Ultimate Florida Challenge     Registration     SPOT Setup

Circumnavigating Florida In Sea Kayaks, Canoes and Small Boats

The next Ultimate Florida Challenge is Saturday, March 1, 2014.
There is an equipment inspection on Friday, February 28, 2014.
Cost is $1125 for the captain and $1125 for a crew member if any.

Billing starts January 1 at noon.
Registration ends January 31 at noon.
Payment Deadline is January 31 at noon.

WT Event Charity Links

For first time Ultimate Florida Challenge entrants you must complete at least one Everglades Challenge in the years since and including the last Ultimate Florida Challenge before you can enter this event. For example, to enter the UF2014 event you must complete at least one of the following: EC2012, EC2013.

Anyone who has entered and started a previous Ultimate Florida Challenge has met all requirements and my enter any subsequent Ultimate Florida Challenge,

Due to the exteme commitment for this challenge late registration and/or late payments will not be allowed. We recommend that you commit to this race early so you have plenty of time for planning, training, and preparation. Pay early in the payment cycle. You can get a full refund up until January 31 at noon. No refunds after that date and time.

All WaterTribe events are dangerous events as defined by Florida law and common sense. You are responsible for your own safety. You must read and understand The Rules and Warning before you register for this event.

A SPOT with Tracking is required for each boat in any WaterTribe event. You must read and understand The SPOT Setup and Usage Guide before you register for this event. We also strongly recommend that each person have their own PLB in their own lifejacket, but that is not necessary if you don't care about your own life.

This is the toughest small boat challenge you will find anywhere. If you want to test yourself against everything Mother Nature has to throw at you and see what you are really made of you have found the way.

Ultimate Florida Challenge Course

Checkout Florida Paddling Trails for some good paddling information for the entire state.

This race circumnavigates Florida in five stages. The checkpoints are shown above. The first stage starts at Fort Desoto in Tampa Bay, Florida along with the Annual Everglades Challenge. At Key Largo you turn north and head for Sebastian Inlet. From there you go to the boat landing adjacent to Fort Clinch Start Park. Just across Cumberland Sound you will find the mouth of the St. Marys River. Then it's about 90 miles upstream on the St. Marys River to St. George. At St. George you begin the infamous 40-mile portage to the Suwannee River at Fargo. After about 220 miles down river you are back in the Gulf of Mexico - next stop Cedar Key. The final sprint from Cedar Key finishes back at Fort Desoto. It's hard to predict which stage will be the toughest since weather will be a factor, but watch out for the 40-mile portage between the St. Marys River and the Suwannee River - it's a heart breaker.

Although the deadlines allow just a bit more than 29 days to complete the Ultimate Florida Challenge, hard chargers might be able to do this in 15 days or so, but the weather would have to cooperate. A more reasonable target is 20 days give a take a couple of days. Cruisers may take a more leisurely pace and use every minute of the allowed time. Of course, this challenge is so tough that it is possible that nobody can complete it in the allowed time limits - we'll see.

Finishing Stage 1 (EC) earns a shark tooth and an alligator tooth if you take the full Everglades WW.
Finishing Stage 2 earns a shark tooth.
Finishing stage 3 earns a shark tooth.
Finishing stage 4 earns an alligator tooth.
Finishing stage 5 earns a whale tail.

You must do the whole Ultimage Florida Challenge. Individual stages cannot be entered seperately. You are automatically included in the Everglades Challenge.

Note that missing deadlines (grace periods), clearance to leave, and other rules are covered in detail in other pages of this web site.

Important Note: SPOT with tracking feature is required and correct usage guidelines must be followed. If your SPOT breaks during the challenge, you must get a replacement before you leave the next stage point. Chief will have at least one spare available and will help get the new SPOT setup for you. Notify race management ASAP if your SPOT fails.


Note that the WaterTribe Ultimate Florida Challenge runs concurrently with the Everglades Challenge. You should examine the Everglades Challenge information carefully.

Gear Inspection - Friday, February 28, 2014 Is Mandatory.
Race - Saturday, March 1, 2014 to Sunday, March 30, 2014.

