Suwannee River Chamber of Commerce News

You don't need a GPS or cell service to follow the Lock Creek Trail. Just use your cell phone's location service, offline maps apps like Avenza and download this PDF map. More instructions are on the Friends of Refuges website.

Posted on 07 May 2018
Reporter Nancy Moreland wrote an article about her visit to Suwannee which was published in the Orlando Sentinel on May 6 in a special “Explore Florida” section. Read it online.
Posted on 07 May 2018
Travelers on the Dixie Mainline, one of the favorite trails on the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, can now enjoy new bridge murals by Old Town resident Clint Wynns.

Wynns, a 66-year-old former professional chainsaw carver always wanted to paint murals to enhance the Mainline bridges. He hunts in the Refuge every day from archery through regular gun season and is always looking for ways to help out on the land he knows so well. Yet he hesitated because he thought a mural would attract graffiti and didn’t want to waste his time. When Debbie Meeks decorated one of the bridges with an alligator painting last year—and it went unmolested—he decided to try.

Clint says his ideas just come to him. “Hogs and deer because that’s the Refuge. Then there are turtles, a manatee, and an alligator. Someone suggested an otter so I added one.” Clint Wynns uses templates to paint his murals on the Refuge

He cuts templates out of thin luan plywood. This technique shortens the amount of time he spends on the bridge. First he tapes up the inner shape and paints the background. Then he reverses the template by taking down the inner shape and protecting his painted background with the surrounding plywood sheet while painting the animal. Once the whole painting is dry he ties both pieces of the template together which allows him to spray paint the cut line for a dark outline without hand tracing. 

"So many people have stopped while I was working—all classes of people—to tell me how much they appreciate what I’m doing. Kids get out to look and I show them how they can help.” Clint says.

More murals are needed. You can adopt a bridge by calling Larry Woodward, Deputy Refuge Manager, at 352-493-0238.

Posted on 08 Mar 2018
Dixie County generously provided navigational signs to help paddlers find the Mahlon McKinney kayak launch at the Suwannee Community Center and Dale Coleson donated sign posts. David and Debbie Meeks installed 3 so far with more to come.

Posted on 23 Jan 2018
On Friday, January 19 at 4 pm in the Suwannee Community Center Vic Doig, Wildlife Biologist and Fire Management Officer for the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge will talk about using prescribed burning in the Refuge to improve wildlife habitat.

Posted on 09 Jan 2018
One of the Mainline bridges has a new mural. Debbie Meeks fed a few hungry sand gnats while painting this alligator with a red reflector eye. "It was a little intimidating to paint a mural," she said, "but once I got started it was fun."

If you would like to paint a bridge, contact Refuge headquarters, 352-493-0238
Posted on 16 Nov 2017
An intern working for the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges wrote 6 kayak fishing guides for our area including maps, effective bait and techniques. They are available for download on the Friends of the Refuges website, or click on the image below.
Posted on 10 Oct 2017
Meet at the Suwannee Community Center on Wednesday, October 18 at 8:30 a.m. for the annual community cleanup.

Boat, walk or ride your golf cart to help de-litter the roads and waterways around Suwannee. Refuge staff will transport volunteers down the river from Fowlers Bluff, there is room for 16 onboard. Free smoked chicken lunch at noon provided by Jerry Everett of the Waterfront Market.

Contact Debbie Meeks at 352-278-5088. You don’t have to come to the community center at 8:30 if you coordinate with me ahead of time, don’t miss lunch!

Posted on 15 Sep 2017
Suwannee Library Technical Center hosted weekly craft afternoons for children in the community of Suwannee last summer.

Held every Wednesday from mid-June through the end of July, the two-hour events were enjoyed almost as much by the moms and grandmoms as the children themselves. We had a great time with crafts such as making puffy slime, tie-dying t-shirts, rock painting, and cupcake decorating. Our focus was on creativity and invention, in keeping with this year’s nationwide Summer Reading Program “Build a Better World.”

Suwannee Library Technical Center, located at 21340 SE Hwy 349 (adjacent to the Suwannee Fire Department in Glen Dyals Park), is part of the Dixie County Public Library. Each year libraries across the country look for ways to encourage readership among young people through a summer reading program.

