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June 13, 2013

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Cruising the Big Bend

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Page 4

The entry channel can be as shallow as four feet and should be approached with care and attention to the tide, but once inside, the river itself is wide, deep, wild and beautiful for more than 20 miles inland. How much farther upstream you venture depends on your boat's size and your appetite for beautiful southern river scenery.

Twelve miles north of the Suwannee, the little town of Horseshoe Beach lies on Horseshoe Point, an isolated point on a shallow shoreline. Horseshoe Beach Marina remains open with gas and diesel.

Twenty miles farther north, the Steinhatchee River requires a careful approach up a long channel and under a fixed bridge variously measured at 25 and 28 feet, but the reward is six feet of depth to the beautiful and hospitable fishing village of Steinhatchee on the north side of the river. This is one of the least developed areas on the Big Bend, but that is changing.

Marine facilities at River Haven are more or less geared to smaller craft. Sea Hag Marina can handle up to 70 feet as long as the draft doesn't exceed four and a half feet. This marina is full service, has fuel, parts and ship's store; their next door Shelter Cove has rooms for rent.

All the basics are generally available in Steinhatchee and besides dockage, you can anchor along the river.  Fortunately, almost everything you'd need in town is within easy walking distance. On the south side of the river there's the Gulfstream Marina with hotel rooms and a boat ramp next door.

From Deadman Bay at the mouth of the Steinhatchee, it’s a long swing along a shallow and nearly deserted coast as it bends westward toward the Panhandle. The area is beautiful, wild, and nearly uninhabited; there is only the small-boat marina at Keaton Beach midway and no other facilities along the coast for 45 miles.

At the end of that run, however, a beautiful old white lighthouse easily identifies St. Marks, on the St. Marks and Wakulla Rivers, one of the prettiest and most historic towns in the state.

St. Marks is either the end of the Big Bend Coast or the beginning of Florida’s Panhandle, or maybe both.

Let's head there... 


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