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Morning on the Ogeechee River.

Morning on the Ogeechee River.

This weekend I returned to the Ogeechee for another look at the river before we embark on Paddle Georgia 2015 in June. I came home enchanted by its beauty and its power. If you are lucky enough to be participating in Paddle Georgia 2015, you are in for a treat.

Veteran Paddle Georgia participants will find it unlike any other river we’ve paddled. First-timers will encounter a wild, primordial, quintessentially Deep South river.

The purpose of the three-day, 95-mile trip with volunteer lead boaters Mike Worley and Cary Baxter was to identify take outs, launch sites and the ever-important pit stops–those oases where weary, bladder-swollen paddlers find a porta-toilet. We also planned to identify locations where deadfall and strainers might block our path (and need judicious trimming with saws and clippers to speed the passage of 200-plus boats).

Mike Worley and Cary Baxter round one of the Ogeechee's bends.

Mike Worley and Cary Baxter round one of the Ogeechee’s bends.

But, since first venturing on this river in 2012, I’ve learned it is not particularly cooperative. River levels for this journey were at least four feet higher than we expect in June. The strainers and deadfall were buried deep beneath us and none forced us from our boats for arduous portages. I think we will not be so lucky in late June.

This weekend the river spilled out of its banks and covered acres of its floodplain where the swollen trunks of cypress, tupelo and water oak cling to the earth futily fighting the power of the water as the flood carved new channels between the river’s oxbows.

“Floodplain” conjures visions of placid water spilling into calm pastures, but the sound of water through the Ogeechee’s riverside forests is violent–not unlike the roar of a Piedmont river’s shoals. Indeed, there’s a difference betweeen the “floodplain” and the “floodway.” When the Ogeechee rises and becomes unbounded by its banks, it is an unstoppable force, knowing only one direction–down gradient to the sea.  On more than one occasion, I stopped battling the current to stay in the channel and simply went with the flow, shooting through the flooded forests on short cuts to the next bend.

Mike Worley navigates one of the Ogeechee's many

Mike Worley navigates one of the Ogeechee’s many “one-lane bridges.” Paddle Georgia’s 95-mile course includes many stretches where single-file paddling is necessary.

That said, even at high water levels, the Ogeechee has many a narrow channel where single file paddling is necessary. Expect plenty of that on our seven-day adventure. The Ogeechee is not the interstate–it’s a two lane country road with one-lane bridges, and paddlers are wise who consider themselves Sunday drivers out to see the sights.

And, despite the high water, this much maligned river (remember, it was the site of the state’s largest fish kill in 2011–the consequences of a toxic discharge from a local textile plant) was alive with people and critters. At Ga. 119, a landing known locally as Steel Bridge, children played in the water while parents sunbathed and fished. Anglers patrolled limb lines from their johnboats, and closer to the coast where the blackwater widens, water skiers, jet skiers and pleasure boaters enjoyed a warm Sunday afternoon. Alas, there was no activity at “Nude Beach” as that particular sandbar was underwater. Nevertheless, on this sunny weekend, the fortunes of the Ogeechee, now the subject of an extenisve water quality study, seemed to be rising along with its floodwater.

Swamp spider lillies attest to the beautiful interplay between land and water along the Ogeechee.

Swamp spider lillies attest to the beautiful interplay between land and water along the Ogeechee.

More than anything, though, the Ogeechee showed off its spring beauty. Swallow-tailed kites soared above the blindingly green leaves of tupelo trees; heavy-bodied, but non-venomous brown water snakes found perches on ever-present and fragrant riverside willows; wild hogs and deer scampered through the wet forests; even one alligator made a brief appearance at the water’s surface.

Unlike other rivers where the boundary between water and land is usually well defined, on this lowland, blackwater river that line is blurred. Cypress knees and swamp lilies are just a couple of the beautiful results of this mingling of the elements in this primeval land.

