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Joe Kidd at Hilly Mill Falls.

Joe Kidd at Hilly Mill Falls.

Joe Kidd is 74 this year, and one of the senior members of the Paddle Georgia

Navy. He is appropriately named for at 74, he still acts like a kid.

Jacory O’Neal is 12 this year and experienced Paddle Georgia for this first time. A student at Atlanta’s Woodland Middle School, he participated on youth scholarship and was part of a team of 11 other students led by Alicia Evans and Joey Giunta.

I am 47 this year and grew up on the Chattahoochee—a river lover born of the infamous Ramblin’ Raft Race and summer weekends spent playing in its shoals and jumping from its cliffs.

Joe Cook at Hilly Mill Falls

Joe Cook at Hilly Mill Falls

We are three generations on the Chattahoochee. Kidd learned to swim at the base of Hilly Mill Falls (one of our most memorable stops during this year’s journey) and grew up fishing the Chattahoochee in Coweta and Heard counties…until in the mid-1950s when it became so polluted no one wanted to visit it.

That polluted, sewage-filled river was the one I remember from my youth in the 1970s. While we rafted the river and jumped from the rocks upstream of Atlanta’s largest sewage plants, we knew not to venture downstream of Peachtree Creek. We called that river the “Chattamanasty.”

Jacory was born just four years after Chattahoochee Riverkeeper settled its

Jacory O'Neal shoots the Chattahoochee's rapids.

Jacory O’Neal shoots the Chattahoochee’s rapids.

Clean Water Act lawsuit against the city of Atlanta in 1998, forcing the city toinvest billions to clean up its sewage.

When all three of us ventured on to this river last week, 99 percent of the City of Atlanta’s illegal sewage discharges into the river had been eliminated, and Jacory’s first trip on the Chattahoochee showed off not just the beauty of the Palisades so familiar in my youth, but the resilient beauty of the river downstream of the city’s big sewage plants.

We camped at a reclaimed industrial site on the banks of the river just three miles downstream from Atlanta’s R.M. Clayton Wastewater Treatment Plant, what was once one of the most notorious sewage plants in the Southeast. The campsite, Riverview Landing, will soon become a residential/retail development…at a place where three decades ago you had to hold your nose to tolerate the river.

The dinner line at Riverview Landing. A reclaimed industrial site, our campsite for two nights during Paddle Georgia will soon become a residential/retail development with a riverside park.

The dinner line at Riverview Landing. A reclaimed industrial site, our campsite for two nights during Paddle Georgia will soon become a residential/retail development with a riverside park.

We paddled past the site of the soon-to-be established Moore’s Bridge Park in Carroll County, stopped at the new Chattahoochee Bend State Park in Coweta County and enjoyed the trip’s highlight—Hilly Mill Falls—in Heard County. That river that Joe Kidd once loved, then left–because it had an odor problem–welcomed him home again.

The destruction and then restoration of the Chattahoochee’s recreational waters in the course of one man’s life is astounding—and a testament to what can be accomplished when communities start caring for their rivers.

Perhaps when Jacory reflects on his youth and the Chattahoochee, he will remember it not as the “Chattamanasty” but simply as the “Chattahoochee”—a place that lives up to its lyrical Creek name which translates to “flowered rock.”

Revival of a Resource

Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) far left and members of the Chattahoochee Bend State Park staff welcomed Paddle Georgia with ice cold drinks and watermelon.

Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan), seated on left, and members of the Chattahoochee Bend State Park staff welcomed Paddle Georgia with ice cold drinks and watermelon.

Continuing on the theme of a river revived…at Chattahoochee Bend State Park, the Friends of the Bend and Rep. Lynn Smith (R-Newnan) welcomed us to the state’s newest park with cold drinks and watermelon. Rep. Smith told me that during the early 1990s as Coweta County inventoried its “resources,” community planners wrote off the Chattahoochee as too polluted to be considered an “asset.” Two decades later, the park opened, representing a significant investment by the county and state to develop the same resource they’d once dismissed. Clean water makes a difference.

Golf Balls & Trash

Kavin Toole inspects a box containing 1,160 golf balls the night after a golf ball collection contest. All were pulled from the river bottom in north Fulton County.

