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The Upper Econ River is accessible from HWY 50 at the Hidden River Park campground. The upper part is less paddled and is generally accessible when water levels are high. There are usually several takeout points on this section, sometime between 4 and 10. The upper section is about 13 miles and offers diverse habitats and wanders through lots of Cypress swamp. Quite a bit of wildlife can be seen in this section. There are several areas where paddlers can take breaks, as well as areas for camping. The banks of the upper section are usually muddy and damp and the river is mostly covered in the canopy of the forest.
The middle section of the Econ River is accessible from SR419 in Chuliota and ends at the SnowHill bridge 8 miles down stream. This section is less susceptible to water levels, although in extreme low water periods, the river is impossible to navigate unless you like to portage your kayak or canoe. Depending on water heights, there are sometimes maybe 2 takeout areas, but because this section of river is more frequently paddled, the obstructions are often removed or cleared enough to get through. There are several areas to camp and take breaks. The banks are mostly sandy and offer easy access. There is a lot of wildlife along this section of river.
The lower section of the Econ River runs about 11 miles from SnowHill road to SR46. The river twists and turns through the forest and into the St Johns River plains. Quite a bit of the property bordering the river is private property and camping is prohibited without permission from landowners. The lower river is more open then the upper two sections.
The Econ River in general has a descent current. The flow of the river changes greatly with the amount of water. The water levels can change drastically over a few weeks. There are often time obstructions, which require some skill for navigation. There are numerous underwater hazards, so proper floatation devices are recommended! If you follow the flow of the river, it is nearly impossible to get lost, although a GPS device is recommended.
There is a very diverse ecology throughout the three sections of the river. It is common to see deer, pigs, otters, bald eagles, hawks, owls and many alligators. One should not be concerned with the alligators! Although they might seem like man eating reptiles, they never bother the paddlers of the river. In my many years on the river, I have never heard of anyone being harassed by the wildlife on the river.
The river is camper friendly, but please bring everything you will need and take it all back out with you. There are several outfitters on the Spacecoast and in Orlando, which can provide more information. There are also several guides who will host trips and provide shuttle service.
If you enjoy paddling and are going to be in the Central Florida area, this is a must. This is the true Florida, not the Disney type things you see on television. Keep in mind that during summer months, afternoon thunderstorms are a daily risk and appropriate planning should be considered.
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