Suwannee Library will host three more craft events for children this fall. These will be held on the following Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. - 12 noon: September 16 (craft to be announced); October 28 (Halloween crafts); and October 18 (Holiday crafts and gift making). For more information, please email Jane at [email protected]

Posted on 13 Sep 2017
The Suwannee River Chamber of Commerce awarded two Eck Bass Community Service awards during the board meeting on August 22, which was hosted by Salt Creek Restaurant. Derry O'Quinn was presented the award for 2015 and Owen Prince, Chamber President, received one for 2016. Both were completely surprised, only wondering why their family and friends (those who normally do not attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting) started to show up. The group of 52 people were served salad, fried fish and shrimp with a twice baked potato. Everyone enjoyed the food and fellowship.

Derry O'Quinn's motto is to be involved with and supportive of every community in which he has lived. After moving to Suwannee, he served both as Director and President of our Suwannee Chamber; two terms on the Suwannee Water & Sewer Board; and as an active member of the Suwannee Fireworks almost since its inception. He has worked on all fireworks events, even standing in the road collecting donations after the show. He has also always helped George cook their famous chicken and rice and sides for fundraising and events. Always dependable, willing, and working to help our Suwannee community and citizens.

Owen Prince has been coming to Suwannee for over 30 years. It didn’t take him long to fall in love with Suwannee and in 1998 he bought Bill’s Fish Camp. His work and dedication, often in quiet ways, has made Suwannee a better place to live and play. Through Bill’s Fish Camp and the Chamber he has actively encouraged nature-based tourism in Suwannee. He currently serves as Chamber President, is a member of the Fireworks Committee, and a volunteer representative for the Dixie County Tourism Development Board.

The criteria for the Erick “Eck” Bass award is not big on strict, written rules or guidelines, but is instead big on heart. Erick “Eck” Odlund Bass was born on Odlund’s Island. She was a true Suwannee native and raised her family here. Mrs. Eck served others through her care and concern and gave her time to the Suwannee Water Board as a founding director. Only when her health began to fail did she finally give it up. She had one of the “greenest thumbs” and always had time to listen to others’ problems. She was a wonderful example of a good citizen, mother and friend. The annual award is given by the Chamber to a Suwannee citizen who exemplifies her example.
Posted on 24 Aug 2017

Get the Shellfish Trail map at the Suwannee Library, P.O., Suwannee Market, and marinas.

Posted on 27 Jun 2017
Our community is highlighted in this article on the Florida Backroads Travel website, Suwannee Florida: End of the Road.
Posted on 11 Jun 2017

The new kayak launch at the Suwannee Community Center has been tested and given the thumbs-up by local paddlers Leroy Harmon and Debbie Meeks. Meeks reports that their kayaks were rock solid in the launch. "Beginners will feel confident getting in and out of their boats," Meeks says. "No more sinking in mud to your knees or slipping on wet carpet!"

For those using the launch, the easiest way is to unload your boat on the grassy beach area in front of the launch, use your bow line to pull the boat into the launch while standing on the dock area, board your craft and shove off using your paddle as shown. Be sure to grasp your paddle near where it fits into the notches, not toward the middle which risks breaking your expensive paddle.

During a paddling festival, kayakers can queue up and launch like skiers on a slope by preparing their boats on the grassy area.

Many thanks to the Dixie County Tourist Development Council and the Dixie County Commissioners for this excellent improvement.

Debbie Meeks demonstrates the easy launch.

Leroy Harmon is greeted by his friend Red on the new kayak dock.

Posted on 31 May 2017
We will hold our Reverse Raffle at 7pm on June 24th at Salt Creek Restaurant's Tiki Hut. Our Reverse Raffle is the biggest fundraiser for Suwannee's Annual Independence Day Celebration. Tickets are $100 each, with only 200 sold. The Grand Prize is $5,000, with other cash prizes as well. Lots of fun and a chance to help pay for the fireworks that everyone enjoys.

Our Annual Independence Day Celebration and fireworks will be on Saturday, July 1st. There will be vendors and, of course, the Golf Cart Parade at 4PM. Fireworks at dark.

Last year's golf cart winner, Gaines Alexander and pirates.

If you have any questions about the Reverse Raffle or Independence Day Celebration, please do not hesitate to call me. Chris Parr 352-542-8776

Posted on 24 May 2017
Funded through a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the University of Florida is building a network that will respond to situations involving stranded aquatic animals in the nearby coastal areas that include Levy, Dixie and Taylor counties.