We’re a little more than a month out from the big adventure, and at this point I cannot tell you where every strainer and deadfall in 95 miles are to be found (though I’ve got a good idea), but I can tell you that beyond every strainer you encounter, you’ll find another bend of the river waiting to enchant you. It’s as if its blackwater has some black magic in it. The Ogeechee is an enchantress.

Don’t worry, we’ve got a plan for her strainers.

Joe Cook

May 4, 2015

And, a couple of final takes from the scouting trip…

Oconee, the scout dog, tired of scouting after three days and 95 miles, but she gives a paws up to the river floodplain.

Oconee, the scout dog, tired of scouting after three days and 95 miles, but she gives a paws up to the river floodplain.

The Ogeechee is an enchanting place where the line between land and water is often blurred.

The Ogeechee is an enchanting place where the line between land and water is often blurred.

PG Youth3We at Georgia River Network are grateful for your past support of our Paddle Georgia Youth Program. Your support has helped us build the river stewards of tomorrow and train teachers in water education.

Through scholarships, the Paddle Georgia Youth Program brings a group of 10-12 underserved youth with their chaperones on the journey. Most of these kids have never been on a river or camped PG Youth2in a tent before. The Youth Program introduces them to the importance of river protection but more importantly to the joys of paddling a river. The experience is transformative!

The Paddle Georgia Educators Scholarship Program brings teachers in grades K-12 on the trip and provides environmental education training which includes Georgia Adopt-A-Stream and Project WET curriculum. The goal is for these educators to take their experiences on the river and the curriculum they learned back to PG Youth1their classrooms. This program is impactful way beyond the river we paddle.

Georgia River Network asks you to make a donation today earmarked for both of these scholarship programs by using the enclosed envelope of by making a gift online at www.gariver.org.  Make sure to designate your gift to the PG Youth/Educator Scholarship.

Thank you!

Dana Skelton

Interim Executive Director

DSC_6091Before you register for Paddle Georgia, here’s a few things I’ve learned about the Ogeechee River that you should know…

Paddle Georgia has never ventured on a river quite like this.

It is blackwater.

It is narrow.

It is strainer choked.

It is flanked in most places by acres and acres of bottomland swamp.

It is fickle: a long, beautiful, easy-paddling run of river will suddenly devolve into a braided maze of narrow channels…that are likely filled with deadfall.

It is, unlike the Altamaha with its football field-sized sandbars, a river with small and sparsely-spaced sandbars.

It is home to alligators: Fulton Love of Love’s Seafood told me the tragic and harrowing tale of his prized labrador being eaten by one of the river’s top predators (from 1980 to 2001 there were only 8 reported alligator attacks on humans in Georgia…none were fatal).

Morning light catches a bank draped in Spanish moss on the Ogeechee River.

Morning light catches a bank draped in Spanish moss on the Ogeechee River.

It is, like all of South Georgia during the summer time, home to perhaps a gazillion-trillion swarming gnats (there have been millions of reported gnat attacks on humans in Georgia…none were fatal, but all were highly annoying).

It is home to the largest reported fish kill in Georgia history. In 2011, some 38,000 fish died. The tragedy was linked to discharges from a local textile mill (more on this later).

And, finally, last summer an angler who got in the Ogeechee contracted necrotizing fasciitis, the flesh-eating bacteria (more on this later, as well).

If, at this point, you are thinking, “Why, in heaven’s name, would I want to spend seven days on this river?” I urge you not to jump to hasty conclusions.

The Ogeechee is, above all else, beautiful, enchanting and primoridal to its core. Wild and black, it will take you back in time–closer to that millennium when the first land dwellers emerged from the wet goo of creation.

Backwater sloughs along the Ogeechee's main channel provide multiple off-river excursions at appropriate water levels.

Backwater sloughs along the Ogeechee’s main channel provide multiple off-river excursions at appropriate water levels.