Kavin Toole inspects a box containing 1,160 golf balls the night after a golf ball collection contest.

On the second day of the journey when we encouraged participants to scour the river bottom for golf balls (there’s lots of golf courses in North Fulton), we never imagined the dividends it would pay. At the end of the day, 1,160 balls were recovered from a 15-mile section of river. Charlie White and Marco Newman won the contest, collecting 137; a close second were Ramsey Cook and Jessa Goldman with 136. Paddle Georgia participant Larry Castillo, who deals in used golf balls, shipped the balls to a recycling facility and sent a check to Georgia River Network for $82…the going rate for wholesale used golf balls: 7 cents a ball.

Joey Giunta with a waterlogged Bart Simpson doll.

Joey Giunta with a waterlogged Bart Simpson doll.

Likewise, our trash pick up day was a success. Our volunteers pulled more than 2,500 pounds of debris from a 10-mile run of river. Among the stranger items collected were a three-foot tall Bart Simpson doll, a seat from a camp toilet and a “message in a bottle” dating from the 1970s. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper provided motorized support for the clean up, and local Atlanta TV CBS 46 filed a report on the event which can be viewed by clicking here.

On Diving Rocks & Rope Swings

The Diving Rock in the Palisades Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

The Diving Rock in the Palisades Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

Put 450 people on a river and they will find a way to take a plunge into the water. For many the highlight of the trip was the “Diving Rock,” a historic launching site within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area’s Palisades Unit. This site was the focal point of the annual Ramblin’ Raft Races in the 1970s.

To this day, a jump from the Diving Rock never fails to transport me back to my youth and that heart-pumping, knee-trembling feeling of plunging into the river’s ice-cold water. For a few seconds, at least, I am 16 again.

It should be noted that if not for the efforts of a dedicated group of “river rats” that mobilized public support for saving this place in the 1970s, there would now be a Fulton County sewer line running atop these very rocks. Yes, a small group of motivated citizens can change the course of history, giving today’s youth memories that will last until they are old, gray and no longer able to make that plunge.

Speaking of Gray…

Aggie Calder loading boats at journey's end.

Aggie Calder loading boats at journey’s end.

Paddle Georgia is a multi-generational event. This year, our journey included 81-year-old Carol Voss and his children and grandchildren and Aggie Calder, at 84-years-old the senior member of the Navy. On the last day of the journey, Aggie was seen loading boats on to our tractor trailer with participants half her age.

Then, of course, there were John and Hilda Daiber. Hilda confided in me as we drifted downstream together: “We live in an old folks home.” Six months prior to the journey, John suffered a fall, broke his hip and underwent hip replacement surgery. Two months after the surgery, he registered he and Hilda for a return journey on the Chattahoochee (they participated in the original Paddle Georgia in 2005). A dedicated physical therapy regimen got John ready, and his physician told him: “Go for it.”

John & Hilda Daiber

John & Hilda Daiber

They paddled all seven days, suffering three “out-of-boat experiences” in the shoals on the last day of the paddle. Safety boaters from the Georgia Canoe Association and other Paddle Georgia participants helped them right their well-used Grumman aluminum canoe, and they left with smiles on their faces.

Finally, there is Doug Matthews, a retiree from the University of Georgia, who brought his granddaughter, Eleanor Matthews. On a long bus ride to Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Doug regaled me with stories of cross-country bicycle adventures. After Paddle Georgia, he was headed for Washington state to begin a two-wheel journey back to Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

I can only hope that when I’m receiving the AARP magazine, I’ll have the fortitude of a John Daiber, the good health of Aggie Calder and the boldness of Doug Matthews to keep going and doing. These individuals are truly inspirational.

Leaving a Legacy

April Ingle mans her post at the Chattahoochee Bend State Park launch site.

April Ingle mans her post at the Chattahoochee Bend State Park launch site.

I first met April Ingle at a slide show in Athens, Georgia in 2004. She’d just been hired by Georgia River Network (GRN)—then a two-person shop trying to establish itself as a mover and shaker in Georgia’s river protection community.