Animal Rescue Stranding Volunteer Training will be conducted throughout the region (see end of article for next training), to prepare volunteers to safely work with injured marine mammals. UF also conducts information sessions about the stranding network, such as the program held at the Suwannee Library Technical Center in early May.

“These animals include dolphins, whales and manatees,” said Dr. Mike Walsh, of UF’s Aquatic Animal Health Program. “The goal for these funds was to provide a dedicated response mechanism throughout the Gulf of Mexico, so UF is one of a number of stranding organizations in the Southeast Gulf region with a presence near the Gulf to be funded.”

He added that to do this work, UF also has a stranding agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service that allows the university’s stranding team to handle and intervene with animals that are in trouble on the coast.

“We are part of a national network — the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program — that covers the U.S. shoreline as well as part of the Caribbean, Alaska and Hawaii,” Walsh said. “This is a first for UF.”

Each of the organizations along the coast of Florida all support each other when there are problems such as individual injury and animal recovery, mass strandings and unusual die-offs of the mammal species, Walsh said. He added that the stranding network’s emphasis is to determine why animals come ashore and covers natural disease processes, toxins that may impact animals that are in the environment naturally that affect the animals as well as humans, and disasters such as oil spills.

The program will work closely with the Cedar Key Dolphin Project, which has studied dolphin populations in the area, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the UF-IFAS.

“It is a response program, but also a research program, and we work like detectives to sort through the issues and find the cause of the problems,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the program is now building partnerships with the Fish and Wildlife Service for support space and will have a biologist housed with the Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key and the Lower Suwannee refuge.

“All of these groups play a key role in starting a new program to help the marine mammals and ultimately us,” Walsh said. “We have hired a stranding biologist, Mackenzie Russell, who is taking the lead on setting up the relationships with the local people that have the eyes on the water and will be our partners.

“The Nature Coast Biological Station and its director, Mike Allen, will play a pivotal role in our efforts, providing logistical support for outreach and facilities to help the program reach its goals and become the benchmark for other organizations,” Walsh said. “We are indebted to Jack Payne and those at UF/IFAS who share our vision for working with these species and their environment with a scientific approach.”

Walsh added that the current focus is on building a volunteer network and on addressing infrastructure needs.

“We will be appealing for local populations to help us as we can’t do this on our own,” he said. “It is a true partnership with the citizens of the counties and the agencies.”

UF Marine Animal Rescue Stranding Volunteer Training will take place, Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 from 3-5pm at the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters (16450 NW 31st Place, Chiefland, FL 32626). RSVPs are required for each person attending the training. Please e-mail Mackenzie Russell at [email protected] to RSVP. Only those over the age of18 are eligible to volunteer at this time.

Posted on 11 May 2017
by Kit Lane

Yes! A new geocache—inside the Suwannee Library Technical Center.

For an experienced geocacher it is easy to spot and I was the FTF! In geocaching lingo that means First to Find, and there is often stiff competition among geocachers to be the first one to sign the log in a new cache.

So, what is geocaching anyway? The easiest way to describe it is to say it is a GPS guided treasure hunt. Many people remember orienteering; geocaching is a high-tech version of orienteering.

A geocache, very basically, is a hidden container with a log and sometimes some small trade items. Caches come in all sizes and shapes, from tiny "nanos" to 5 gallon buckets. They can be found in pretty much any setting you can think of. Some are very easy to find, like the one in Suwannee, while others are placed to be very deliberately "evil!"

Geocachers, or those who seek geocaches, also come in all sizes and shapes, as well as all levels of physical ability, and all ages.

If you only want to stop next to a guardrail for a quick "Park and Grab," or if you want a long, hard hike, you can find options that are suitable for you.

Kit Lane enjoying another favorite
activity around Suwannee

Geocaching has been going on now for 17 years and caches can be found almost everywhere in the world. I have found caches in Cuba, Italy, Mexico, and Peru. The only state where I have yet to find a cache in is Hawaii. Yes, I am planning a trip!

To get started you must sign-up on Once you have an account—free!—you can start looking for nearby caches. Using a hand-held GPS, with the coordinates shown online (provided by the person who placed the cache), you follow them to GZ, ground zero, and start looking. Once you find the cache you must sign a paper log that every cache is required to have, and then, by logging it online on your account at, you will start to build your cache count.