The river’s blackwater acts like a mirror, reflecting with perfection the swollen trunks of cypress, tupelo and oak. The riverside forests are dressed in Spanish moss. It drapes over the river catching golden light in the morning. The bright green leaves of palmetto carpet the forest floor. Regimented stands of river birch, with their bleached white, flaking bark along the riverbanks, are the ivory to the river’s ebony. And, as you near the coast, spartina, the iconic marsh grass of the Georgia coast, begins waving on the river’s edge.

As paddling paths go, the Ogeechee has a hyper-abundance of beauty.

And it welcomes paddlers, anglers and swimmers…one bend we passed during scouting trips had a sandbar labeled with a bold wood sign: “Nude Beach”

Now, back to fish kills and flesh-eating bacteria.

Cypress trees and sunny skies reflect in the Ogeechee's blackwater.

Cypress trees and sunny skies reflect in the Ogeechee’s blackwater.

This week, I traveled some 40 miles of the river and criss-crossed it visiting campsites, historic sites and downtown Statesboro (where we’ve planned a street party and Canoe Tug-O-War!). And, it seemed everyone I met had something to say about the fish kill.

That event rocked Ogeechee River communites. For all its wildness, the Ogeechee is a people’s river. Everyhwere that the land allows it, there are fish camps, cabins, trailers and homes. When belly-up fish started floating by these backwoods retreats, river users were enraged. Three years after the tragedy, some still say the river has not recovered.

Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, Watershed Outreach Coordinator with Ogeechee Riverkeeper (ORK) who accompanied me on the river, is among those keeping an eye on it and making sure another tragedy doesn’t occur.

Oconee, the river dog, scouts the Ogeechee. O, how she loves to scout rivers for Paddle Georgia, for she could never attend an actual Paddle Georgia trip because...NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED!

Oconee, the river dog, scouts the Ogeechee. O, how she loves to scout rivers for Paddle Georgia, for she could never attend an actual Paddle Georgia trip because…NO DOGS ARE ALLOWED!

It seems unlikely. Thanks to a legal settlement initiated by ORK, the textile plant responsible for causing the fish kill has invested around $3 million in upgrades to its wastewater treatment and portions of another $2.5 million are being spent on a comprehensive river monitoring prorgam.

The state pollution permit under which the plant now must operate is among the most restrictive permits ever issued.

From kayak-eye-level, everything on the river seems as it should, and water testing shows that things are well.

Then last summer, the flesh-eating bacteria scare hit. A Bryan County angler was infected after getting in the water during a fishing trip. Family members told the media that there was “a disease in the Ogeechee River” and the panic quickly spread.

The historic Ogeechee-Savannah Canal, dating to the 1830s, will be one of our stops along our Paddle Georgia route. The historic site includes interpretive exhibits and boardwalks through the riveside forest.

The historic Ogeechee-Savannah Canal, dating to the 1830s, will be one of our stops along our Paddle Georgia route. The historic site includes interpretive exhibits and boardwalks through the riveside forest.

In fact, the “disease” is found everywhere–not in any specific body of water. According to the Centers for Disease Control, necrotizing fasciitis is very rare and can be caused by a number of bacteria, some of which can be present in Georgia rivers. However, having a wound come in contact with one of these bacteria while swimming in a river, very rarely results in the infection.

Says the CDC: “Most people who get necrotizing fasciitis have other health problems that may lower their body’s ability to fight infection. Some of these conditions include diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, or other chronic health conditions that weaken the body’s immune system. If you’re healthy, have a strong immune system, and practice good hygiene and proper wound care, your chances of getting necrotizing fasciitis are extremely low.”

In other words, jumping in the Ogeechee will not result in your skin falling off–either from the flesh-eating bacteria or toxic discharges from a textile plant.

And, perhaps that is one message that Paddle Georgia will send to our state’s citizens this year. Despite recent tragedies, the Ogeechee is still alive, still beautiful and still very much worth exploring…and sliding into for relief from the summer’s heat.

Paddle Georgia priority registration begins Jan. 27. Two open registrations will occur: one on Feb. 10 and another on Feb. 19. Registration will be first-come, first-serve. THERE WILL BE NO LOTTERY. So read the registration instructions carefully at http://www.garivers.org/paddle_georgia/pgregister.html and  plan to be at your computer on those dates. We hope we will see you on the Ogeechee June 20-26.

