As the population of Florida and south Georgia continues to grow, one waterway faces an uncertain future. Straddling the two states is the historic Suwannee River. Immortalized in the Stephen Foster song "Old Folks at Home." The Suwannee River is the true Florida. No condos, no high-rise apartments, no theme parks, just a natural wonder that flows over 200 miles with little interference from man.
"This is the most beautiful river I've ever been on. It's very peaceful when you come here, spend a day here, camp here, fish here. It just really renews you, it gives you a better balance again," says Marsha Lee.
Coming down from south Georgia and making it's way through north Florida the Suwannee River is fed by more than 100 springs as it makes it's way down to the Gulf of Mexico. For residents along the Suwannee River is an economic necessity. Recreation and eco-tourism bring needed dollars to the region. The biggest draw on the river, the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, sees over 450,000 visitors a year.
"We did the calculations on the economic impact for a study we did a couple of years ago. It's in the tens of millions of dollars. One of the largest economic impacts on the community and it's based solely on eco-tourism, we're selling nature here," says James Cornett.
Selling nature is not a hard sale along the Suwannee. The McDaniel's family came all the way from south Florida with their four-legged friends.
"It's really pretty. You can look down at the river and see a lot of people canoeing and everything," Tiffany McDaniel says.
While all looks well with the coffee colored waters of the Suwannee, there are threats. In recent years drought, pollution, and erosion have all made an impact on this waterway, but the biggest challenge may come from a thirsty, growing state.
Down upon the Suwannee will continue Tuesday with a look at a proposal that may draw water from the historic river.