The Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail is part of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Trail which continues west and south of the Big Bend, and embraces the coastline of Florida.
Purchase the paddling guide for directions and GPS coordinates for each campsite. You must make your own arrangements for staying at Econfina River State Park (site 1) if the primitive site is not available and at Steinhatchee (site 6). The six remaining primitive campsites require a camping permit and may only be used by paddlers on the Big Bend Saltwater Paddling Trail. Most of the sites will give paddlers a true flavor of Gulf Coast wilderness. No other camping is allowed on the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. The primitive campsites have a fire ring, but no bathroom facilities or potable water.
Site 1: The primitive campsite downstream from the boat ramp at Econfina State Park has been closed and a new one has been located upstream about a mile upriver from the boat ramp. GPS = N 30 04.28 W 83 53. 80. Shoals just above a small bridge before the campsite may inhibit passage at low tide. If this is the case, you may want to wait at the boat landing before attempting again with a rising tide. The site is free and requires no permit. However, the park would like for campers to notify them if using the site so they can gauge use, 850-922-6007. If the primitive site is occupied, then arrange for camping through the park concessionaire (The Econfina River Resort) at 850-584-2135, or visit their store. The campground and store, along with showers and bathrooms, are a quarter mile north of the park boat ramp along a paved road. There is a fee. The store is closed on Mondays.
Site 2: Rock Island. This is a remote, scenic island of about twenty acres. Camping is on the west side of the island in a small cleared area with a fire ring, partially shaded by live oaks. The island can be buggy in warm weather, especially if standing water is present.
Site 3: Spring Warrior Creek. This campsite is nestled along scenic Spring Warrior Creek about a half mile north of the town of Spring Warrior. Campers will enjoy a full view of the river and night sky.
Site 4: Sponge Point. Just past Keaton Beach, Sponge Point is an island-like hardwood hammock connected to the mainland only by salt marsh. Camping is in a shaded grove of live oaks. There may be evidence of rooting by feral hogs. Campers should be watchful for prickly pear cactus.
Site 5: Dallus Creek. Located in a remote hammock at the mouth of Dallus Creek, one must reach the campsite by walking down a cleared trail through needlerush. Camping is in a grassy area beneath weathered live oaks. Be watchful of rattlesnakes during warm weather.
Site 6: Steinhatchee. Camping or overnight lodging must be arranged on your own. You can access motels and marinas that offer lodging or camping in Steinhatchee by visting purewaterwilderness.com and TaylorFlorida.com
Site 7: Sink Creek. Camping is in a scenic hardwood hammock along Sink Creek. One can take long hikes behind the campsite along the edge of the marsh and several other hammocks. The area is remote and wild.
Site 8: Butler Island. Camping is beneath mature cedars, live oaks and palms near huge shell middens left by early Native Americans. The coontie palm, a protected species, is present, but beware of poison ivy.
There are four trip options along the 105-mile paddling trail. Trip 1 covers the entire trail (9 days/8 nights), while the remaining options are for 3-day/2-night trips. All trips are from north to south to minimize overlapping schedules.
Trip 1 covers the entire 105 miles, beginning at the Aucilla River, and ending at the Salt Creek landing in the town of Suwannee. The trip takes 9 days and 8 nights to complete. There are 7 designated primitive campsites and 1 or 2 nights where you must use private camping or lodging (see above). The Suwannee Community Center has granted permission for overnight parking in front of their building and a public launch is available in the canal beside the building.
Trip 2 begins at the Aucilla River with a take-out at the town of Spring Warrior. Camping is at Econfina River State Park and Rock Island.
Trip 3 begins at the town of Spring Warrior and ends at Steinhatchee. Camping is at Sponge Point and Dallus Creek.
Trip 4 begins at Steinhatchee and ends at the town of Suwannee. Camping is at Sink Creek and Butler Island. The Suwannee Community Center has granted permission for overnight parking in front of their building and a public launch is available in the canal beside the building. The Community Center is at the end of HWY 349 on the left side of the road.
Visit purewaterwilderness.com and TaylorFlorida.com for a list of outfitters in the area and shuttle information. Also, for trips 1 & 2, check with the campground concessionaire at the Econfina River State Park (850-584-2135) for secure parking.