Blackwater River: so good it had a forest named after it
Clear, tea-colored water, lots of sandbars and mostly bordered by its namesake forest.
The Blackwater River in the Florida Panhandle features its clear, tea-colored water, nice sandbars, and a whole lot of woods. This is a good family-friendly creek, but some of the upper sections may have the occasional pullover or small logjam. Since this is Florida, some people worry about alligators, but we almost never see them on the stretches of the river that we have detailed here.
Much of the river is bordered by the Blackwater Forest so you will see almost no development along the water. With over 30 miles of floatable river, this is a good choice for anyone looking for an overnight outing. Even though it is generally fairly shallow, we hear reports of good fishing in deeper spots.
Our favorite trip is the upper 10.8 miles from Kennedy Bridge Rd to Hwy 4. The water is generally very shallow, and there are lots of sandbars. There are also plenty of downed trees in the water to dodge. We have had logjams in this section and below before, but hardy volunteers in our group and others go out with chainsaws to clear a path. You just need to be ready to pull over or around any obstacles.
All of the Blackwater sections are nice. You gain more water and generally have less obstacles in the water the further down the river that you go. If you paddle at leisurely rate, you should average about two miles per hour, not counting time for stops on the many sandbars. In the summer, we avoid going below Bryant Bridge Rd because of rental boat crowds.
We stop our launch site information at Deaton Bridge Rd, and that's where you should stop, too. The Blackwater River does continue on into Milton, but it has several sections that were made impassable some time back by Hurricane Ivan. You can get down to takeouts in the Hutton Unit of the Blackwater Forest, but there is one portage around a sizable logjam at a bend in the river. We don't know about you, but that "impassable" part sounds like a challenge. We'll get back to you on that.
See more Blackwater River photos.
River Miles reflect the approximate distances from the previous launch site.
LAUNCH SITE MAP (See next section for clickable directions)
LAUNCH SITE DETAILS & DIRECTIONS
Kennedy Bridge Rd
Launch: Southeast side of bridge. 200-foot carry over a sandbar.
Parking: Dirt. 5 or so cars. Isolated. More parking a short distance away out by the road with more visibility.
Hwy 4 (Cotton Landing)
Launch: North side of bridge. Steep 500-foot carry. Bring wheels for your boat if you have them!
Parking: 20+ paved spots. Visible.
Facilities: Restrooms and water. Outdoor shower. Covered picnic tables.
Notes: Lot may be locked after dark.
Launch: Short ramp.
Parking: Large parking area. Isolated.
Facilities: Restrooms, picnic tables, campsites, boardwalk.
Notes: Fee to launch. Crowded in summer.
Boat Ramp Rd
Launch: Boat Ramp Rd is about 6/10 of a mile north of Deaton Bridge. Launch is at the end of the road. 100-foot paved ramp.
Parking: Large gravel parking area. Isolated.
Notes: You miss a mile of sandbars, but you save on the state park crowds and parking fee.
Deaton Bridge Rd
Launch: West side of the bridge. Carry 50 feet over a sandbar if you drive down access road.
Parking: Paved parking area on southeast corner of bridge. Visible.
Facilities: State park facilities are nearby.
Notes: State park entrance fee to park. Crowded in summer. Site also used by canoe livery.