That night the topic of a Bicycle-Ride-Across-Georgia-style trip on Georgia rivers was discussed, and April and Dana Skelton latched on to the idea. In a move no less bold and brash than John Daiber’s Paddle Georgia registration two month’s after major hip surgery, April and Dana said, “Lets Do This!”

And, thus, with initial—and substantial—support from Ronny Just at Georgia Power Company, Paddle Georgia was born (Dana gets credit for creating the name).

That first year, we thought we’d have a success if we could entice 100 people on the river for seven days; 350 people signed up. Our first journey on the Chattahoochee was a comedy of errors, undertaken by April, Dana and me, along with two volunteers loaned from Patagonia’s Atlanta store. We looked to Mark Twain for reassurance: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”

April celebrates with sweep boat Keith Parsons at Riverside Park in Franklin.

April celebrates with sweep boat Keith Parsons at Riverside Park in Franklin.

Ten years and 1000 miles later, more than 3200 people have participated, exploring 12 different Georgia rivers and raising more than $250,000 for river protection.

When April and Dana bought into to Paddle Georgia, their colleagues told them they were crazy and advised against it. Now, river groups across the country are copying Paddle Georgia.

But, April is bold individual. And, that’s why she’s now leaving GRN to strike out on her own, hoping to use her skills to help other non-profit organizations and businesses become more successful.

Her 11 years at GRN reflect so much of what makes Paddle Georgia special, for each individual that puts paddle to water is taking a bold step. Whether it’s Alan Crawford, a paraplegic participating in his fourth Paddle Georgia, or Marsha Keating, the mother of two autistic children seeking a river respite on her first Paddle Georgia, we are all doing something others might consider daunting, foolish, frivolous, ill-advised or impossible.

At the very least, we’re creating some lasting memories; at best, we’re changing the course of our lives and hopefully, in the process changing the future of our rivers.

This year, we saw a polluted river revived by the actions of citizens and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, we witnessed personal stories of perseverance and determination and we said good bye to a bold visionary who started all this with simple words: “Lets do this!” It was an inspirational year on the river.

The German writer Goethe was right, boldness does have genius, power and magic in it.

Thanks to all our participants, volunteers and sponsors who created another great time on a beautiful Georgia river. See you next June 20-26 on the Ogeechee River!

And a Few Parting Shots…

Kudos to Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park, the City of Newnan and the Newnan High School Environmental Club for throwing one heck of a block party in downtown Newnan, including canoe tug-o-wars in the Cedar Creek Park & Outdoor Center pool, live music, great food and a film festival. Special thanks to Greg HydeDean Jackson and Lindsey Key for making it all happen!

Newnan Party 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia Water Coalition honored a number of legislators during Paddle Georgia’s encampment at Riverview Landing. Colleen Kiernan of the Georgia Sierra Club (pictured above with Sen. Vincent Forte (D-Atlanta) and Jennette Gayer with Environment Georgia led the program, giving participants a chance to mingle with legislators in an intimate setting. Other legislators joined in on the paddle, traveling 10 miles from Riverview Landing to Campbellton Road. Among those joining us were U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn and Georgia Department of Natural Resources Director Mark Williams.

Georgia Water Coalition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent Payne with the Georgia Canoe Association organized dozens of safety boat volunteers to ensure that all paddlers made it through rapids and other obstacles safely. These volunteers spent long hours stationed at critical locations and rescued more than a few paddlers who had “out-of-boat” experiences. Thanks Vincent and GCA for making this another safe Paddle Georgia!

Vincent Payne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although our arms and shoulders are a bit achy, our skin sun-kissed and crispy, and hands calloused and blistered, paddlers were sad that the last day of our journey on the Chattahoochee River had arrived.fam c

holeThe 15 mile journey today seemed like a breeze after 95 miles of paddling under 6 27 14 muskratour belts over the past 6 days.