The following table shows the schedule for the first stage. This includes inspections, captains meeting, the start and checkpoints that are in common with the Everglades Challenge.

Locations Deadlines Notes

Tampa Bay
Fort Desoto

East Beach
Shelter 13
Gear & Boat Inspection
Friday 10:00-15:00

Captains Meeting
Friday 15:00-17:00
Attendance Is Mandatory
Start Tampa Bay
Fort Desoto

East Beach
in front of Shelter 13
Saturday 05:00-06:30

Last Shuttle
Saturday 06:15

Roll Call
Saturday 06:30-06:45

Saturday 07:00
Start for Ultimate Florida Challenge, Everglades Challenge and Ultra Marathon
CP1 Grande Tours
Placida, FL
Sunday Noon As of EC2008 Challengers must get to CP1 by noon Sunday.
CP2 Outdoor Resorts
Chokoloskee, FL
Wednesday 10:00  
CP3 Yacht Basin
Flamingo, FL
Friday 10:00  
Finish Bay Cove Motel
Key Largo, FL
Award Dinner
Saturday Time TBA

Sunday 07:00

Sunday 10:00
WaterTribe Everglades Challenge Finish Line
AND End of Stage 1 for Ultimate Florida Challenge

The next table shows the schedule for each stage.

Note that the deadlines shown here apply to the Ultimate Challenge. The regular Everglades Challenge participants will have until Sunday at noon to finish.

Stage Start Deadline Days
1 Shark and Alligator Tooth Challenge
Fort Desoto to Key Largo
Everglades Challenge Course
2 Shark Tooth Challenge
Key Largo to Sebastian Inlet State Park
3 Shark Tooth Challenge
Sebastian Inlet State Park to Fort Clinch State Park
4 Alligator Tooth Challenge
Fort Clinch State Park to Cedar Key
5 Whale Tail Sprint
Cedar Key to Fort Desoto


Starting with UF2014 we will include the Florida Panhandle to Cedar Key to Fort Desoto in two of the three Ultimate Florida Options.

  1. Original Ultimate Florida -
    Fort Desoto, Key Largo, Sebastian Inlet, Fort Clinch, Cedar Key, Fort Desoto
  2. Coastal Ultimate Florida -
    Pan Handle, Cedar Key, Fort Desoto, Key Largo, Sebastian Inlet, Fort Clinch
  3. Insane Ultimate Florida -
    Pan Handle, Cedar Key, Fort Desoto, Key Largo, Sebastian Inlet, Fort Clinch, Cedar Key

I am calling the section from the Panhandle to Cedar Key to Fort Desoto the Preamble because Challengers selecting option 2 or 3 can do the preamble at any time between December of the previous year to the days leading up to the start of the Everglades Challenge. Of course, your start date and float plan must be coordinated with me (Chief). All WaterTribe rules apply and you will be tracked.

In all three cases, the section of the race that starts at Fort Desoto must start at the same time as the Everglades Challenge. This means that if you arrive at Fort Desoto a day or two (or even weeks) ahead of the start of the EC, you must wait. If you arrive after the start of the EC but within a two day window, you can just hit the OK button at the Fort Desoto start beach and continue. Anyone arriving beyond the two day limit will have to be cleared to continue.

This is kind of confusing, but WaterTribers can navigate while sleep deprived so I'm sure you will get it. Let's look at a couple of examples.

Example 1: A Challenger has two weeks of Christmas break in December 2013 and decides to do the Coastal Ultimate Florida. He starts the preamble section on December 26 and finishes the preamble at Fort Desoto on January 5. He then waits until March 1 for the start of the EC2014 to continue and finally finishes at Fort Clinch on or about March 22. Yes, he had a long break, but he circumnavigated the coastline of Florida. The times for each section are added together for the overall time.

Example 2: A Challenger decides to do the Coastal Ultimate Florida all as one event. She starts the preamble section on February 19 and finish the preamble at Fort Desoto on February 27. She then waits a couple of days until March 1 for the start of the EC2014 to continue and finally finishes at Fort Clinch on or about March 22. Yes, she had a much shorter break, but it worked for her and she circumnavigated the coastline of Florida. The times for each section are added together for the overall time.

