Suwannee and Hurricane Hermine

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You have to want to go to Suwannee.  You can’t just pass through the Town on your way from point A to point B.  Suwannee lies at the end of county road 349 (CR349) where it stops at the road is the Gulf of Mexico.  There are no roads going north or south from the town.  To get to Cedar Key to the south or Steinhatchee to the north requires a long trip back up CR349 to state road 19 (SR19) and another equally long drive from SR19 into these towns.  The difficulty of getting to these places and their relative isolation is one of the reasons this area is called the Hidden Coast.  

Hurricane Hermine ravaged this coast, passing by between August 28 and September 6, 2016, finally making Landfall near Pensacola.  All of the Hidden Coast has little elevation to protect it from storms.  There was little wind damage from the storm, but when Hermine passed just off shore on its way north, it built up a heavy storm surge that pushed inland for some distance.  Bill’s Fish Camp, where I stayed, had as much as four feet of water on the land and in its buildings.  This was true throughout the town, in homes and the restaurants where I ate.  But all I could see were telltale stains on outside walls or marks put on inside walls to help residents remember.  Everything had been cleaned, repaired and made ready in just one month: a remarkable feat.  The video below will give you a quick look at the town.

What is the best insurance against a big storm surge?  Put your house on stilts. Building ordinances in the town require that new homes be built twelve feet off the ground - on stilts!  Many older homes have been raised as well, but often by just four feet.  Here’s what that looks like.

I had some time before the paddling started, so I followed a dirt road out to Salt Creek Point where I found a short trail, a board walk and observation and fishing deck overlooking salt creek.  There was plenty of evidence of the storm’s damage, but even here, repairs had been made and everything put back in good shape.  

So, if you find yourself driving along SR19, you have some time, and you see the sign for Suwannee, turn west onto CR349 and drive the thirty miles into an old Florida that mostly goes unnoticed.  Stay at Bill’s Fish Camp; I recommend it.  It is not luxurious, but it is clean, well maintained and inexpensive.  Then have a meal at the Salt Creek Shellfish restaurant while watching the sun set beyond the salt marsh and Gulf of Mexico.  You won’t be disappointed.

 © Don Yackel 2020