Tunnel like tributaries could be seen every so often peeking through the vegetation draped river banks. We caught a muskrat enjoying its breakfast with such intensity that he didn’t even see us sneaking up to him. It’s whiskers and naked tail disappeared without a trace once we were practically upon it. It must have been a delicious meal!jump

The youth group had no trouble sharing their favorite parts of Paddle Georgia ranging from skipping rocks, the thrill of the shoals and rapids, water b (2)to learning how to paddle, seeing owls and other wildlife, and working very hard.waterfall fun

The most beautiful and definitely everyone’s favorite stop of the day was at Hilly Mill Falls, a majestic 40 ft waterfall cascading down into a cool deep swimming hole below.  It was arapidsn amazing and exhilarating feeling to go behind the water fall and look out from under the stream of water at everyone enjoying the pool beyond.

The rapids gave paddlers a thrilling hiatus from the lazy wide rolling river.fish frystand up

As expected, the end of our journey came too soon. To see the emotions pour forth from paddlers as the took their final strokes and drifted into the open arms, high fives, and kisses from loved ones awaiting them brought tears to our eyes.

The bluesy folk sound of the band, Heather Luttrelle and the Possum Den welcomed paddlers to the River’s End Celebration as well as juicy watermelon pfinishrovided by the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and fresh caught fried fish, hush puppies, sweet corn and cole slaw from the Flint Riverkeeper.

This was April Ingle’s last Paddle Georgia as Georgia River Network’s, Executive Director.  kidsJoe Cook gave a sentimental speech explaining their founding of Paddle Georgia together 10 years ago and how April’s unwavering support for going forward with the journey has in turn changed the course of his life and the future of Georgia’s rivers.

We love you April and we will miss you!

Can’t wait for Paddle Georgia 2015 on the Ogeechee River…P1060763

Keep on rollin’ down the river ~

 

 

Gwyneth Moody
Georgia River Network
Community Programs Coordinator

catawba 2Today was our longest paddle at a little over twenty miles. With 5 successful and exuberant days behind us, everyone’s confidence level and enthusiasm in being a part of, and continuing this awe-inspiring journey was soaring high.catawba 1

Evan Newman even convinced his parents that he was fine to continue paddling after breaking his finger the previous evening while horsing around!

Now that’s what I call a kid having a blast on the river…

Joe Kidd caught a Catawba caterpillar that he explained is a favorite food of many fish, as it commonly drops into the river from the leguminous Catawba tree leaves it munches on. The Catawba tree is a popular tree planted along rivers by fisherman looking to use the ‘worm’ as bait.

turtle 3Some of the wildlife seen along the way demonstrated the not so peachy parasitic side of life, including a swing 1leach attached to a baby yellow-bellied slider turtle. Every organism has its own unique role to play in the web of life.

P1050486Another interesting sight was the white egg cases of the Dobsonfly dotting the underside of trees and leaves along the riverbank. These little aquatic insects hatch out and drop into the water as nymphs and are fearsome top invertebrate predators with well-developed jaws. After one to three years they pupate into flying adults, mate, lay eggs and begin the life cycle again.

The sun came out in all its glory and paddlers were quick to leap out of their boats to enjoy the various rope swings along the way.

P1050733Of all the mascots gracing paddler’s boats the most historic was a photo of 19th century Naturalist, William Bartram who Georgia River Network board member, rain 1Dorinda Dallmeyer said she always takes with her on paddling trips.

After getting our dose of sun, refreshing rain showers moved in overhead giving the water a silvery hue speckled with sculptural like water droplets.

P1050889We ended our day on the river at Chattahoochee Bend State Park where we were welcomed with open arms, cold watermelon, and refreshing drinks.

Oh so delicious! P1060016

We were also excited and honored to have Georgia House of Representatives Natural Resource Committee Chair, Lynn Smith; Eagle Scout, Harrison Blair, and DNR Parks, Recreation, and Historic Sites Division Director, Becky Kelley show their support and pay us a visit.

After a fun-filled day on the river, a short rejuvenating nap on the bus was just what some people needed to be energized for the ‘No Talent Show’ that took place later in the evening.IMG_8915

P1060025The talent show was a big hit with performances ranging from horse-head hoola-hooping, acapella trio’s, and a recorder virtuoso, to comedy routines and a hilarious, skit celebrating Georgia River Network’s Executive Director, April Ingle and some of her memorably funny moments on Paddle Georgia over the last 10 years.P1060170

P1060258So sad that we have only one more day on the Chattahoochee River! But what amazing memories we will have to take back home with us!