Example 3: A stone cold crazy man decides to do the Insane Ultimate Florida Challenge in one big blast. He too starts the preamble section on February 19 but he finishes the preamble at Fort Desoto on March 2. He missed the start of the EC2014 but he is within the time window so he pushes the OK button at the start beach and continues. He finishes at Cedar Key on March 25. He circumnavigated the coastline of Florida AND completed the river section to complete the loop. The times for each section are added together for the overall time.

Of course doing the Original Ultimate Florida Challenge is still an option and is probably the best choice for most.

This is a test and may or may not be continued in future Ultimate Florida Challenge years. The entrance fee for all three options is the same for UF2014 but it must be paid before you start the Preamble. Exact launching points and checkpoints for the preamble will be announced within the next few months. If you are interested in any of the three options, signup for UF2014. Then contact me by email with your anticipated Preamble start date if you are doing option 2 or 3. Of course you can change your preamble date. This first estimate is just to get things rolling.

Shelter 13 Beach, Fort Desoto, Tampa Bay, Florida

This is where it all starts. If you click on the picture below you will see markers for the launch beach, the campground, long term parking for EC participants, and the boat launch for some class 4 boats. Shelter 13 is the closest shelter to the launch beach. Note that the finish beach location is slightly different because we need 24-hour access for the finish.

Fort Desoto Park

This graphic is changing soon to show the new finish location.

There is an equipment inspection for EC and UF participants at or near shelter 13 on Friday starting at roughly 09:00 and finishing roughly at 17:00. Please get to the inspection area with your boat and all equipment as early as possible so there is plenty of time to get it all done.

Large boats can launch at the regular boat ramp and then sail around to the launch area. Smaller boats can unload in the parking lot and then ferry boats and equipment to the beach. Road access to the beach is not possible as of EC2011.

You must leave your inspected boat on the launch beach overnight. We have two "guards" who will camp out near the boats. IF YOU ARE NOT A GUARD, YOU MAY NOT CAMP ON THE BEACH. ANYONE CAUGHT CAMPING ON OR NEAR THE BEACH WHO IS NOT AN AUTHORIZED GUARD WILL BE DISQUALIFIED AND ESCORTED OUT OF THE PARK.

The "guards" will keep an eye out for major problems, but racoons can still get in your stuff. It is recommended that your hatches and cockpit be secure and that you only load provisions and water in the morning before the launch.

Fort Desoto to Key Largo - Same as Everglades Challenge

The stage 1 route is almost identical to the Everglades Challenge. The only difference is that the deadline for Key Largo is about one day sooner than the Everglades Challenge.

Rather than repeat all the EC info here, just go to that Everglades Challenge section, but note the different deadline for Key Largo.

Key Largo to Sebastian Inlet

Hopefully you saved some energy during the Everglades Challenge section because now it is time to turn north and make your way from Key Largo to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Although there are some "wild" areas in this stage, it is also one of the most populated areas in Florida with more than its share of boat traffic. Be careful and stay alert.

Sebastian Inlet

The Sebastian Inlet Stage Point is located at the small boat ramp on the south side of the south bank of the inlet. There actually is a fairly decent stealth camp area right next to it if you arrive late at night. The lat/lon is 27° 51.025'N and 80° 27.236'W

This stage is roughly 180 nautical miles. Since you have proven yourself by finishing the Everglades Challenge and we want to keep the Ultimate Florida Challenge a true expedition-style adventure, there are no checkpoints between Key Largo and Sebastian Inlet. This lack of checkpoints means that correct usage of your SPOT is even more important. Fortunately, cell phone coverage is good over most of this stage.

To improve your chances of having a race official meet you at Sebastian Inlet make sure your SPOT is in tracking mode.

A race official may or may not meet you at the Stage Point and provide help with resupply if you need it.