I started geocaching in 2004. It has taken me to some wonderful places that I might not otherwise have discovered. Little parks in out of the way places, for example. Through geocaching I realized that I love volcanos! Who knew? Sunset Crater Volcano in Arizona was fascinating. I toured Yellowstone Park by following the caches (in many National Parks the only types of caches available are Earthcaches or Virtual caches; you can learn about these at the website) from one geological feature to the next. I hiked the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon the same way, following the Virtual caches all the way along.

Check it out! My only warning is this: you may become addicted!

Editor's Note: Keep watching this blog. More geocaches may be announced for Suwannee in the near future.

Posted on 11 May 2017

Suwannee Festivals Island Poker Run
May 6, 2017
11:00 AM till 4:00 PM

Register at Suwannee Marina, Salt Creek Restaurant, Bill’s Fish Camp, Gateway Marina, Waterfront Market, or Suwannee Community Center. Cost is $25.00 per hand played. You may play one or more hands.

You will be given a receipt with the number of hands you are playing written on it. Keep this receipt with you and present it at each stop. You may visit the stops in any order you wish.

Visit each of the stops and pick up a card in a sealed envelope for each hand played. You must keep the envelopes sealed. Any envelope unsealed will be disqualified.

Return to Salt Creek/Marker 29 Deck no later than 4:00 PM to check in. Anyone arriving after 4:00 PM will be disqualified. You will be given instructions on when to open your envelopes and ‘play’ your hands at this time. Prior to opening the envelopes you will be given an opportunity to purchase a ‘wild card’ for $10.00. DO NOT open your envelopes until instructed to do so.

You can have a maximum of eight (8) cards if you purchase a ‘wild card’. You will play your best 5-card poker hand. Wild cards may play as any card. In case of a tie, five (5) cards will be dealt to each player – highest hand wins Cash prizes will be awarded based on the number of entries into the run.

The stops are –

  • Waterfront Market – Located on Canal Street – Visit by canal or land.
  • Tumblebug Island – Located in the East Pass. The boat issuing the cards will be anchored on the East side of the island toward Cedar Key.
  • Little Bradford Island – The Island located in McGriff Channel at the junction with Salt Creek. Go to the Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico, Salt Creek sign in the McGriff Channel and Little Bradford will be on your right.
  • Gateway Marina – Visit by canal or land.
  • Suwannee Marina – Visit by canal or land.
  • Bill’s Fish Camp and Motel – Visit by canal or land.
  • Salt Creek Restaurant Dock – Your last stop. The floating dock at the back of Salt Creek Restaurant. Tie up and go inside for cool drink and to receive your card. This location may also be visited by land. Remember you must be here no later than 4:00 PM and go to the Tiki Bar Deck! Purchase your wild card while you wait for your fellow players to arrive.

Entry form below.

Posted on 10 Apr 2017

The Suwannee River Chamber of Commerce is working diligently to promote the much needed dredging of McGriff Channel. The Chamber is working with government representatives on the local, state, and federal level to push this project. We currently have a lobbyist working on our behalf with all the governmental agencies involved and we are seeing some progress.

To raise funds for these efforts and to promote public support for the dredging of the channel the Chamber is hosting a fishing tournament on May 20, 2017. There will be a dinner and Calcutta on Friday night with the tournament on Saturday. All proceeds will be used to further the efforts to promote the dredging of the channel.

There are two divisions in the tournament. One is the Lady’s Anglers division. Patterned after the previous two Lady Anglers tournament in Suwannee this division is solely for the ladies. Two or more ladies may fish and they may have a male captain if they wish – as with the previous tournaments he cannot fish.

The other division will the Open Division and anyone may fish this division. Ladies may choose to enter either division.

Prizes will be the same for both divisions and will be based upon 50 boats. Should we have less than 50 boats the Chamber reserves the right to reduce the amount of the prizes. Prizes for this tournament total $2,400 cash.

There will be a Captain’s Dinner and Calcutta on Friday night – May 19 – at Salt Creek’s Marker 29 on the deck. All teams will be auctioned off and 50% of the proceeds will be paid out on Saturday to the highest bidders based on biggest bag limits on the percent of those boats fishing inshore and offshore – in both divisions.

All fish weighed in must be legal. All anglers should be aware of size and possession limits. Any legal fish not on the prize list can be weighed as a trash fish.

