See the Shoals

a tree on the bank of a whitewater river

When planning a visit to Big Shoals State Park, you want to be sure to pack a camera.  With views that are seen nowhere else in the state, the unique vistas from high atop the limestone bluffs some 80 feet above the Suwannee River will amaze and enchant you. To top it off, some of the only “whitewater” in Florida may be found along this section of the river.

A walk to the namesake feature of this park along the Big Shoals Trail will appeal to all your senses. On the trail there’s a cool moistness in the air under the forest canopy, an ethereal sensation that you can feel as you hike through the woods toward the river.  The air is sweet and can be refreshing even in the summer heat.  The views are stunning as you walk along, and so is the flora and fauna. Keep an eye out for the greenfly orchid, its purplish green flowers seeming almost suspended above glossy evergreen leaves. It can be found on shaded limbs of southern magnolia and live oak trees as well as other hardwoods in swamps and on bluffs.

After a mile or so of walking, you’ll soon hear the Big Shoals thundering, a sound that is both relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. The noise of the whitewater is heard long before it is seen, building a sense of anticipation as you hike faster to reach your ultimate goal. At the overlook, breathe in the damp air and view the awe-inspiring water and shoals. It is a truly humbling experience to witness the whitewater’s power as it rushes over the limestone outcroppings, agatized corals and downed trees.  Don’t forget to look up, as bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites and a variety of hawks are often seen here.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time when you visit. With over 28 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, the visit to Big Shoals is just the beginning. Be sure to take the time for a picnic, to go fishing or just sit by the river and mediate and enjoy the moment. There are many of them to be had here at Big Shoals State Park.