 

 

Keep on rollin’ on the river ~

Gwyneth Moody

 

 

 

 

After the short day on the river yesterday, paddlers were excited to spend a full day today paddling 17 miles on the Chattahoochee through southwest Metro Atlanta and beyond…teachers

The Scholarship Teacher group continued their training with ichthyologist Camm Swift learning how to seine for fish and macro invertebrates. Skills they will take home to their respective schools and teach to their students.

Unfortunately the torrential rains from the previous evening caught some singing bcampers off guard, including the youth group and their tents and contents within were completely soaked. However, you would have never guessed that today – with all of the singing that could be heard down the river.

Dog Creek Reservoir, reached from paddling up a small tributary, was an interesting special tour and a refreshing and relatively cledog aan swimming area for those folks who were wary of taking a dip in the Chattahoochee south of Atlanta.­­

Flowers paiflower bnted the riverbanks  throughout the day’s journey- Swamp Hibiscus, Trumpet Vine, Queen Anne’s Lace – to name a few

Butterflies and dragonflies fluttered from canoe to kayak, looking for a bit of sweet nectar, salts and minerals.

Sheronome lucky paddlers reported seeing beavers and we saw a beautiful Green Heron for the first time obutterflyn the journey.

The sun’s warmth and wide lazy river lulled some to sleep while adrift.

We arrived sooner than anticipated and headed off to our new home at Newnan High school.

Cedar Creek RV & Outdoor Center set up a 17,000 gallon pool on ttug dhe square in downtown Newnan for the famous Canoe Tug-o-War; newnanstreet vendors and non-profits had information booths set up; and a band and DJ entertained the crowd as they boogied down with great enthusiasm.

dancingWhat a fabulous way to end our 5th day on Paddle Georgia!

See y’all tomorrow!

 

keep on rollin’ down the river~

Gwyneth Moody

 

Although we awoke to cool temperatures and overcast skies it was a nice respite Michelle Nunnfrom the hot steamy weather of the last few days.

Today was a particularly special day on Paddle Georgia as it is the one day that we invite professionals and legislators to join us on the paddle and get a taste for the adventure and all our river restoration and protection programs.S

We were delighted and honored to be joined by Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia as well as representatives from watershed coalitions and environmental groups throughout the state.

This was also our ‘Trash Cleanup Day’ led by P1050119Trash Queen Bonny Putney. In the 10.5 mile stretch that we paddled- the shortest day on the water- paddlers collected a whopping 2500 lbs of P1050116trash!

And boy did we find some interesting, hilarious, strange, and scary things. From a larger than life-sized Bart Simpson, a Big Wheel tire, balls of all sports and sizes to crates, tires, old glass bottles and creepy baby dolls. It’s amazing what finds itself in the river.S

P1040056But amongst all the trash, we found wildlife such as an adorable baby soft shell turtle as well as fascinating artifacts such as pottery shards, arrow heads, and milk glass.

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper team was P1050177instrumental in helping gather the large amount of trash overflowing from paddler’s kayaks and canoes with their snazzy motor boat.

Believe it or not, after 4 full days of paddling there were many pouty paddlers, who upon arriving at the take out wished that the day on the river was not over so soon.

Café Campesino’s delicious Ice Mochas and Fresh Fruit Smoothies awaited the sun-kissed paddlers – the perfect waP1050082y to ease into a lazy afternoon in a hammock with a book at Riverside Landing on the banks of the mighty Hooch.P1050185

Although the rain returned with a vengeance in the late afternoon, this didn’t put a damper on dinner and the informative ‘Politics of Water’ evening program.P1050226

It seems to just keep getting better with each passing day.

So glad to share it with everyone!

Keep on rollin’ on the river,

Gwyneth Moody

Today proved to have the most beautiful anP1040376d the most industrial sections thus far on the Chattahoochee river.

We started out below Morgan Falls Dam. The expansive concrete structure towered above our tiny kayaks and canoes holding back millions of gallons of river water with unimaginable power.

