Ride along as we chase Florida waterfalls so rare and elusive that they don’t even position on Google Maps. Until now, that is . . . .
Backroad Planet readers know Jerry and I are confirmed waterfall-chasers. We have chased hundreds of waterfalls, not only across the United States, but internationally, as well, from La Paz Waterfall Gardens in the tropics of Costa Rica to the powerful Dettifoss in Iceland’s frigid zone. Apparently, our readers share our obsession. Their searches have made 10 Favorite North Georgia Waterfalls Backroad Planet’s most Google-referred article of all-time.
Because these water features are so rare and elusive in our home state, nothing is more gratifying than chasing waterfalls in Florida!
A few months ago, I wrote about some of our early discoveries in the article 3 Natural Waterfalls in Florida. In the interim, we heard rumors about even more little-known waterfalls in our home state, and we were chomping at the bit to hit the Florida backroads again. This time we partnered with Southern Ford Dealers and chose a 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum to carry us on the chase. Who says you can’t ride the backroads in comfort and style?
One of the best adaptability features of the Explorer Platinum is the smooth way it transitions between a third row of seats and a spacious cargo hold, with the simple push of a button.
With the cargo hold packed and stocked, it was time to hit the road for some serious waterfall chasing. Before our quest delivered us home again, we would catch three Florida waterfalls for the first time and revisit an old familiar friend. And I might add, that three of the Florida waterfalls we scouted on this trip are so discreet that they do not even position on Google Maps.
Well, until now . . . .
Table of Contents
- 1 A Word About Florida Waterfalls
- 2 Steinhatchee Falls
- 3 Steinhatchee Falls Gallery
- 4 Steinhatchee Falls Map
- 5 Mill Creek Falls
- 6 High River Level
- 7 Low River Level
- 8 Mill Creek Falls Gallery
- 9 Robinson Branch Falls
- 10 Bell Springs Runoff Gallery
- 11 Robinson Branch Falls Gallery
- 12 Bell Springs and Adjacent Lands Map
- 13 Falling Creek Falls
- 14 Falling Creek Falls Gallery
- 15 Falling Creek Falls Map
- 16 Map It!
- 17 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
- 18 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 19 Pin this Post!
- 20 Waterfall Links
- 21 Ford Links
A Word About Florida Waterfalls
The first waterfall we scouted was actually an afterthought. When we realized our route would be passing near Steinhatchee Falls, we decided to take a brief side trip to check it out. Even though you have to take a dirt road to the falls, it is the only waterfall on our itinerary that is actually searchable on Google Maps. I knew about Steinhatchee, and had viewed photos online, but based on its appearance, I never seriously considered it to be a true waterfall. At the time of our visit, the unseasonal spring rainfall had raised the water level to the point that the falls would have barely qualified as Class I river rapids. Even so, Steinhatchee Falls is recognized as the broadest falls in the state, and I hope to return when the river level is lower to witness its waterfall incarnation in person.
Steinhatchee Falls Gallery
Steinhatchee Falls Map
Due to non-water feature waypoints that had found their way into our itinerary, it would be another 36 hours before we chased the next waterfall. But we were getting well-acquainted with our ride and enjoying the newly-discovered air-conditioned massaging seats.
Mill Creek Falls
Mill Creek Falls is located at the point where the creek flows into the Suwannee River. The falls are on private property, so the best way to view them is from the river.
We rented a canoe early in the morning from the Suwannee Canoe Outpost located inside the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground. In order to see Mill Creek Falls, we would need to traverse the section of river between the music park and the Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch.
We paddled downstream for about an hour to a sharp bend in the river. The falls were situated on the north (right) bank of the river. I had seen photos of Mill Creek Falls online and knew it was a bi-level falls, but due to the high water level our suspicions were confirmed, and we could only see the upper level. Even so, it was still cool to see a waterfall flowing directly into a river, reminiscent of how Jamaica’s Dunn’s River Falls flows into the Caribbean Sea.
High River Level
To provide a view of Mill Creek Falls when the Suwannee River is at a lower level, I reached out to my buddy Curtis Whitwam who has paddled 170 miles on the Suwannee from White Springs, Florida, to the Gulf of Mexico, and he graciously shared an image from his photo archives.
