History of the Suwannee River

The Suwannee River has been part of Florida’s history since the early days, and was the location of Florida’s first tourist attraction (White Springs) in the 1830s. It also played an important strategic role in the U.S. Civil War with the Battle of Olustee fought near the junction of the Suwannee and
Withlacoochee Rivers.

The Suwannee River is a federally designated wild river. It is the only major waterway in the southeastern United States that is still unspoiled. The Suwannee flows from the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. It winds for almost 266 miles through swamps, high limestone banks, hammocks of hardwood, and salt marshes. It also has fifty-five springs along the way. The river’s limestone outcroppings and a drop in elevation create Florida’s only whitewater rapids at Little Shoals and Big Shoals located several miles upstream from the city of White Springs.

Stephen Foster became America’s first professional songwriter in the 1800s. He wrote more than 200 songs with tunes and lyrics that captured the heart and spirit of the nation.

While writing “Old Folks at Home,” Foster had difficulty finding the right words to complete a verse joining his image of a beautiful river and longings for family and home. According to legend, his brother suggested the Suwannee River after consulting a world atlas. The words fit, and “Way down upon the Swanee River” was on its way to making the Suwannee River famous around the world.

Foster never visited Florida and he never saw the Suwannee River. For those who know the dark waters and white limestone banks of the Suwannee, the song is a fitting tribute to their own sense of home. Since 1935, it has also been Florida’s state song.

The Hal W. Adams Bridge, built in 1947, is an historic suspension bridge on State Road 51 three miles north of Mayo has the inscription “Way Down Upon the Suwannee River” on it.

Exploring the Suwannee River

The area surrounding the Suwannee River Rendezvous has numerous springs.

We offer several canoe and kayak trips. We will shuttle your boat or you can rent one of ours. Our trips are on demand so when you are ready to go, we are ready to go.

The region surrounding the Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort & Campground is rich with Native American heritage. Much of the river is still undeveloped and you can enjoy many opportunities to view wildlife in their natural surroundings. Bring your snorkel and mask. You will want to swim in the famous springs that build the Suwannee River basin.