Eric Anthony Rodriguez

Eric Anthony Rodriguez

To help myself get over the fact that there was not a Purple Hatter’s Ball this year, I decided to paddle a stand up paddleboard for a ways down the Suwannee. Since I was by myself, I positioned a bicycle down-river at my take out location to aid in the retrieval of my vehicle. Since it has been unbearably hot, I planned my trip to coincide with sundown so I would not get sunburnt or die of heat stroke.

It was an amazing day to be on the river. There was hardly anyone else out enjoying the Suwannee this past Sunday. Only one small jon boat passed me going the other direction. There were a few people and a couple of boats at a spring that I passed, but other than these few sign of civilization, the river was quiet. I did notice a couple of things on my hour-long paddle that I should share.

The first thing I noticed was how shallow the Suwannee is getting. It has been about a year since the Suwannee was this low. If you do not know where the rock piles are located, you better go boating with someone who does. There are many areas between Dowling Park and Branford that will ruin a boat motor. Sometimes you can see the rocks sticking out of the water, and sometimes the rocks lurk just below the surface of the water nearly the entire width of the river. Go slowly and keep a lookout on the bow of your boat if you are on an unfamiliar stretch of the Suwannee.

The second thing I noticed, near the end of my paddle, was how large and loud the sturgeon that jump in the Suwannee can be. I was glad that I was paddling and not running a small boat at full throttle. Some of the fish that jumped ahead of me would have been painful had we collided. I am not sure if they jump more frequently near sundown or if it just seemed that way on this particular day. You do not want to end up having to rush one of your boat passengers to the hospital after they collide with one of these big jumping fish. There have been fatal collisions in the past, and I hope we can avoid a repeat of that this year.

It took me less than half an hour to bike the two and a half miles back to my truck. There was just a little glimmer of light left on the horizon, and it was not too hot out. I did not pass one other vehicle or person on the road. Paddling and riding a bicycle are both good exercise, and just fun enough to make it not seem like exercise. The trip went so well that I will probably do that again a few more times this summer.

Eric lives in Suwannee County and is a public school educator. He is an independent contractor. You can reach him at

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