Entry Forms Below.

Posted on 10 Apr 2017

By Terri Langford
As published in the Dixie County Times on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Last week, residents gathered for a meeting at the Suwannee Community Center in Suwannee with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Ranger, Jason Coates, who is the Engineering Equipment Operator for the Dixie Mainline road. Coates’ message was more of a warning and plea for help in stopping the rampant vandalism or the road may be closed in the future.

The Dixie Mainline is what remains of an old logging road that was used in the 1920’s to 1930’s. It became a private hunting access from 1940 – 1998, but was partially acquired and maintained by the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge (LSNWR) in 1979. In 1998, the road was open to the public and continues to be maintained by the LSNWR.

The LSNWR has acquired land from timber companies and private landowners for the past thirty years. Today, they have 53,000 acres and also manage 2,000 acres of land for other owners. The LSNWR property includes property that borders the Suwannee River and 30 miles of Gulf Coast marsh and islands.

The refuge opens up areas where citizens can enjoy hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, paddling, photography or just a drive to view the wildlife and landscape.

For those who use the Dixie Mainline on a regular basis, it is considered a lifeline between Suwannee and Horseshoe Beach. It’s the difference between traveling 57 miles from Suwannee to Horseshoe via CR 349, US 19 and CR 351 to taking the approximate 24-mile trip via the 8.4 miles of the Mainline.

Besides normal maintenance on the roads, the US Fish & Wildlife (USFW) rangers perform controlled burns, control invasive plants and bring the forest back to its natural state by planting native trees.

Ranger Coates is in charge of not only the 8.4 miles of the Dixie Mainline, but also an additional 185.6 miles of road within the refuge that he maintains. Dixie County has a total of 86 miles of roads, 57 gates and 49 culverts (five on the Mainline) to maintain. Levy County has 108 roads, 57 gates and 65 culverts. All of this takes a great amount of time and money.

The USFW allocates $60,000 per year for the upkeep and maintenance of the Dixie Mainline. That pays for equipment, supplies and labor. In addition to the allocation, an average of $25,000 - $35,000 is spent on repairs due to vandalism. Last year the LSNWR paid out $34,360 of taxpayers’ money, just to clean up and repair damages from vandalism and littering!

The most recent vandalism event, where a gate that was locked was destroyed and a side-mounted mower was damaged, was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” bringing Ranger Coates to set up the meeting to make folks aware of the issues that may one day lead to the road’s closure. It is just a matter of time before those in charge of funding are going to get tired of spending unnecessary money for the repair of items that have been vandalized.

Litter is another big problem on the Mainline. Last year, volunteers picked up a whopping 160 bags of trash, 4,491 aluminum cans and 12 tires. That was just off the main roadway. During the first three months and three days of 2017, 177 bags of trash have been picked up!

Ranger Coates could not have praised the volunteers enough. Their good deeds over the past two years and three months have saved LSNWR money and manpower. Volunteers have donated 2,608 hours of labor at a cost of $31,296. If you would like to join the volunteers, please contact the Refuge office at (352) 493-0238 or you can join the Friends of the Refuge organization,

Safety is the number one priority for the refuge. Safety is why there are signs that are posted before entering the refuge. NO ATV’s, UTV’s or un-tagged or uninsured vehicles are allowed. Yet, drivers of these types of vehicles ignore the signs, travel around the gates or break them.

Upon occasion, the road has to be closed for maintenance, flooding, etc. The road is only closed due to safety reasons, yet there are those that ignore the warnings and enter anyway, again, by going around the gate or destroying it.

County Commissioner Mark Hatch was in attendance and thanked Ranger Coates for his dedication to the people of Dixie County. Hatch added that, “We need to help the ranger with the issues at hand. We must work together in protecting the road and lands around it.”

It seems unfair that the bad choices of a few could ruin access to a beautiful piece of Dixie County. That is why Ranger Coates is asking for everyone’s help. Help him keep the road cleaner, safer and open! Let’s all join in policing the road: report anything you may see that is against the rules and the safety of others. Get tag numbers and report those who are littering and vandalizing. Call the local Sheriff’s Office at (352) 498-1231 or Refuge office at (352) 4930238. Together, we can keep the Dixie Mainline open for all to enjoy.

Posted on 01 Apr 2017

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