The Wacissa River
The Wacissa is perhaps the best day trip available in the North Florida-South Georgia area. It is a clear, spring-fed river with easy canoeing through open areas, canopied channels, and by beautiful springs. There is an easy take-out at Goose Pasture, but everyone should at least once paddle the entire length through the Slave Canal.
Put-in is at Wacissa Spring, just off Florida State Road 59 near the metropolis of Wacissa. The head spring is a heavily-used area and is put-in for canoes, motorboats, and airboats. The area is becoming developed, however, and houses sit where wilderness reigned a few years past. Bird life abounds in the area, and some of the birds commonly seen are osprey, several types of herons, egrets, rails, bitterns, gallinules, ducks, coots, anhingas, vultures, songbirds of many varieties, and occasionally a bald eagle.
There are several clear springs within a mile of the head spring, and some nice detours up spring runs. Some of these are popular swimming holes, and the best one has been somewhat spoiled by the addition of a floating dock.
A couple of miles downstream is Cedar Island. This marks the end of the springs, but the river changes character and becomes a series of narrow channels. The water speeds up a bit, and the river winds through a canopy of trees. Alligators are frequently seen in this area. The water is sufficiently clear to watch the fish.
After a while, the river opens up into a section of wild rice, and the remains of the Wacissa Dam appear. This is a possible stop for a break. After going through the chute, there is a cabin belonging to a Richard Williams. The river again begins to run through trees, and there are some large cypresses and hardwoods.
The river alternates between relatively open areas and canopied areas. Welaunee Creek enters from the left, and there are some houses in the area. Beyond that, the river again becomes wide and open. Goose Pasture, nine miles from the head spring, appears on the left. This is the most popular take-out. There is a campground with porta-johns and tables. At times, this is a crowded area.
After leaving Goose Pasture, it is important to take the extreme right. The river travels through wild rice and then into a wooded area. The water is still very clear. It is sometimes difficult to find the entrance to the Slave Canal, and using a GPS is the most certain way. There once was a steel post marking the entrance, but it has been gone for years.
The Slave Canal is a narrow waterway, and is generally shallow. Sometimes it is necessary to pull canoes over logs, but there is almost always enough water for canoes to float without dragging the bottom. The canal continues through the forest. The banks are low, and there are several places to get out and stretch. Near the end of the canal, the water speeds up and at low water there are very mild shoals. Once this section is completed, the Wacissa flows into the Aucilla. The boat ramp is a few hundred upstream (left) from the confluence of the rivers.
The entire trip can be made in about eight hours without straining.