The Suwannee at White Springs crested Wednesday with an unofficial stage of 85.23, the third highest flood at White Springs exceeded only by 1973 (88.56) and 1984 (85.36). Record-keeping at this gage started in 1906. The 32′ rise in two days appears to be the fastest by far in the record, beating a 20′ rise in 2 days in 1996. Early morning on the 26th the river was rising 2.4 feet per hour. White Springs should fall below flood stage late next week. — via Suwannee River Water Management District
Tropical storm Debbie did not pass very quickly. During her several days of stay over North Florida, she dumped a considerable amount of water in the flood plains of the Suwannee. I was told that a flooding Suwannee at White Springs was a sight to see, so I went. The first sight of the Suwannee was from over the bridge on Highway 41. A ramp leads to the bank to launch boats. We were at the top of the ramp.
Highway 41 leads us to our destination, White Springs. The spring house is a landmark in this town. When the Suwannee is in normal levels and the sulphur spring runs full, the spring house acts like a community swimming pool. I have visited it once a year for the last three years during the Florida Folk Festival and have always found it dry. There is barely a sight of a spring; barely a trickle of spring water feeding the Suwannee.
We drove into Stephen Foster State Park and parked by the Ann Thomas Gazebo. This Gazebo is an overlook into the river. During the hot days of the Florida Folk Festival, this is where we come to catch some breeze and listen to un-amplified music. We could barely get to the edge of the Gazebo to take a picture. Water flowed around at a decent pace. Only a month back, we were listening to Ron and Mary play songs of Florida at this Gazebo. Today, it was completely under water. Very few sights are this surreal.
Next to the Gazebo is a path that leads to the canoe launch. Historically, the ramp descends to the bank of the Suwannee. The last three times I have visited, there has been a visible beach at the bank. I would frequently dip my legs into the tannic waters to relax and disconnect before going back into the Festival. At flood stage, we could barely get to the ramp.
During this year’s Folk Festival, the water was the lowest I have ever seen. Much of the sand-bar was exposed. We could freely walk to the other bank. The canoe launch is somewhere to the right of the picture, not even seen in this frame. Only the tops of the trees in this picture are visible today till the water recedes.
We then drove up to Big Shoals State park to see how the river looked there. We did not make it very far before the water level cut off the trail. The high level of the river had rendered the shoals unapproachable on foot.
I always saw the Suwannee to be a small river, mostly a stream wherever I encountered it. It is humbling to see the Suwannee display such drastic changes so quickly.