Santa Rosa County (Milton)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: SR 4 Bridge, Coldwater Recreation Area (Gordon Landing), Adventures Unlimited, Old Steel Bridge, CR 191 Bridge (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Milton (links, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Milton, Pensacola, Blackwater River State Forest

The lovely creek is spring fed which keeps the water cold (leading to its name) with clear shallow water and one of the swiftest currents in Florida (3+ mph). The bottom is sand or river rock with many sand bars for picnicking or camping. Due to the shallow water there are few if any motor boats until the confluence with the Blackwater River.

The swift current makes paddling upstream a rigorous workout. Downstream the current carries you very quickly, and since the stream is mostly shallow it's important to keep vigilant to avoid logs and other obstacles. Some mini-rapids along the creek add variety and a paddling challenge. In the dry season it may be necessary to pull your kayak or canoe over the sandbars.

There are a few private homes and docks along the creek but overall this is a rural and beautiful paddle. Popular during the summer (especially in the area close to Adventures Unlimited), paddling during the week is recommended or wait until after Labor Day.

The river flows past pine and hardwood forest, hammock, sandhill, and scrub; wildlife include deer, woodpeckers and other birds. There is little vegetation in the water, we saw few fish.

Paddling at Coldwater Creek
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Coldwater Creek - Top Section
We launched at Gordon's Landing (Coldwater Recreation Area) and paddled upstream toward the SR4 bridge. The shallow water and swift current - plus some mini-rapids - made the upstream paddle a workout. In a couple of spots it was so shallow we had to pull our kayaks through. It was a weekday and we were the only ones on this section of the trail.
Note: The parking area is not actually at the Coldwater Recreation Area which is equestrian, but roadside, at the Gordon Landing Road bridge. (Trip report: October 2015)
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From the parking area, a short pull
down to the beach
Ready to launch Gordon Landiing bridge Along the creek
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Along the creek Along the creek Shallow water and a couple of logs, we got out and pulled Picnic spot, the creek has many sandbars for pulling off
Coldwater Creek - Middle Section
We used the shuttle at Adventures Unlimited for their 7-mile run (they also offer 4, 11 and 15 mile trips). From the drop-off, we paddled upstream a short distance, but then turned around and let the swift current carry us along while still needing to navigate to avoid the many sunken logs in the creek. We visited during the week and met few people on the creek, enjoying the remote location and beautiful scenery. (Trip report: October 2012)
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Launch drop-off On Coldwater Creek, some tree trunks Camping on one of the many sand bars  Approaching a
cliffs area
Picnic spot
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Group having a good time! A swift current, mini-rapids in this area Bridge at
Springhill Road
Launch at Adventures Unlimited Zip line is a popular attraction
Milton, Florida
Milton is the nearest town, its downtown on the National Historic Register. The pleasant Riverwalk area also features the Santa Rosa County Veteran's Memorial Plaza. The interesting train museum is home to a model railroading club that gives children rides on a model railroad on the weekend - a popular local attraction based on the number of families we saw.
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Riverwalk Veteran's
Memorial Park
Train Museum

See more photos on our Facebook page

More information on paddling on Coldwater Creek (opens in a new window):

- Florida Office of Greenways and Trails-Paddling Trails:
- Coldwater Creek Paddling Trail (file download)

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Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Coldwater Creek

Outfitters/Rentals

Adventures Unlimited

Blackwater Canoe Rental

Bob's Canoe


Milton, Florida, weather forecast