Look and Tremble Falls - Calhoun County, Florida
Look and Tremble Falls
Created by the Chipola River as it tumbles over its
fall line in Calhoun County, Look and Tremble Falls
are one of the few white water rapids in Florida.
Look and Tremble Falls
The roaring water has drawn
attention for thousands of
years. Ancient American
Indians frequented the falls.
Florida White Water
The falls run best when the
level drops in the Chipola
River. During high water they
all but disappear.
Look and Tremble Falls - Calhoun County, Florida
White Water Rapids in Florida
Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.

Last Updated: December 27, 2013
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Waterfalls & Springs in Florida
The Chipola River
A wholly Florida river, the
Chipola rises just south of the
Alabama line and flows into
the Apalachicola River not far
from its mouth on the Gulf of
Look and Tremble Falls is a Class I/II rapids
in Calhoun County, Florida. One of the few
white water rapids in Florida, it is located just
outside the town of Altha.

Also called Look and Tremble Rapids or
Look and Tremble Shoals, the falls are
formed by the Chipola River as it flows from
the hills of Jackson and northern Calhoun
Counties into the coastal plain. The region is
known for its unique karst topography, which
at Look and Tremble creates a series of rock
ledges across which the river falls.

To look at the rapids today, it is difficult to
believe that paddlewheel riverboats once
churned their way over the falls on their way
upriver to Marianna. In truth, however, people
have been riding vessels over Look and
Tremble since prehistoric times.

The Chipola River was a major resource to
the Chacato (Chatot) Indians who were living
along its upper course when the Spanish
arrived in Florida. They called it the Calistoble
and the Spanish missionary Rodrigo de la
Barreda wrote in 1693 that the Chacato
sailed on it in their canoes.

When American settlers arrived in the region
in 1819-1820, Florida was still a Spanish
colony. Their small farms turned into large
plantations when the U.S. obtained control of
Florida in 1821.

The development of
Apalachicola and St.
Joseph as important port cities on the Gulf of
Mexico led to increased commercial traffic on
the Chipola River.
Samuel C. Bellamy and
others are mentioned in the documentation
as having been engaged in shipping their
cotton down the river on barges and pole

These vessels had no trouble navigating
Look and Tremble when the river was high,
but when water levels were low the ride over
the falls must have been quite an experience.

The first successful navigation of Look and
Tremble by a steamboat took place in 1861,
when the
Jackson made its way up the river
Marianna. The Marianna newspaper
reported that the passage of the
over the rapids and past other obstructions to
navigation on the Chipola led to "great
rejoicing among the people."

Jackson was 100-feet long, but had a
shallow draft of only 1-foot. It went up over the
rapids in January 1861 and returned down
the river the following month.

The outbreak of the Civil War a few months
later brought steamboat traffic on the river to
an end for a time, but it was not long before
the dream of developing the Chipola for river
commerce came back to the surface.

On June 23, 1874, and again on July 13,
1892, the U.S. Congress authorized the
widening and straightening of the Chipola
River. The goal was to produce a channel
60-feet wide and 5-feet deep. The great
barrier to this effort, of course, was Look and

The War Department, which supervised
navigation projects in the country, described
Look and Tremble Shoal in 1945 as being a
place where the river fell 5 feet over a
distance of 40 feet.

After considering what to do, the government
in 1904 went forward with a plan for a
channel to be "blasted through the rock reefs
from Marianna to Look and Tremble Shoal."
The $5,000 project also resulted in the
construction of some "wing dams" below the
falls to hold back more water and make the
channel a bit smoother.

More work took place in 1913 and boats like
Chipola navigated the river over Look and
Tremble and as far upstream as the landing
where Spring Creek flows into the Chipola
just south of Marianna. The project proved a
waste of money, however, as the commerce
generated never made up for the money

By 1922, the Corps of Engineers reported
that only the building of a lock and dam at
Look and Tremble would open the river to
profitable commerce. Congress saw no
value in such a project and the suggested
dam was never built.

Through it all, Look and Tremble Falls
continued to flow. The narrow channel
blasted through the rock by government
engineers can still be seen near the east
bank of the river, but it does little to take away
from the dramatic appearance of the rapids -
especially when water levels are low.

Now part of the state-designed Chipola River
Paddling Trail, Look and Tremble Falls are
popular with canoe and kayak enthusiasts.
Although the rapids flood over during high
water, at normal levels they reach Class I or
easiest status.  Occasionally, when the river
is just right, they turn rough enough to reach
Class II status.

The property surrounding the falls is now
owned by the Northwest Florida Water
Management District and is open to the
public. Picnic tables and a canoe/kayak
launch are available just above the top of the
rapids where Highway 274 crosses the
Chipola River. Camping is available just
downstream at Lamb Eddy Landing.

To reach Look and Tremble from the
intersection of SR 71 and Highway 274 in
downtown Altha, turn west on 274 and drive
4.4 miles to the bridge over the Chipola
River. Cross over the bridge and the access
road and picnic area will be on your left.

To reach the falls, follow the unpaved access
road from the picnic area south until you see
them on your left.
Class I/II Rapids in Florida
The falls flow at Class I or the
weakest level for rapids most
of the time, but at optimum
conditions sometimes reach
Class II status.