A peek at Section 1 of the Chipola River Paddling Trail
Part of Florida’s Greenways and Trails, the 51-mile Chipola Paddling Trail is the largest tributary of the Apalachicola, and boasts 63 fresh water springs, the largest number of any river shed in Northwest Florida. The trail runs from just south of the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna in Jackson County, south to just east and south of Clarksville in Calhoun County, Florida.
Diverse in flora and fauna, the river cuts through limestone rock and boasts caves and springs accessible for exploration. A cave nicknamed “The Oven” along Section 1 of the river can be easily explored with a headlamp or flashlight.
Trees provide a comfortable canopy of shade for a good portion of the journey and provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Bald cypress, green ash, loblolly bay, swamp gum, sweet bay, tupelo gum, water hickory are some of the species that line the river, with bluestem palmetto abundant beneath.
The first spring to explore on Section 1 is Sand Bag spring. You will see a private home on stilts shortly after to start your paddle from Yancey Bridge. Go just past the house and turn right. This spring is on private property, so exiting your vessel is prohibited. Interesting and unique this home sporting it’s own private spring in their front yard.
After you pass under the US 90 Bridge and paddle for 3.5 miles there will be a nice lunch stop on the left with a large field. This site will eventually become a park operated by the City of Marianna.
Further down there is a small spring run on the left called Maund Spring. This is a good location to get out and take a swim.
Next, you will find Spring Creek entering the Chipola on the left. You may choose to rest, or paddle upstream a short distance. This is the outflow from Jackson Blue Springs, which is dammed up to create Merritt’s Mill Pond about 5 or 6 miles upstream.
The Chipola offered plentiful wildlife viewing on this late August day, as barred owls, red-tailed hawks, osprey, green heron, blue heron, and kingfishers were spotted, along with alligators and several turtles sunning themselves on fallen trees jutting out of the river.
Another one of Northwest Florida’s spectacular paddles.
Bear Paw Adventures
2100 Bear Paw Lane
Marianna, FL 32446
Rickie & Anna McAlpin
Bear Paw offers several options for trips including Spring Run. Bear Paw rents kayaks, canoes and tubes. They pick up and return you to their livery after your paddle.
Access areas for the Chipola River Trail:
Note: Although the Trail starts at Florida Caverns State Park, paddlers should begin at the SR 166 bridge. The trail downstream from the State Park is hazardous and has been closed.
Access Point 1: Directions to put-in SR 166 (Yancey) Bridge
From I-10 travel north on SR 71, turn left (west) on US 90, continue to the town center of Marianna, turn right (north) on CR 166 (follow signs to Florida Caverns State Park); access is a small roadside park on the southwest side of the bridge crossing the Chipola River.
Access Point 2: Directions to put-in Magnolia Road Bridge:
From US 90 or I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south, (from the I-10 exit it is only 0.5 miles south on SR 71), turn right on Magnolia Rd and travel about 1.5 miles, and look for boat ramp on the left, just after the bridge.
Access Point 3: Directions to put-in CR 278 / Peacock Bridge Road
From US 90 or I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south to CR 278 (about 7 miles south of I-10 exit). Turn right on CR 278 and proceed less than a mile to the boat landing on the left side of the road just before the bridge.
Access Point 4: Directions to put-in CR 274 Bridge
From US 90 0r I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south to CR 274 (about 11 miles south of I-10 exit). Turn right on CR 274 in Altha and travel west about two miles, look for dirt road and boat ramp sign on the right, follow less than a mile to the boat ramp.
Access Point 5: Directions to put-in SR 20 Bridge
From US 90 0r I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south to CR 275, (about 14 miles south of the I-10 exit). Continue about 7 miles to SR 20, turn west and proceed about 1.3 miles to the small park and boat ramp on the northwest side of the bridge
Access Point 6: Directions to SR 71 bridge / Scott’s Ferry:
From US 90 or I-10, exit on SR 71 and travel south to CR 275, (about 14 miles south of the I-10 exit). Bear right on SR 275, continue to intersection to reconnect with SR 71 (about 15 miles), turn right (south) proceed about 3 miles and look for access on northeast side of bridge (private ramp with fee).
Camping options: Florida Caverns State Park and Scott’s Ferry Campground offer camping for a fee.