Coldwater Creek in the Florida panhandle provides for a true gem of a paddling experience. Nestled in the Blackwater River State Forest, this creek offers seclusion, varied scenery, and a unique Northern Florida canoe or kayak experience. Unique in that the water character is clear all the way down to the white sandy bottom. Most rivers in the surrounding areas feature the typical “tea” colored water caused by mineral deposits and surrounding vegetation. Yes, the Coldwater Creek is a natural beauty that won’t soon be forgotten.
Coldwater Creek Location
The combination of the remote location, varying landscape, and rural communities surrounding Coldwater Creek definitely don’t give it a Florida, or even North Florida, feel. You will surely think you are in another state although you’d be hard pressed to put a finger on which one. Situated in the Florida Panhandle, Coldwater Creek is located in Santa Rosa County near the Town of Milton and just west on Route 4 of Munson. It is a just under 3 hours west on I-10 from Tallahassee, FL.
Length and Access PointsAlthough longer, there is a 19 mile section of the Coldwater Creek that is generally paddled. Along this stretch there are five access points that provide 10 different trip options. The mile markers, landmarks and GPS Coordinate for the 5 access points:
- Mile 0: SR 4 Bridge, N:30.8822 W:-86.9582
- Mile 4: Coldwater Recreation Area, N:30.8469 W:-86.9839
- Mile 14: Adventures Unlimited, N:30.7603 W:-86.9954
- Mile 16Old Steel Bridge, N:30.7432 W:-86.9839
- Mile 19: CR 191 Bridge, N:30.7098 W:-86.9727
Coldwater Creek winds from north to south through a variety of natural communities including hammock, flatwoods, sandhill, and scrub. The water is clear with a very faint tea-colored tint to it and flows over a white sand bottom. Brush lines the banks of much of the river except around the various bends that are formed by the white sand and smooth pebble beaches. The downed trees in the river are often in the way but are easy to navigate a canoe or kayak around. The water level does vary but on the low end it is still moving at a swift 2mph. As for the temperature, lets just say this river lives up to its name.
Virtually any of the shorter sections of this river can be done in a day. If you are going to bite off the entire thing you should probably plan it as an overnight paddling trip. There are plenty of elevated beaches where you can set up camp and spend the night.
Around mile 7 to about mile 9 (give or take) you’ll see a lot of signs stating private property and you’ll even seen some residences right on the river. Stay clear of these and rest assured past this stretch you’ll have more freedom to get out and explore.
Keep an eye on the weather, river level, and temperature prior to the trip. As the Coldwater Creek flows from the north, Alabama’s rainfall could affect the level on the river. At high levels I’m not sure if the creek's beaches will be under water or not.