Joe Cook

Paddle Georgia Coordinator

Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman and Oconee venture down a misty and rain-swollen Ogeechee.

Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman and Oconee venture down a misty and rain-swollen Ogeechee.

When last I set paddle in the Ogeechee River, it was August 2012, the end of a long summer of drought in south Georgia, and we were considering holding Paddle Georgia on its path the following summer.

That day the river flowed at 100 cubic feet per second and the gauge at Rocky Ford read just 2 feet. Not long after launching we concluded that bringing 300-plus people on this narrow, strainer-choked river would invite mutiny. Paddle Georgia 2013 was instead held on the Flint River.

Last week, I returned to the Ogeechee for a second go at scouting this blackwater beauty. Paddle Georgia 2015 is to set a course on this river June 20-26.

With shuttle assistance from Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn, and accompanied by Jesse Demonbreun-Chapman, Ogeechee Riverkeeper Outreach Coordinator, and my dog, Oconee, we set out in a light rain from Rocky Ford bound, we hoped, for Kings Ferry some 90 miles downstream.

The light rain soon turned into a heavy rain. One of the ironies of the Ogeechee is that low water has kept Paddle Georgia away from this river, but every time I have paddled it, the rain has come down in buckets.

The river ran at 3 feet, and by the following morning it would be up to about 4 feet—twice the depth of my original Ogeechee encounter.

The Ogeechee as it flows through Bullock County near Stateboro.

The Ogeechee as it flows through Bulloch County near Stateboro.

On other rivers, a 2-foot change in water levels may not even be perceptible. On the Ogeechee, with its low banks and wide floodplain, a couple of feet equals a transformation. The river spreads into sloughs and over low banks, creating paddle paths where there were previously none.

The strainers were still omnipresent, but passable (with a couple of notable exceptions). We employed “Duck and cover,” limbo” and some tricky paddling to navigate through, under and around many of the obstacles.

And, the river remained as schizophrenic as ever. A wide, open paddle path suddenly devolved into multiple, braided and strainer-choked channels only to give way again to a long, wide straightaway flanked by a high bluff.

And, while the landscape was predominantly wild…we encountered deer, alligators, otters, wild hogs and turkey, where the land permits, fishing camps, cabins and even upscale homes crowded the river’s banks—all built on stilts or otherwise raised above the river’s floodplain.

Cypress trees and knees dominate the banks of the Ogeechee.

Cypress trees and knees dominate the banks of the Ogeechee.

As Jesse and I paddled down river in the rain, we repeatedly heard limbs and trees crashing to the ground in the riverside forests—weak trees weakened further by the weight of the downpour. We took mental note and determined camping on the safety of a sandbar beyond the reach of aging hardwoods might be advisable. But, alas, with the river up, the few sandbars that exist along the Ogeechee were underwater and we set up a sodden camp in the cover of the floodplain forest.

In the middle of the night with Jesse cocooned in his hammock and Oconee and I nestled in our tent, we heard a familiar “crack.” A split-second of terror followed, just enough time to draw my knees to my chest and cover my head with my hands. The crash that followed shook the ground.

When daylight broke, we found the limb from a decades-old oak in a death sprawl between the hammock and tent—20-feet-long and weighing several hundred pounds. The business-end of the log had impaled the ground just 20 feet from Jesse’s head.

Frightening as the night was, I think this is why we go on wild adventures: to be humbled by the power of nature and to be made to feel small in a vast and unknowable wilderness. In a world that so often presents the illusion that we control our destiny, this is a healthy reminder.

An intrepid Oconee explores a precarious perch.

An intrepid Oconee explores a precarious perch.

In its first 10 years, Paddle Georgia has ventured on 12 different Georgia rivers. The Ogeechee is unlike any of those. Notably, it will be the first blackwater river we’ve ventured upon. Its ever-changing channels will leave you befuddled and its primeval landscape dominated by cypress, tupelo and other water-loving trees will leave you enchanted.

