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The water churns into froth as it passes over the Big Shoals of the Suwannee River. A cyclist enjoys the miles of bicycling trails offered at Big Shoals State Park. Four riders take their horses down one of the equestrian trails. For those who hike the trails in the spring, wild azalea blossoms like this pink-and-white example are a treat to behold.
Big Shoals State Park
Soft sunshine on sparkling waters creates a relaxing view of the Suwannee River shoals.

History and Culture

Long ago, Native Americans used the Big Shoals area as a quarry site to make stone-chipped tools. They also frequented the sulphur springs in nearby White Springs until European settlers arrived in the early 1800s. William Brinton Hooker, one of Florida's first cattle kings, settled on the northern shore of the Suwannee in the 1830s. Hooker raised scrub cattle and black seed cotton. He built a ferry across the river in the mid-1830s. In the early 1900s, the land was purchased for logging and turpentining. Longleaf pines in the park still bear the scars of cat-face stripping of bark to collect resins for naval stores production.

A man stands on the bare rocks of Big Shoals in this photo taken during the 2002 drought.

Dry Shoals

This photo from 2002 shows the extreme drought conditions that occured all along the Suwannee River.

Two men paddle a canoe through the Little Shoals in this historic photo.

Little Shoals

The Suwannee River has always been an important resource for outdoor recreation. This historic photo shows canoeists trying to paddle the river at Little Shoals, the smaller set of rapids downstream from Big Shoals.

Mist rises from the rapids and delicate ice forms on surrounding plants in this photo taken on a cold morning at Big Shoals.

Cold Morning

Even in Florida, winters can get cold! In this early January photo, steam rising from the shoals begins to build ice on the plants at the river bank.

The Suwannee River crashes against the rocks, creating explosions of frothy water.


Big Shoals offers the only designated Class III rapids in the state of Florida. It earns this classification any time the water level of the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level.

White-tail deer are a common site for hikers at Big Shoals State Park.

White-tail deer

Wildlife is abundant at Big Shoals State Park. Visitors may see such animal species as white-tail deer, box turtles, gopher tortoise, barred owls, red-shouldered hawks, red tailed hawks, pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and timber rattle snakes. The Suwannee River is inhabited by Suwannee cooters, Suwannee bass, Gulf sturgeon and river otters. (Photo by Angie Smith)