This past week, I took a trip down the Santa Fe River from the U.S. Hwy. 27 bridge to the State Road 47 bridge. I figured that would be a great way to get out of the house while still being able to practice social distancing. It was easy for about 80% of the trip.
The morning started at the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost. There they informed me that they were not shuttling anyone south of the 27 bridge because the springs and parks were closed. I explained that my friend and I would be shuttling the canoe on my truck. They reluctantly allowed us to rent the canoe since they could tell I had shuttled canoes before, but explained that I would be paying for the canoe if it were to fall off of my roof rack. I was excited about the prospect of having a large stretch of the river to ourselves.
The excitement quickly faded when we got to the ramp at the 27 bridge. There were several groups who had brought their own vessels and were heading down river. We all smiled and waved at each other and spaced ourselves out before launching. It was warm but not hot and there were very few clouds in the sky. We stopped at the first island we passed in the middle of the river and let the group behind us pass by. When we resumed our trip, we had several stretches of the river entirely to ourselves.
Since the parks were closed we were able to enjoy Poe Spring with just a couple other people. We stopped briefly at Lily Spring but did not see Naked Ed. Rum Island Park was also closed and we were the only ones swimming at the spring there. It was a serene and peaceful trip until we got to Ginnie Springs.
We heard the music before we started seeing the crowds. I guess everyone who was thinking about enjoying any of the springs on the Santa Fe had to go to Ginnie. It was packed. There were so many people floating on tubes and large mats that you could probably have walked across the river without getting wet. There were lines to get a turn on one of the numerous rope swings. We tried to navigate through the masses without getting closer than six feet from others but were not able to. The was one lone Florida Fish and Wildlife officer on his boat overlooking the scene, but we did not see him try and keep groups apart from each other. He probably would have not been able to keep the masses apart if he tried. It was about as crazy as I have ever seen it on the river near Ginnie Springs.
After the inner tube takeout point, we again had the river nearly to ourselves. We only passed a couple of people on motorboats before reaching the ramp at the 47 bridge. Even though we shared the river with many more people than we had expected, we still had a fun day on the Santa Fe.
Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at email@example.com.