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The Suwannee River: Vibrant History and Location

Where is Suwannee River in Florida

Perhaps you are old enough or historically in tune with the old “Swanee” River song (also known as Old Folks at Home) written back in 1851. Maybe you thought the song was fictional so Florida Travel Blog answers the question where is the Suwannee River?

Performed and made famous by Bing Crosby in the early 1950s, the “Swanee” River song brings visions of people relaxing along the banks of a beautiful wandering river. Those visions are not only true but the same experiences can be recreated today!

Where is Suwannee River Located?

The Suwannee River location in Florida, after starting in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia, is a relatively small river with a mind of its own that flows into Florida between Columbia and Hamilton counties as the border between them. Named the Suwannee River, there are few rivers in Florida that have greater name recognition and historical significance.

The Suwannee River trickles into Florida as a “blackwater” river and gains strength as it is fed by smaller tributaries and natural springs until it empties into the Gulf of Mexico a couple hundred miles southwest of its origins.

Suwannee River History

Native Americans made the Suwannee River a division between the northern Florida tribes. The Timucuan on the east and the Creek tribes on the west.

The Suwannee gets its name from the Timucuan word Swani, meaning “echo river”.

During the Civil War, the Suwannee River was a major waterway for moving supplies for the Confederacy. The Union tried to stop the flow of goods without success even at the very end of the war.

In the late 1800s, the Suwannee River had paddle wheel boats taking tourists to the various springs along the river’s basin and selling goods to settlers along the way.

How Long is The Suwannee River

Totally, the Suwannee is 246 miles long from southern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico.

Following the Suwannee, by kayak or car, is a fun way to see some of Florida’s natural magnificence as you travel. The history of the Suwannee River is a significant part of Florida’s history.

The place to start your Suwannee adventure, if you are a kayaker, is the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.  

The state of Florida, private campgrounds and boat launching facilities have cooperated to document places to accommodate kayaks and canoes. See the map of the trail here from the start of the Suwannee River to the end.

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Below are some places to spend a little extra time to enjoy the sights and history of the Suwannee River area.

where is the suwannee river
Manatee Springs is one of the many Suwannee River springs that gives life to the river. This stream flows into the Suwannee.

The Springs on Suwannee River

Now that you know where is Suwannee River in Florida is, you need to know it has over 50 natural springs on the Suwannee River that feed the river along its journey to the Gulf. Many are parks and recreation areas visitors can enjoy. Northwestern Florida has hundreds of springs.

White Springs, FloridaThe Suwannee River runs through White Springs, which was once a bustling tourist attraction because of the now-dry springs that once was believed to have healing powers.

The town has architecture from the 1800s and remnants of a glorious past. History lives here.

White Springs is also the home of the Stephen Foster Folk Cultural Center. Foster was the famous 19th-century songwriter who wrote the lyrics, “Way down upon the “Swanee” River…” among many other familiar tunes.

Little did Foster know so many people wanted to know where is Suwannee River.

Suwannee River State Park – just outside the town of Live Oak in Suwannee County is one of Florida’s most scenic state parks. Great for kayaking, hiking, and watching the “Swanee” River meander through Florida!

Lafayette Blue Springs State Park – this is another gem in Florida’s state park system. Located near Mayo, Florida in Lafayette County. This part of the river was alive with steamboats after the Civil War. Preachers, peddlers and tourists rode together.

history of suwannee river and where is suwannee river troy springs
The history of the Suwannee River includes Troy Springs which has a steamboat sunk in it that was scuddled by the Confederacy to avoid it getting into the Union army’s hands.

Troy Springs State ParkA few miles south of Lafayette Springs is a spectacular 70-foot-deep spring called Troy Springs. This is the presumed location of a Civil War era steamboat named Madison that was scuttled in 1863 which is popular with scuba divers. The Suwannee has several steamboats sunken in the river that divers often explore the remnants.

Fanning Springs State Park – As the Suwannee twists and turns southwestward, it becomes wider as the collection of other river tributaries adds to the flow. Fanning Springs State Park is known for the beautiful bluish-green clear water flowing at a rate of 65 million gallons per day from the spring. For those who like primitive camping and hiking, there is plenty of that available here. For photographers, there are few better places to get some shots of the wildlife and growth around the springs.

Manatee Springs State Park – Here is a perfect place to picnic, canoe, kayak, swim, camp and hike. The Suwannee River is less than a third of a mile down the spring-fed stream going into the river. The campgrounds can accommodate tents to motorhomes. 

For thousands of years, native Americans visited this area due to the abundance of water and wildlife for survival. Fanning Springs is located in the northwest corner of Levy County very close to the borders of both Dixie County and Gilcrest County.

Just 15 miles south is Manatee Springs.

Suwannee river map - where does the suwannee river start and end
The Suwannee River starts in Georgia and ends in the Gulf of Mexico just north a few miles from Cedar Key.

What Are the Notable Towns Along the Suwannee River

The Suwannee River flows through several cities and towns in Florida. Some of the notable cities along the Suwannee River include:

 Live Oak

Located in Suwannee County, Live Oak is a charming city situated along the banks of the Suwannee River. It serves as a gateway to many outdoor recreational activities along the river, including boating, fishing, and camping.


Another city in Suwannee County, Branford is nestled along the Suwannee River and offers access to scenic river views and outdoor adventures. Visitors can explore the nearby Ichetucknee Springs State Park and other natural attractions.

White Springs

Located in Hamilton County, White Springs is known for its historic significance and natural beauty. The city is home to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, which celebrates the life and music of Stephen Foster and offers access to the Suwannee River.


Situated in Dixie County, Suwannee is a small coastal community located at the mouth of the Suwannee River where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. It offers opportunities for fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing along the river and in the nearby coastal marshes.

These are just a few of the cities and towns along the Suwannee River in Florida, each offering its own unique charm and opportunities for outdoor recreation and exploration along this scenic waterway.

Suwannee River 1905
Vintage photo of Suwanee River ferry circa 1905. The Suwannee River was a major mode of transportation before the gasoline engine and roads.

Where Does the Suwannee River Start and End

We know the Suwannee starts as a trickle out of the Okefenokee Swamp near the town of Fargo, Georgia. The river ends abruptly as it flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

Over the 200-plus miles, the Suwannee gains body and strength it becomes more navigable. The river empties into the Gulf of Mexico at an appropriately named fishing village called Suwannee which is about 15 miles north of Cedar Key, Florida.

The area becomes a wide marshland as it wanders into the Gulf. The shallow swampy area is perfect for flats fishing for redfish, snook and trout. The town of Suwannee offers fishermen both inshore and offshore opportunities rivaling only Crystal River some 50 miles south.

Our voyage detailing where is Suwannee River has ended, but not before traipsing along pathways our forefathers used for survival, economic gain and travel. The history of Suwannee river goes well beyond the song.

The Suwannee River is famous worldwide, but few people see the real beauty of the Suwannee River basin unless they follow the river’s banks. From northeast Florida to the middle of the state, astounding beauty and Mother Nature’s best creations come to life along the Suwannee River. 

So, where is Suwannee River? Well, it’s a long and winding adventure in Florida!

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