Scenic river in Crestview offers a journey through a wetland hardwood forest
The appropriately named Shoal River offers an abundance of sandy sandbars, (shoals) along with cool water along a meandering 10-mile paddle in Crestview. This 10-mile stretch is the only open publicly accessible run on the river. It is easily accessible with a boat ramp at each end, with put in at U.S. Hwy. 90 and take out a SR-85 in Crestview.
As part of the Florida Greenways and Trails system, the paddle offers scenic views of a variety of wetland hardwoods such as Titi, black gum, live oak, magnolia and coastal plain willow. Fauna includes a variety of birds such as kingfishers, blue herons and egrets, along with an occasional alligator and turtle.
The only signs of civilization are a few power line crossings, bridges and a few homes scattered along the higher elevations. The river offers several sand bars to stop, rest, enjoy a snack or cool off in the water. The depth ranges from less than a foot to approximately four feet, with good visibility through the slightly tannin-colored water. This section of the river is fairly wide at around 50 ft. with a sandy bottom. The river’s swiftness depends on recent rains, and best enjoyed when there has not been any. If you are confident no rain is on the way, some of the shoals could easily accommodate for a nice campsite. Check local river data before your paddle.
USGS link (water level info):
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?site_no=02369000 (Near Crestview)
The best time of year to paddle this portion of the Shoal River is in the spring or fall as there is not much overhead canopy protecting you from the heat of the direct sun.
The paddle takes approximately four hours. You need to bring your own vessel, as there are no kayak or canoe rentals available in the area.
Directions to put-in: From Crestview, take US-90 east 4 miles to the bridge over the Shoal River. The Ray Barnes boat ramp is on the north side of the road on the west side of the river. The put in has concrete boat ramp and adequate parking.
Take-out: SR-85 at the Bill Duggan Jr. Park
Directions to take-out: From Crestview, take SR-85 south 5 miles to Live Oak Church Road. Take first right into Bill Duggan Jr. Park located on the river. The park has restrooms, picnic tables, concrete boat launch and parking.
For more information, go to the Florida Greenways and Trails website at: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/designated_paddle/Shoal_guide.pdf