A race official may or may not supply a ride to local stores for resupply, maintenance of equipment, laundry, etc. Please note that it could take a few hours for someone to meet with you since we may be spread out over distances of a couple of hundred miles.

A camp site may or may not be available, but there are plenty of places for a stealth camp.

Sebastian Inlet to Fort Clinch

Ready for some more? Just keep heading north and after about 170 nautical miles you'll run into Fort Clinch just before you cross into Georgia. You will paddle thru heavily populated areas and some really nice areas.

Again during this stage there are no checkpoints between Sebastian Inlet and Fort Clinch. You are on your own but your SPOT must stay on in tracking mode.

The location of the landing for this SP is the boat ramp adjacent to Fort Clinch State park on the river side. There is a nice landing close to the ramp on the north side. There is also some decent stealth camping a bit further north. There probably won't be a camp site available at Fort Clinch, but your support crew might reserve a room for you if you need the rest. Fort Clinch is not kayak friendly at this time so you will figure something out. The lat/lon is 30° 41.774'N and 81° 27.606'W or 30.6962° and -81.4601°

If you don't have a support crew at this location, a race official may provide a ride to local stores for resupply, maintenance of equipment, laundry, etc. Please note that it could take a few hours for someone to meet with you since we may be spread out over distances of a couple of hundred miles.

Use your SPOT to check in via an OK Message. If you need a ride or help for resupply, call the race manager or SP Captain.

Fort Clinch to Cedar Key - With Long Portage

This just might be the toughest stage of the whole challenge. Certainly it is the longest consisting of 90 miles upstream on the St. Marys River, a 40-mile portage from St. George to Fargo, 220 miles downstream on the Suwannee River, and a final 20 miles to Cedar Key for a grand total of over 370 miles. Several miles on the rivers can be extremely difficult depending on water levels any given year. If the water is too low, you end up pushing and pulling your boat for mile after mile. If the water is too high, first you are fighting a strong current on the St. Marys. Then you are dealing with white water at Big Shoals and other spots in a loaded boat designed for straight line cruising.

But there is some good news. The upper St. Marys and Suwannee Rivers have some of the most interesting and beautiful campsites you will find anywhere.

Did I mention alligators? Cottonmouths? Rattlers? Pray for cold weather so these critters are slower than normal.

So are you ready for some fun!

This stage does have some checkpoints along the way:

  1. Stage 4, CP1 - Traders Hill on the St. Marys River, 30.7828° and -82.0242°
  2. Stage 4, CP2 - St. George on the St. Marys River, 30.5238° and -82.0190°
  3. Stage 4, CP3 - The Suwannee River at Fargo, GA, 30.6818° and -82.5600°
  4. Stage 4, CP4 - After Big Shoals on the Suwannee River

These checkpoints will NOT have a lock box at the location due to theft during previous challenges. Instead, your SPOT OK Message sent from these locations will confirm arrival. In many cases race officials will be at these checkpoints when you get there, but that is not always going to be true.

Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch State Park is located at the very NE tip of Florida near Fernandina Beach which is north of Jacksonville. The actual checkpoint is at the adjacent boat ramp on the river side.

The Boat Switch Option: Challengers may switch to a diffferent boat at Fort Clinch and then switch back at Cedar Key. In some cases a boat that is perfect for coastal adventures is not the best selection for rivers. It is your decision. Note that you still have to cross Cumberland Sound and there is a roughly 20 miles to do on the west coast of Florida for stage 4. Don't go crazy when selecting a river boat.

Challengers who don't switch boats and those challengers who do switch boats AND meet the following special rules will get the "Original Rules" designator in their record in the official results and record book.