Georgia Adopt- A-Stream and the Paddle Georgia teacher scholarship group teamed up together for water quality monitoring training. Each year Adopt-A-Stream and the Environmental Protection Division have tested the water quality at each tributary entering the main stem of the river along the entire route, resulting in a published river cleanliness report card.P1040039

P1040414Twelve teachers received scholarships to attend Paddle Georgia with funds from the Captain Planet Foundation and money raised during the silent auction at Georgia River Network’s annual conference ‘Weekend for Rivers’.

P1040587The birds were particularly abundant during the first half of the days paddle:P1040461 Great Blue Heron’s stalking fish along the shore, Belted Kingfisher with their undulating flight from perch to perch letting paddlers get just close enough to distinguish their handsome Mohawk hairdos and then flying away before a good photo could be snapped.   Mallard ducks were so tameP1040657 that they approached paddlers with an eye for an extra crumb, even with their ducklings bobbing P1040432along behind all in a row. And then there were the critters found clinging to the underside of rocks – crayfish, salamanders and all sorts of monsterish looking macro-invertebrates.

Also don’t forget to check out the Youth Group Blog: http://paddlegeorgiayouth.blogspot.com.

The most popular lunch stop was at the Palisades- a beautiful area on the river with a long rocky beach on one side and high cliffs from the other from which a handful of brave paddlers leapt.P1040631-001

And just when the excitement of cliff jumping started to wear off, we came upon the Water Intake Whitewater Rapids. Although some paddlers decided to play it safe and portage around, many others went for it full steam ahead beaming with a mixture of fear and gusto.

 

The hot temperatures of the day quickly changed as paddlers were drenched from a torrenP1040844tial down pour. The last leg of the paddle changed from the sweet smells and imagery of blooming flowers and majestic cliffs to the caustic smells and sounds of industrial backyards. As if we were paddling into a different world.

Things changed a few miles down the river when we were welcomed with open arms to Riverview Landing and quickly acclimated to our new lodgings and enjoyed evening entertainment and delicious tacos for dinner.P1940344

Everyone camped under the stars with the sounds of whip-poor-wills and Gray Tree Frogs lulling us into dreams about our fabulous day on the river.

 

 

 

 

Keep on rollin’ on the river ~

Gwyneth Moody

AP1030923fter a taste of the week ahead, day 2 of Paddle Georgia 2014 started out with even more excitement than the first!

We set out for the days’ 15 mile adventure on Jones Bridge Shoals with gP1040058uidance from our savvy safety boaters. The chilly water splashed our faces giving everyone a second burst of energy.

Many paddlers took Joe Cook’s challenge of awarding a prize to whoever collected the most golf balls very seriously and could be seen braving the frigid water to collect their bounty of white gold.

The beautiful sunny hot weather felt amazing, and a cool spray-down from the devilish Paddle Georgia Pirates was a welcome reprieve to some and a jolting shock to others.

Paddlers have great pride in their personal canoes and kayaks and outfit their boats not only with fancy piratesseats and fishing rods, but also mascots of all shapes and sizes.  From Godzilla and King Kong to roses and flamingos, nothing is too geeky or posh for Paddle Georgian’s.P1040006

Although we are paddling through metro Atlanta, abundant wildlife could be seen above and below the  water. Red Shouldered Hawks, Mallard Ducks, Pileated woodpeckers, Spottail shiner, Yellow-Bellied Slifish boyder turtles, Crane Fly larvae,  Muskrat, and River Otter are just a few of the critters paddlers reported seeing along the way.P1040087

One of the awe-inspiring aspects of Paddle Georgia is the number of families that participate year after year and who have made this an essential part of their summer vacation. Georgia River Network’ staff have watched kids grow from boisterous bouncy boys and girls into mature young men and women in the 10 years Paddle Georgia  has been in existence.

The day ended with informative and entertaining presentations by Naturalist Drew Lanhan, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Sally Bethea, and yours truly about Georgia Water Trails.P1040133

Looking forward to another  fabulous day on the Hooch tomorrow!

Keep on rollin’ down the river ~

Gwyneth Moody
Community Programs Coordinator,
Georgia River Network

 

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