Big Shoals State Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true! Located in northern Florida, this park offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy.
With its rolling hills, clear streams, and lush vegetation, Big Shoals State Park is an ideal destination for anyone looking to experience the natural beauty of the region.
This park offers a variety of trails and rivers that allow guests to hike and canoe while taking in sweeping views of the local scenery.
Big Shoals State Forest
The state’s largest whitewater rapids are located in the north region of Florida near the Georgia border. The rapids run through the Suwannee River which is surrounded lush forests and abundant wildlife.
You can walk along the river or take a dip into the cool waters. Or you can explore the many trails that run through the forest.
Canoeing and kayaking along the Suwannee River is a popular activity in Big Shoals State Forest. For experienced paddlers, the rapids offer a thrilling experience while beginners will enjoy the tranquil stretches of the river.
Many outfitters offer guided tours and rentals in the area.
This makes it possible for everyone to experience the forest’s beauty from a different perspective.
If you prefer to hike on the ground, there are many trails through the state forest that take you through different ecosystems such as pine forests, hardwood hammocks, and cypress swamps.
These trails are accessible for hikers of all levels, and range in difficulty from easy to moderate. Visitors will see a variety of wildlife along the trail, including turkeys and deer.
Camping is another popular activity in Big Shoals State Forest. There are several campsites available in the forest that can be used by those who wish to really immerse themselves in nature.
These campsites offer breathtaking views of the river and the surrounding forests. You can also find picnic areas in the forest that are ideal for family outings or quiet afternoons spent in nature.
The Big Shoals State Forest also houses several historical sites, such as the Big Shoals Railroad Bridge and the Little Shoals Recreation Area.
The Big Shoals Railroad Bridge, a tall structure that spans over the Suwannee River, offers breathtaking views of the rapids below. Little Shoals Recreation Area, a park with historic features, has picnic tables and a boat launch.
Seize Opportunities to Connect with Nature at Big Shoals
Big Shoals State Forest is a must-see for anyone who wants to experience Florida’s natural beauty. The state forest has something for everyone, whether you are an adventurer or a peace-seeker.
Big Shoals State Forest, with its beautiful rapids and diverse wildlife, is a true jewel in Florida’s natural landscape.
The biggest whitewater rapids in Florida may be found at Big Shoals State Park. Outstanding panoramas are provided by limestone bluffs that rise 80 feet above the Suwannee River’s banks and are unique to Florida.
The Suwannee River’s Big Shoals rapids are classified as Class III Whitewater when they are between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level.
Only skilled canoeists and kayakers are advised to attempt to navigate the Shoals. For portaging around the Shoals, a portage area is available.
There are options for daytime enjoyment on more than 28 miles of forested paths, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, bird watching, and wildlife viewing. Both the Big Shoals and Little Shoals rapids are inaccessible by car.
The park’s Little Shoals and Big Shoals entrances are connected by the 3.4-mile Woodpecker Trail, a multifunctional paved trail. Excellent freshwater fishing chances are available in the river, which is legal with the required licenses.
At the Little Shoals entrance, there is a picnic pavilion with 40 chairs. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is in charge of enforcing the limited hunting regulations that are allowed in certain places. The address for Little Shoals Entrance is 11330 SE County Road 135 near White Springs, Florida 32096.
Big Shoals State Park Hiking Trails – Embrace Nature
Big Shoals State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities that will appeal to all abilities and ages. The park offers a number of hiking trails, as well as kayaking along the Suwannee River. This is a must-do experience!
There are four main trails that run through the park’s diverse ecosystems. Each trail offers a stunning view of the river and the forests surrounding it.
These trails are accessible for hikers of all levels and difficulty levels. They range in length from 1.1 to 3 miles.
The Big Shoals Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park. The 3.3-mile loop takes hikers through pine forests, hardwood hammocks, cypress swamps, and stunning views of the rapids.
You will see a variety of wildlife along the route, including turkeys and deer.
The Little Shoals Trail is another popular trail within the park. It runs 1.1 miles and takes hikers through beautiful hardwood forests. It also offers spectacular views of the Little Shoals Recreation Area. This trail is ideal for families with young children or anyone looking to do a short, easy hike.
The Florida Trail is a 3.1-mile, point-to-point hike that leads hikers through beautiful forests along the banks the Suwannee River. It’s ideal for those who want a more difficult hike.
Backpackers love this trail because it connects to the Florida National Scenic Trail. This trail stretches more than 1,300 miles, from the Gulf Islands National Seashore, in the panhandle, to the Big Cypress National Preserve, in the south.
The Woodpecker Trail, a loop trail of 2.1 miles that winds through beautiful pine forests and provides stunning views over the Suwannee River, is the final option. It is a great trail for birdwatchers as it is home of a variety woodpeckers and other bird species.
The park’s rich past is one of the most unique aspects of the Big Shoals State Park hiking trails. You can find ancient shell middens as well as other evidence of the rich history of the area by following the trails.