  • You must have your shore crew meet you at the Fort Clinch boat ramp to make the switch. They will meet you again at Cedar Key to switch back to your original boat.
  • You must carry all gear that you need for stage 4 for the entire challenge. The only thing that can be switched is the boat, specific sailing gear and paddles. No equipment other than specific boat gear can be left in the boat you are switching from. All of this will be checked at inspection and at the switch.
  • Any class can switch to any other class. This ability to switch boats is available to anyone.
  • Challengers who plan to switch boats should be in the new Class M.
    Challengers who are not going to switch boats should select the appropriate class as usual.
  • If you are planning to switch boats, you must describe both boats in the boat description section of your registration. For example, beach cat switching to Seda kayak for stage 4.
  • Note the Hobie AIs and TIs may remove all aka, ama, and sail parts instead of switching boats. Then the boat description might say, Hobie AI stripping down for stage 4 AND they should select Class M.
  • If you are switching to a class that has a sail or outriggers, those parts can be delivered at Fort Clinch as well. For example, if you are switching to a class 1 boat, the class 1 downwind sail can be delivered with the boat. If you are switching to a class 3 boat, the sails and outriggers can be delivered. ALL other gear must be carried for the entire race.
  • A race official MUST be present at the Fort Clinch boat ramp before the switch can take place. You may have to wait several hours for the official to arrive. DO NOT MOVE ANYTHING until the race official is there. Instead of getting mad about any delay that might occur, take the time to rest, eat, and recover.
  • Any class may carry a bike for the entire event and use it for the portage section.

The Daniel Boone Option: Because the river levels are extremely low from time to time, it may be necessary for some to drastically change the rules for stage 4 no matter what class they select. They can swap boats whenever and wherever they want in Stage 4. They can portage whenever and wherever they want in stage 4. They can pretty much do whatever they want except hitch a ride. These challengers will get a racoon designator in their challenge results. Daniel Boone was very resourceful during his adventures and you can be too.

The Big Wheenie Option: If the Daniel Boone Option doesn't give you enough leeway, you can flag down a ride and get a transport anywhere along Stage 4. This will get you a 7-day time penalty and the big wheenie designator on your race results. I don't expect to hand out very many of these, but the designator will be a like the cute old-style Oscar Mayer Whienermobile.

St. Marys River to Traders Hill and St. George

Here is a pdf showing the river route from Fort Clinch to Traders Hill and St. George.  Fort Clinch to St. George

You must paddle upstream from Traders Hill to St. George.

You started in Florida but the first checkpoint for this stage is on the Georgia side of the river. Traders Hill is a historical site that has been used by the Indians, the Spanish, the English, and American Colonials. Even Daniel Boone used this site on some of his southern hunting expeditions. Sailors came up this far to get fresh water that was known to stay "fresh" for long periods. Known in the 1700 as Fort Alert, early settlers used the fort as a refuge during the Indian Wars.

Its location at the head of navigation on the St. Marys River made it one of the most important trading centers in the Southeast. In 1854 it became the county seat of Charlton County, and maintained that distinction until 1901 when Folkston, flourishing along the old S.F.W. Railroad from Savannah to Jacksonville, became the new county seat. Traders Hill Park has been developed at the site of the old courthouse.

It continues today as a popular recreation site with a nice boat ramp and a small campground.

There are several miles left to go on the St. Marys before you reach St. George and the take out for the portage to Fargo.

Lat/Lon of Traders Hill Landing is 30.782833° and -082.024167°. This is the canoe landing on the St. Marys river at the Traders Hill checkpoint. IMPORTANT: Go past the dock and the cement boat ramp. Go just past a cypress tree/stump. You will find this nice landing. You can't see this until you pass the cypress tree/stump.

Traders Hill Landing

St. George to Fargo

FOOD AND SHELTER - If you are looking for a hot meal or a place to stay you might want to contact BigOakTree (aka Kyle Hicks) who owns and operates the K&C's Oak Tree Cafe at 13149 Florida Avenue in Saint George. In addition to great food he has a room available with (1) Queen, (1) Full, And (1) Bunk bed... A full bath room with clean towels and wash cloths. Dish TV too. Regular hours are 5:00 am till 2:00 pm Monday thru Saturday and Friday Evening 5:00 till 9:00 pm. If you might arrive late, call him about an arrival time and he will leave the key. His cell is (904)210-8399 and his phone number is (912)843-2319.

I plan to park my van near there while waiting for arrivals.

