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NOVEMBER 19 - 25, 2023

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The Withlacoochee River

Once a refuge for Seminole Indians during the Second Seminole War, the river emerges from the Green Swamp in west central Florida and twists and bends through scenic sandhills before entering a swampy terrain. For such an extensive river, there is minimal development. The river flows south to north with banks lined predominantly with lush cypress floodplain swamp. The intermittent lakes are rich in wildlife, offering excellent fishing opportunities and scenic vistas. Overhanging limbs form a shady, lacy canopy.

The Upper Section is characterized by relatively high banks and excellent wildlife viewing. It is a site on the Great Florida Birding Trail. The river is considerably narrower than the Middle and Lower Sections, with most of it lined with oaks and cypress and occasional stands of pine. The banks are less swampy than the rest of the river and there are a number of homes along this section. When the water is low, there are places where portages and pullovers are necessary.

The Middle Section is characterized by undefined banks and dense cypress swamp. Due to the confluence of the Little Withlacoochee River, the river becomes much wider and straighter. Homes are few and far between, and wildlife is abundant. The river is continually changing shape between wide, open lake sections and narrow, winding sections. There are few places to stop for rest breaks. There are a few fish camps that allow camping, and one public camping area at Shell Island with a couple of primitive campsites.

The Lower Section is reminiscent of the Upper Section, with defined banks and less cypress swamp. A number of sand bars suitable for camping occur along this stretch, depending on water levels. The popular crystal-clear Rainbow River feeds into the Withlacoochee about a half mile before the end of the designated trail. Spring-fed Gum Slough is also a tributary of the lower Withlacoochee and offers a delightful paddling experience.