When the water level on the Suwannee River is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, the Big Shoals rapids earn a Class III Whitewater classification. Only experienced canoe and kayakers should attempt to navigate the Shoals. There is a portage area available for portaging around the Shoals. Limestone bluffs, towering 80 feet above the banks of the Suwannee River, afford outstanding vistas not found anywhere else in Florida.
Over 28 miles of wooded trails provide opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding and wildlife viewing.
Visitors who wish to view the Big Shoals rapids should park at the Big Shoals parking area and hike approximately 1 mile on the Big Shoals hiking trail (Yellow Blaze trail). There is no vehicle access to either the Big Shoals or Little Shoals rapids. The best way to access Little Shoals rapids is to enter the park through the Little Shoals entrance, drive down Road 1 and turn right on Road 6. Drive to the end of Road 6 where you will park your vehicle and hike approximately 0.5 mile down the Mossy Ravine trail (Blue Blaze trail) until you see the sign for Little Shoals.
The Woodpecker Trail, a 3.4-mile long multipurpose paved trail, connects the Little Shoals and Big Shoals entrances to the park. The river offers excellent opportunities for freshwater fishing. A picnic pavilion that seats up to 40 people is available at the Little Shoals entrance.
Please be aware that limited hunting is permitted during select seasons inside the neighboring Big Shoals Wildlife Management Area. Some of the park’s roads and trails traverse through the Wildlife Management Area. Hunting is strictly prohibited within state park boundaries. Hunting regulations and area map can be found by visiting Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Extensive trails offer a variety of challenges to cyclists, from the paved Woodpecker trail to off road. Great fat tire bicycle trails go through hardwood canopies, pine and palmetto forests. Ride alongside the bluffs overlooking the Suwannee River. The Suwannee Bicycle Association sponsors several rides throughout the year. Helmets are highly recommended for all cyclists and Florida law requires helmets for cyclists age 16 and under.
Birding enthusiasts will find a large variety of species at Big Shoals, including herons and egrets, wood ducks, red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks, woodpeckers, barred owls, ruby-throated hummingbirds, warblers, vireos, wrens, swallows and thrashers. Wild turkeys are usually plentiful and wading birds make regular visits. Bald eagles, northern mockingbirds, scarlet tanagers, the rufous-sided towhee, and indigo buntings also have been counted.
The Suwannee River's average current of 2 to 3 miles per hour and white sandy beaches have made the Shoals a popular spot for canoeing and kayaking. A canoe launch is located at the Big Shoals entrance. Canoeists should be aware that the shoals can be dangerous in both low and high water conditions. A portage area is provided on the left bank of the river traveling downstream. Canoe liveries are available in the area.
The upper reaches of the Suwannee River provide great water for kayaking year-round, but water levels determine whether the shoals can be safely passed over or whether kayakers and canoeists should portage around the shoals. When the water level is between 59 and 61 feet above mean sea level, Big Shoals earns a Class III White Water classification for kayaking. At 70 feet above mean sea level flatwater conditions prevail. When the water is below 51 feet above mean sea level, exposed rocks make the river around the shoals relatively impossible to navigate. Suwannee River Water Management maintains a daily record of river levels.
The Suwannee River offers excellent opportunities for freshwater fishing. Large mouth bass, black crappie, several types of sunfish and bream, and channel catfish are plentiful.
All fishing within the park must conform to regulations concerning size, number, method of capture and season. A fishing license may be required. More information is available at the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Fishing in Florida.
Explore the park in a new and challenging way. Experienced Geocachers have requested permission to hide caches containing trinkets, treasures, or information in various places around the park. Please check the Geocaching website for the most current and up-to-date information and clues to locate these caches.
Big Shoals offers 33 miles of trails for use by visitors. Hike along the Florida National Scenic Trail along the river bluffs for unique vistas of the Suwannee River that are uncommon in Florida’s otherwise flat terrain. The topography ranges from flat expanses to steep slopes and ravines. Fifteen distinct natural communities are contained within the land preserve, from highland hammocks and sloping forests to pine flatwoods and the nearly primeval forest of the baygall. Ferns, palmettos, swamps, and the springtime beauty of wild azaleas in bloom are part of the scenery. Still in the development stage, the Woodpecker Trail will be a winding, four-mile paved route from the Little Shoals to Big Shoals entrance. These trails are maintained by Florida Trail Association volunteers.
Take a morning hike or canoe trip and then enjoy a peaceful picnic at either Big Shoals or Little Shoals. Wooden picnic tables and grills are located off of Godwin Bridge Road at the Big Shoals entrance. A covered pavilion, accessible by the Little Shoals entrance, also contains picnic tables. Trash cans and restrooms are provided at both locations.
Wading birds, gopher tortoise, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and timber rattlers are among the more populous species found at Big Shoals Public Lands. Marked trails offer many opportunities for viewing wildlife at both the Big Shoals and Little Shoals entrances. Maps are available at the kiosk at the Little Shoals entrance.
Limited hunting is permitted inside the Wildlife Management Area for archery, muzzle loading, small game and turkey seasons. Contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (386) 758-0525 for additional information. Hunting is prohibited in recreational use areas.
Horse Equestrian Trail
Ride on marked trails with friends, or join a ride sponsored by the Santa Fe Trail Riders. Proof of a negative Coggins test is required.
Canoe Kayak Launch
A canoe launch is located at the Big Shoals entrance.
Well-behaved dogs are welcome at Big Shoals State Park. They must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times.
The Picnic Pavilion is located at the Little Shoals entrance near the restroom and can seat up to 40 people.