The park offers many amenities, including picnic areas and a playground. It is close to the Suwannee River, making it an ideal spot for canoeing and kayaking. There are also several outfitters that provide guided tours and rentals.
The hiking trails of Big Shoals State Park provide a stunning view of Florida’s natural beauty. The park’s trails are suitable for all levels of hikers, as well as those who just want to take a quiet stroll through the forest.
Big Shoals State Park, with its rich history and diverse ecosystems, is a true jewel in Florida’s natural landscape.
Make sure you bring your camera with you so you can record the unique views of Florida. The Suwannee River flows through the park, which is bordered by high cliffs.
The bluffs offer a fantastic view of the picturesque surroundings, including Florida’s sole stretch of whitewater. Take a stroll toward the river along the Big Shoals Trail as you are surrounded by trees.
As you journey near the river, the plant and animal life will wow you as the breathtaking sights will. The greenfly orchid is one plant to keep an eye out for.
Purplish green flowers on it appear to be hanging above glossy evergreen leaves. On the bluffs and in wetlands, the flower grows on shady branches of oak and southern magnolia trees.
Before you see the rapids crashing through dead trees, limestone outcroppings, and agenized corals, you will hear their roar as you go along. A popular activity at the park is observing butterflies.
Due to the abundance of natural habitat, the avian beauty can be observed at most state parks, but Big Shoals State Park has the best odds of spotting native species.
On the Water
On the Suwannee River, the water current moves at a speed of two to three miles per hour. The Shoals are famous for kayaking and canoeing because of their lovely white sand beaches, but you should be aware that they can be treacherous.
As you move downstream, there is a portage facility on the left bank, and you may rent canoes close by.
The upper parts of the Suwannee River offer excellent paddling conditions all year long; in fact, the shoals are designated as Class III White Water when the water level reaches 59 to 61 feet above sea level.
Flat water conditions win out when mean water levels reach 70 feet.
On the other hand, depths of 51 feet above sea level make the waters nearly impossible to navigate because of the exposed rocks. For current information check with Suwannee River Water Management which maintains a record of water levels on a daily basis.
Birding & Fishing
Swallow-tailed kites, ruby-throated hummingbirds, wrens, warblers, mockingbirds, bald eagles, various hawks, wild turkeys, herons, egrets, wood ducks, woodpeckers, barred owls, and even Mexican free-tailed bats may be seen if you’re close to the Big Shoals entrance in the late afternoon or at sunset.
The park is The Woodpecker Trail, which links the park’s Big and Little Shoals entrances and offers freshwater fishing. Sunfish of various varieties, black crappie, large-mouth bass, and catfish are fr
equently targeted by anglers.
When it comes to number, size, manner, and season, fishing must go by municipal and state restrictions, and a license may be needed.
Big Shoals State Park features the largest whitewater rapids in Florida.
Outstanding views are provided by limestone bluffs rising 80 feet above the Suwannee River’s banks, which are unique to Florida. The Big Shoals rapids are rated as Class III Whitewater when the water level on the Suwannee is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level.
Only skilled kayakers and canoeists should try to navigate the shoals. The shoals should not be paddled.
Portaging can be done in a designated area near the shoals. Park at the Big Shoals parking lot and go one mile on the Big Shoals hiking trail to see the Big Shoals rapids (Yellow Blaze trail).
Little Shoals rapids are easiest accessed by entering the park at the Little Shoals entry, traveling down Road 1, and turning right onto Road 6. Drive to the end of Road 6 and park there.
From there, go down the Blue Blaze route for about 0.5 miles until you reach the Little Shoals sign. Remember that these rapids are fairly challenging.
In fact, the ranger informed us that less experienced kayakers actually exit before the rapids and rejoin later downstream on the Suwannee and that these rapids are really only used by experienced kayakers.
The Big Shoals Trail, which follows the river and is designated as a hiking trail in yellow, has two viewing areas for the rapids. Several locations, including the platforms, will lead you all the way to the river bank. Just be careful because there is a lot of loose dirt on the sloping trails that lead to the river’s edge.
There are chances for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and animal viewing along more than 28 miles of woodland pathways. The park’s Little Shoals and Big Shoals entrances are connected by the 3.4-mile Woodpecker Trail, a multi-use paved trail.
Excellent prospects for freshwater fishing can be found in the river. At the Little Shoals entrance, there is a picnic pavilion with 40 chairs.
Please be advised that limited hunting is permitted at the adjacent Big Shoals Wildlife Management Area during specific seasons. The Wildlife Management Area is traversed by a few of the park’s roadways and trails.
Within state park boundaries, hunting is categorically forbidden. Visit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to get hunting rules and location maps.
Big Shoals State Park is an outdoor paradise! This park has plenty to offer, from picturesque hiking trails to rewarding fishing spots.
It is a perfect destination for anyone who loves exploring the great outdoors and wants to experience nature at its finest.
With a combination of adventure and relaxation, Big Shoals State Park provides visitors with an unforgettable experience that they can enjoy year-round.
Get ready to explore one of the most beautiful state parks in all of Florida!