Low River Level
Curtis Whitwam is a videographer who is recording and sharing Florida’s wild places to promote love, respect, and protection of our natural resources. Check out Curtis’s YouTube Channel to view his 18-part Suwannee River Wilderness Trail video series, as well as stunning videos of Florida’s freshwater springs.
Mill Creek Falls Gallery
Soon after we arrived at the Boys Ranch take-out point on the Suwannee, the canoe outpost shuttle driver fetched us and delivered us back to the parking lot at our origin. During the drive, he entertained us with stories about the area and shared the location of yet another rare Florida waterfall on the Alapahoochee River.
Then we hopped in the Explorer for a half-hour drive through oak-canopied backroads so typical of North Florida, to our next destination across the Columbia County line.
Robinson Branch Falls
Although the logistics of chasing Mill Creek Falls on the Suwannee River was more complex, the chase to Robinson Creek Falls was by far the most rewarding. I think the reason may have been the many small surprises in this fairly simple quest.
We accessed the Bell Springs trailhead at the Morrell Drive entrance and discovered a lovely clearing with plenty of parking and an informational kiosk. The first stretch of blue-blazed trail followed the run-off from the adjacent Bell Springs. This is where a series of unexpected water features began.
Because we were scouting Robinson Branch Falls for the first time, we were not sure what to expect. Soon we came upon a small, but sturdy bridge built by a troop of local Boy Scouts. On either side of the bridge were what appeared to be small dams constructed with fallen tree trunks and branches. Although they were not exactly “natural” water features, they were captivating just the same. Continuing down the trail the descent toward the Suwannee River became increasingly steeper, producing a succession of small, but impressive crystal clear cascades in the runoff stream.
Bell Springs Runoff Gallery
We followed the trail to the bluff overlooking the Suwannee River, and continued following the blue blazes to the right. Before long we encountered Robinson Branch and followed it a short distance upstream to the now roaring falls. Even though the elevated water level diminished the drop of the falls, the increased water flow made it impressive all the same, unlike any Florida waterfall we had seen to date.
Robinson Branch Falls Gallery
On our return hike we retraced the runoff from Bell Springs beyond the trail, but due to our tight schedule we were unable to follow it completely to its source. If I am perfectly honest, I have to say that the Bell Springs Tract and the adjacent Robinson Branch Falls could possibly be my favorite postage stamp plot in the state. I could have romped those trails, and played in the runoff stream for days . . . .
Bell Springs and Adjacent Lands Map
You can learn more about this little spot of heaven at the Suwannee River Water Management District Bell Springs page. Surprisingly, the downloadable PDF map on the site does not mark the location nor trail to Robinson Branch Falls. I have added it to the image above. The red X marks the spot!
Falling Creek Falls
Because of our close proximity to Falling Creek Falls and because of the recent rainfall, we decided to swing by even though we had already caught it on a previous trip. The difference in appearance from our first visit was astounding! The image below is the way we remembered it from before.
Falling Creek Falls Gallery
Falling Creek Falls Map
And then, the weekend road trip that had begun a mere 48 hours before, was nearing its end. Our latest outing chasing waterfalls in Florida had exceeded our expectations by miles, and having a tricked-out ride like the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum to carry us along the Florida backroads made the journey even sweeter.
2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
As a former Ford Explorer owner and a current Mercury Mountaineer owner, I confess that I may be a bit biased toward America’s best-selling SUV for 25 straight years.
In addition to the air-conditioned massaging seats and the transitional cargo hold shared earlier, we enjoyed listening to our Bluetooth-connected playlists on the 500-watt Sony premium audio system, the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping system, as well as a host of Platinum features detailed below.
There is no denying that when it comes to driving the backroads with comfort, technology, and style, the 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum is your best bet!
We Would Love to Hear From You
Jerry and I enjoy dialogue with our readers when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and especially the locations of rare and elusive waterfalls. Do you enjoy chasing waterfalls? If so, what is your favorite vehicle for the drive? We would love to hear about your experiences. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!
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