It is a place where our emergence from the primordial soup seems not so distant history.

After two days and about 60 miles on the river, the rain chased us to dry land and Oconee and I to the Motel 6 near Richmond Hill. The next day, we explored the Ogeechee via backwoods highways and muddy dirt roads leading to river landings.

The circa-1800s Knight Family cemetery near the Ogeechee River.

The circa-1800s Knight Family cemetery near the Ogeechee River.

We stopped at the Ogeechee Canal—a 16-mile channel engineered in 1830 to connect with the Savannah River and a definite historic stop on next summer’s Paddle Georgia—and we stumbled upon the Knight family cemetery—circa 1800 grave markers surrounded by the vast remains of this year’s cotton crop.

We returned home buoyant and excited for more adventures on the Ogeechee. It had spared our lives and given us just a taste of the stories it has to tell.

Registration for Paddle Georgia 2015 on the Ogeechee begins in later January. Keep your eyes peeled for additional information soon!

Joe Cook Dec. 2, 2014

Paddlers launch from Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat, our campsite for the final two days of Fall Float.

Paddlers launch from Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat, our campsite for the final two days of Fall Float.

One of my favorite stories from my river travels was told to me by Joanne Steele, a resident of the Nacoochee Valley along the Chattahoochee River in North Georgia.

She and her young son Jesse were sitting on the banks of the river, taking in the scene–the flowing water and the Appalachian’s rising peaks in the distance–when her boy observed, “Mom, mountains look like tits.” Joanne, a lover of nature and not one to be fazed by the crude—but very keen—description, simply replied: “Yes, that’s true and the river is like mother’s milk flowing out of the mountains.”

I thought of that story during our four days of Fall Float on the Flint. There are no mountains on the Dougherty Plain of southwest Georgia, but what the region lacks in peaks, it makes up for in founts—they lined the river and called to us. We responded like newborns to our mother’s breast.

Steve Blackburn and his daughter Cate play in Radium Springs.

Steve Blackburn and his daughter Cate play in Radium Springs.

Radium, Wilson Blue Hole, Riverbend, The Wall, Culpepper, The Shaft, Bovine, Hog Parlor—each pushing 68-degree water into the Flint—invited us to jump in and we did.

Harold Harbert, Bob Bourne, Ted Pearson, John Gugino, Steve Blackburn and others that submersed themselves in the cool water on near 90-degree days swore that the waters had restorative powers. Similar claims made Radium Springs, one of Georgia’s Seven Natural Wonders, a thriving resort during the 1920s.

A decidedly modern scene unfolded at the mouth of Radium Springs during Fall Float as Kathy Vaughn, Stacey Dounias and Kim Piper posed for “selfies” in front of a waterproof i-phone, shoulder deep in the clear blue water.

Kathy Vaughn, Stacy Dounias and Kim Piper pose for a "selfie" in Radium Springs.

Kathy Vaughn, Stacy Dounias and Kim Piper pose for a “selfie” in Radium Springs.

The Radium Springs Casino, a meeting place for generations of Albany residents, may be long gone (demolished after being extensively damaged in floods) but the call of the spring’s clear aqua-marine water is timeless.

And, as we learned from Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers, that water is, indeed, the milk of Mother Nature that nourishes and grows southwest Georgia, irrigating some two million acres of crops and making the region Georgia’s bread basket. Unfortunately, those demands on the Flint and the Floridan aquifer have dramatically reduced flows on the Flint and during times of drought leave Radium Springs dry.

Someone asked me during our journey why the Flint had such “squirrelly” currents. It’s true. While other rivers have their share of eddies and waves, the Flint’s flow as it rolls over shoals often seems unpredictable, pocked with whirlpools and unexpected eddies.

Brian Cardin shoots the shoals in downtown Albany.

Brian Cardin shoots the shoals in downtown Albany.

I can only guess this is a product of the limestone that underlays the river. