The Shoal River is a tributary of the Yellow River and offers fine canoeing. It begins as a small river and does not get much larger despite the number of feeder streams. Campsites are not a problem above US 90 but become less available after crossing the highway. There are some good sandbars between the railroad bridge and the Interstate 10 bridge. It is a small river with a good current.
The canoe guide recommends put-in at the SR 393 bridge. This is close to impossible since the land around the bridge is all posted. It would be possible to carry over the rocks and stay on the highway right of way, but it would be a difficult carry. However, there is a suitable put-in at the Pond Creek bridge on Dorcas Road. This road turns right shortly north of the SR 393 bridge. This put-in still offers almost no safe parking and there is a long carry down a muddy bank to load the canoes. However, it is an interesting trip to canoe Pond Creek to the junction of the Shoal. This will add about two miles to the trip but it worth the effort. The best plan is to load the canoes and leave a vehicle at the take-out. The code manager at Wal-Mart agreed to let the Fellow Travelers leave the remaining vehicles in the parking lot. A taxi ride with City Cab cost $35 to take the drivers from the Wal-Mart parking lot to the Pond Creek bridge, and it was money well spent.
The trip from Pond Creek is easy once the Shoal River is reached. The river is very scenic. Pines and cedars are the predominant trees. Wild turkeys were spotted, as were several other fowl. Sandbars abound, and resting stops should are easily found.
US 90 crosses the river, and there is access at that point. After crossing under the highway bridge sandbars are less frequent. There are some sandbars between the railroad bridge and Interstate 10. The trains and traffic can be heard. Shortly after that, Interstate 10 crosses the river but there is no access there. There is some development after that point to the wayside park at SR 285 south of Crestview. The wayside park with good parking facilities at the take-out but vehicles can not be left overnight.
Beyond the wayside park campsites become scarce. There is one about four miles down on a bluff on the left side of the river. It is marred by trash and is not a sandbar. However, there is ample room for lots of tents. A road access allows locals to drive to check trot lines. There is a climb to carry gear from the canoes to the campsite. The location is noted on the GPS website page.
Although the distance from the campsite to the take-out at Gin Hole Landing (on the Yellow River) is only four miles it is a long four miles due to the number of obstructions. Expect some pull-overs and float unders. There will be several river houses on this stretch.
The confluence of the Yellow River is obvious. Upon reaching the Yellow River take a left and Gin Hole will be less than a half mile downstream. Gin Hole Landing has parking and a good gravel boat ramp but nothing else. To reach it by road travel south on SR 85 just past the wayside park and turn right on a dirt road called Rattlesnake Bluff Road. Follow the washboard road about four miles until a sign for Little Gin Hole appears. Turn right and follow the primitive road to the landing. This landing is on Eglin Air Force Base property and a permit and fee are required to use it.