With limestone bluffs that tower 80 feet above the Suwannee River, Big Shoals State Park provides vistas you won’t see anywhere else in Florida. It’s also the prime place in the Sunshine State for whitewater rafting. When the water level of the Suwannee is between 59 and 61 feet above sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III whitewater classification. That’s the highest level in Florida, meaning only the most experienced whitewater kayakers should attempt to navigate these shoals. But don’t worry – you can also steer clear of the rapids and paddle leisurely along the Suwannee. Fish from the boat or along the banks if you like.
Big Shoals is also a popular spot for hikers, with nearly 30 miles of wooded trails to wander along and scout for wildlife. You can ride your horse here, too. There’s also the Woodpecker Trail, a 3.4-mile paved route that’s ideal for cycling. Little Shoals has a picnic pavilion near the entrance that seats up to 40 people. Whatever your chosen activity, know that when you visit Big Shoals, you’re at a place that’s truly unique.
Hours: Open daily from 8:00 AM until sundown.
- $4 per vehicle
- $2 pedestrians
- An honor box system is in place so please bring the correct change.
Activities in Big Shoals State Park
One of our favorite walks is the three-and-a-half-mile long trail that connects the Big Shoals and the Little Shoals entrance. It offers some stunning views of the Suwannee River and you can even stop off for a spot of fishing, as long as you don’t mind carrying your gear with you. And of course, it goes without saying that you’ll need to have the proper license, too.
Feel like having a picnic in one of Florida’s most beautiful sceneries? This is one of the best Florida state parks to picnic in, thanks to its all-around beauty and picturesque limestone bluffs. You’ll find a picnic pavilion seating up to 40 people by the Little Shoals entrance.
This is also one of the few Florida state parks where hunting is permitted during select seasons and only inside the Big Shoals Wildlife Management Area. Other activities offered include bicycling, birdwatching, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, paddling, and picnicking. It’s a great way to experience Florida at its finest.
Looking to do some walking or cycling? There are numerous nature trails to enjoy with great views of the Suwannee River, and bicyclists can cover the entire park in a single day. It’s also worth looking into meeting up with a Florida native, perhaps through the Suwannee Bicycle Association, which puts on group rides throughout the year.
This part of Florida has a pretty cool history, too. The park’s grounds were purchased by the State of Florida in the 1980s, with the goal of permanently preserving it as the largest whitewater area in Florida. As for the Suwannee River, it has an average current speed of 2-3 miles per hour, with the perfect water level ranging between 59-61 feet.
Location, Fees & Spring info:
Big Shoals State Park is a Florida park on the banks of the Suwannee River. Entrance will set you back $4 per vehicle/$2 for pedestrians, bicyclists and additional passengers. It’s open from 8 AM to sunset throughout the year.
Planning on driving? There’s a parking area by the Big Shoals entrance, although it’s a one-mile hike along the Yellow Blaze trail. That’s because there’s no vehicle access to the Springs – all to help preserve their natural beauty.
Best time to visit:
Because Big Shoals is in Florida, you can rest assured that there’s no specific time of year that’s better than others to visit. With that said, if you want to take advantage of warmer Florida weather, plan your visit during the summer.
Nature fans will love the tupelo trees that overhang the river and give the area its own unique look and feel, and the limestone bluffs provide the perfect photo opportunity. (Just imagine all the likes you’ll get on Instagram!) Nature photographers in particular are in for a treat here because of the wide range of birdlife and mammals. They don’t call it the Woodpecker Trail for nothing!
In terms of wildlife, there’s plenty for you to enjoy. Birdwatchers, for example, can expect to see everything from herons and egrets to wood ducks, hawks, woodpeckers, hummingbirds, wrens, swallows and more. If you’re particularly lucky, you might even spot a bald eagle, making this one of the best spots in Florida to spot them in the wild.
And there’s plenty of other wildlife, too. Keep your eyes peeled for everything from tortoises to owls, wild turkeys, and white-tailed deer. Just make sure that you take your camera and that you try not to disturb the animals.
Note: Due to its Class III whitewater rating, you should only attempt the shoals in a canoe or kayak if you’re experienced enough to handle them. Thinking about bringing your four-legged friends? Pets are welcome at Big Shoals, as long as you keep them on a leash. Happy travels!