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Suwannee River State Park Offers a Different View of Florida

By Kirby Collins

Live Oak, FL
– Last weekend we stumbled upon the Suwannee River State Park on our way back from Tallahassee and were impressed by its beauty and reminded of the diversity Florida state parks have to offer. The park offers canoe rentals, cabin rentals, a playground, picnic areas and camping, though the camping area is currently closed through late summer.

We walked along the Suwannee River Trail, a short trail as there are five trails in the park, ranging from a quarter mile to 18 miles, looping through surrounding woodlands and provide spectacular views of the rivers. The trail is easy to walk with rolling elevations and foot bridges across the rougher terrain.

View all Suwannee River State Park images

The Suwannee River State Park is located about 13 miles north east of Live Oak and about five miles from I-10, exit 275 on U.S. 90.

About the Suwannee River

The Suwannee River rises in the Okefenokee Swamp, emerging at Fargo, Georgia. The river then runs southwest into Florida, dropping in elevation through limestone layers resulting in Florida’s only whitewater rapids. It then turns west near White Springs, Florida, receiving the waters of the Alapaha and Withlacoochee Rivers, which together drain much of south-central Georgia. This meandering forms the southern border of Hamilton County, Florida. It then bends south near Ellaville, then southeast near Luraville, receives the Santa Fe River from the east just below Branford, then south again to the Gulf of Mexico near the town of Suwannee.

Song Controversy

This river is the subject of the Stephen Foster song “Old Folks at Home”, in which he calls it the Swanee River. Foster had named the Pedee River of South Carolina in his first lyrics. It was called Swanee River because Foster had misspelled the name. Foster never saw the river he made world famous.

As the official state song of Florida, it had become a tradition for the tune to be performed as part of the inauguration ceremony for incoming Florida governors. However, Charlie Crist decided not to include it in his 2007 inauguration ceremonies. In its place, Crist decided upon “The Florida Song,” a composition written by Charles Atkins, a black jazz musician born in Daytona Beach and who now lives in Tallahassee. “Old Folks at Home” is seen by some as showing racism about black Americans for its imitation of Black English Vernacular (the song is sung from the perspective of a black man), with its original lyrics referring to “darkies” and “a-longin’ for the old plantation. Foster himself supported the North in the American Civil War and sympathized with black Americans. In 1997, former state representative Willy Logan presented an unsuccessful motion to have the song replaced. At many public performances, words like “lordy,” “mama,” “darling,” “brothers” or “dear ones” are often used in place of “darkies.”

The Florida Music Educators Association is working in partnership with Senator Tony Hill and Representative Ed Homan to head up the initiative in which all of Florida ‘s citizens are invited to submit their entries for a new state song. The Florida Music Educators’ Association (FMEA) has created a web site, , which contains rules and submission guidelines.

Originally Published on July 10th, 2007

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