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I knew when researching the Slave Canal paddle trip, it would be challenging. In Taylor County, Florida, it was much more challenging that I could have even imagined. I’ve waited a few days before writing this to really wrap my brain around this kayak trip so that I bring you the full experience – not just my frustration of the trip.
Watching all the Youtube videos, I did see a few obstacles but what was waiting for us was well beyond an advanced beginner level. Now that it’s a few days later and I’ve done a bit more research, I realize that the canal water level was lower than shown in most of the videos. The lower water made the usual underwater obstacles that much more difficult to kayak over.
If you are not an experienced paddler, please check the water level before taking this kayak trip. I’ve been kayaking for several years now and found this trip very challenging. In addition to capsizing, my butt was often stuck on top of trees and rocks.
You can see the frustration on my face as I empty the water from my kayak. We were actually too close together to work around a fallen tree. I tried to backpaddle and must have tipped my kayak just enough that the current was able to flip me over. Fun? Not so much. It was a 45 degree day and the crystal clear water was 69 degrees. Thank goodness for my Waterproof Dry Bag. I literally just received it two days before this trip. It save my gear.
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You may notice I did not have my life jacket on. Mistake on my part because the depth of the water in several places is deep. Quite deceiving when you’re looking down. After the shock of hitting the water and focusing on my breathing I swam to where I could stand to empty the kayak. That was a wake-up call that kept me on my toes the rest of the trip.
The Slave Canal was created by slaves to connect the Wacissa River to the Aucilla River. It was used to transport timber to the Gulf. You can see many Indian Mounds so I’m thinking it may have originally been a smaller water way that was dug out to be made wider for boats.
The beauty of the canopy trees and the different colors of the water are truly breathtaking. But it’s very important to keep your eyes out for the next obstacle. We portaged (carried) our kayaks five times up mud banks around trees that literally laid across the river from one side to the other. There was no way to go over or under.
The Slave Canal trip is only 5.1 miles but it took us five hours to complete from putting in at Goose Pasture. You can see the eel grass swaying in the crystal clear waters of Goose Pasture. Once in, paddle to the right where you will see the entrance to the Slave Canal. There is a sign posted that we easily viewed before entering the canal but other kayakers have noted the sign missing at various times.
There will be a drop of about a foot or so. Steer to the right as there are rocks in the middle of the stream. It’s exhilarating once you’re on the other side looking back so enjoy!
Keep following the current and you’ll exit the Slave Canal. I have to admit, my anxiety was getting to me after being on this canal for such a long time. I thought we were lost so I called the Suwannee River Water Management to make sure we were on the right canal.
If you follow the current, you’ll find the canal will widen as it gets closer to the Aucilla River. You will also be able to hear the nearby traffic over the US 98 Bridge.
Important note. We were taking out at Aucilla Landing which will be upstream about 1/2 mile on your right. The current will flow to the right as you exit the canal and that is where the bridge is. Be ready to work to first get over the rocks that creates rapids then upstream to the take-out point. I think my next trip will be back on the beautiful Sante Fe River to rebuild my confidence.
I have read several blogs that say the Slave Canal Paddle Trip is an advanced beginner trip. I want to clarify that may be true IF the water level is high so you can easily skim over some obstacles. Be sure to check the water gauge here: USGS Water Gauge If it’s low, be prepared for more obstacles.
Launch: Goose Pasture on the Wacissa River. This is a primitive area with a campground, portapotty and short boat launch ramp. Get directions: Goose Pasture
Take out: Aucilla Landing. Small residential neighborhood. Nice concrete ramp & dock. Portapotty. Picnic table which is where we had lunch. Get directions: Aucilla Landing
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Denise Sanger lives a life split between her love for fitness and her passion for travel particularly to the BEACH. Denise also has a love of marketing and lives in beautiful Suwannee County, Florida. You can find out more about Denise here: About Denise