MADISON, FL – As a child, Rose Knox’s imagination soared as she navigated Madison County Florida’s 600-acre Cherry Lake by canoe. These early explorations began a fascination with the outdoors and canoeing that carried over into adulthood. Knox, an educator and freelance writer, has now spent decades exploring the historic Suwannee River and area waterways. In 2012 Knox’s book Canoeing and Camping on the Historic Suwannee River: A Paddler's Guide was published by the Florida Historical Society. Knox co-authored the historical, photographic guidebook with professional river guide Graham Schorb.
The 356 page work is a practical guide to exploring the Suwannee River for fun or historical value. It chronicles in meticulous detail how paddlers can visit fascinating, significant cultural and historical sites, including pioneer cemeteries and former native Indian villages. Schorb’s “Outdoor Kitchen” chapter even shares some scrumptious outdoor cooking and suggested camping locations along the magnificent river. The book re-lives the Suwannee River’s compelling history while offering practical canoe camping information and informative sectional maps to help paddlers journey the 242 mile long river. It also includes archival photographs, noted Florida artists’ renderings, and wildlife and topography photographs of the Okefenokee Swamp and the Suwannee River Basin.
“I hope people will appreciate the places as they paddle the legendary Suwannee River,” said Knox. “Knowing people lived, laughed, or suffered and died here makes the river literally come to life. When I am paddling, I can almost hear the whistle of a steamship or hear laughter emanating from the ruins of the old resorts. I can imagine escaped plantation slaves, running with the Seminoles. It is a fascinating story and so many of the tales have been lost to time. The story of the Suwannee River is the story of our entire country in some respects.”
During her research and travels down the Suwannee River, from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico, Knox has met many interesting people – historians, archeologists, river people and artists – including noted artist Theodore Morris of Florida's Lost Tribes who contributed some of his work to the manuscript. “Meeting these talented people has brought joy to my life,” said Knox. But one aspect of canoeing that Knox most enjoys is the natural beauty and peacefulness she finds along the way. “The serenity of the natural world is like detoxification from the many stresses of modern life,” said Knox. “All humans need silence. It is truly a balm that soothes the soul.”
Since publishing Canoeing and Camping on the Historic Suwannee River: A Paddler's Guide in 2012, Knox and Schorb have been invited to speak at several gatherings of civic organizations and community groups including the Florida Historical Society meeting in Cocoa, Fla., the National Sierra Club at Suwannee River State Park, the Teacher Honorary Society in Madison, the Brotherhood at the First United Methodist Church in Madison, the Madison Historical Society and Treasures Museum, as well as other local organizations. On January 28 they are scheduled to speak at the Taylor County Library in Perry, Fla. at 5:30 p.m.
Knox and Schorb are currently working on their next compilation which will chronicle the history of the vast Okefenokee Swamp. Knox credits many for encouraging her creativity and love for literature – “Many people have helped me in my journey. Frances Sanders, my fourth grade teacher, had a huge impact on me. She was fascinated with Robert Frost and with song birds. Her joy was contagious. Also, my NFCC professor, the late Joe Akerman; he believed in the guidebook in its very early stages. He said, ‘Rosie, you’ve got something there. That should be published.’ I trusted his ideas because he was a published writer.” Knox also credits her parents for helping her develop an early love of reading and research through weekly visits to the library during her childhood – “They taught me that reading was fun. That impacted me in a huge way, too.”
Now as an instructor at North Florida Community College, Knox hopes to pass on a passion for reading and learning to her students - “Students must know how words can empower them. I try to make learning fun. If people are not having fun while learning, what is the point? I teach students the power of their words, and how reading and knowledge is actually free. All you have to do is to open up a book. Many of the societal problems we face today stem directly from illiteracy and ignorance. Knowledge is Power. I want them to always know that.”
Canoeing and Camping on the Historic Suwannee River: A Paddler's Guide is available at The Old Bookstore in Madison, Fla. or from the Florida Historical Society website www.myfloridahistory.org. For an autographed copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.