Finally you get to the 40-mile portage route. Here is a pdf showing the portage.  The Portage

Fargo is five miles north of the Florida/Georgia line. After you finish your long trek from St. George your access point is on the NW side of the river just off of GA Highway 94. There is a paved launch ramp and a sandy area to camp, but camping NOT allowed right at the ramp or near the park office.

Fargo is a small town with a good size convenience store (hours are roughly 6 to 11 most days.) and a couple of country restaurants. It is perhaps 1/2 mile from the canoe landing. Although camping at the landing is not officially allowed, if you arrive late at night and apply a bit of stealth, you can probably take a break. If you walk up to the store for re-supply, be sure to take all valuables with you and leave your boat hidden. Don't be gone too long. It is best to help keep honest people honest.

Lat/Lon of Fargo Landing is 30.683° and -82.5595°.

Fargo to White Springs

The Suwannee River has the only class 3 rapids in Florida called the Big Shoals. Clyde C. Council in his book, Suwannee Country says,

"I do not recommend that you shoot the rapids with a loaded canoe. Unload and with a Life Preserver try your luck if it looks safe. Shoot the right side of the rapids. Don't use a fiberglass canoe. I found half of one down river from the rapids one day."

There is a portage around these rapids. Also, if the water is low you can line your canoe along the left bank. If you decide to run it, you should scout first and watch for trees and roots that can snag your boat or you and create very dangerous situations.

The general layout of Big Shoals from upstream to downstream is as follows:

  • White warning sign
  • Portage takeout on the left bank
  • Upstream riffle
  • 1st drop
  • 2nd drop
  • Downstream riffle
  • Portage put in

What's a riffle? It's a term for ruffled water due to fast current over rocks but no real standing waves. Kind of a warning of what is to come. If the water level is higher, you might not see these riffles.

Note this could have changed since it was last scouted a few years ago.

White Springs is a great place to resupply and maybe get a nice meal. This is a call in checkpoint. You must call in a report from White Springs.

White Springs to Suwannee River State Park

The Suwannee River State Park marks a transition for the river. The upper Suwannee is fairly remote. From here to the mouth there is more boat traffic so be careful. Numerous springs and some great scenery sprinkled between housing development make up for the increased population and boat traffic. You have another 130 miles to the Gulf.

The Lat/Lon of Suwannee River State park Boat Ramp Landing is 30.387667° and 23.26° and -83.169000°.

Suwannee River State Park to Cedar Key

Cedar Key is roughly 20 miles south of the mouth of the Suwannee River on Florida's west coast.

(NOTE: This is the new location as of the UF2010.)
The finish line will be at the Faraway Inn on the beach at the corner of 3rd and G streets in Cedar Key. There is a gazebo immediately in front of the beach that will have the lockbox. This location is much simpler to find and reach especially during low tide than the old location.

This is a very nice motel and you might want to call ahead to get a room once your ETA is known.

The actual Stage Point is on the beach in front of the Faraway Inn. The lat/lon is 29° 8.142'N 83° 2.206'W or 29.1357° and -83.0367°

If you switched boats at Fort Clinch, you must switch back to your original boat at this SP.

You are almost done with the Toughest Small Boat Race in the World. On to the finish!

Cedar Key to Fort Desoto

You made it to the final leg of a very difficult race. I hope you saved just a bit of energy because you'll need it. This is the shortest stage of the race, but it's a sprint --- GO, GO, GO!

You might want to consider the tide when deciding what time to start your sprint.

This is a very exposed coast so be sure to keep a careful eye for storms and currents. When you get closer to Pinellas County the boat traffic will increase significantly. Be careful. Unless the weather is bad, it might be best to stay outside for as long as possible. The inside route through Pinellas is constricted and very busy. If the weather is bad you might not have a choice, but then the boat traffic will probably be less too.

You are almost done with the Toughest Small Boat Race in the World. On to the finish!

The finish is a small sand beach between the Fort Desoto boat ramp and the bridge. The lat/lon is 27° 38.831'N and 82° 42.960'W It is OK to land at one of the boat ramps near the landing beach.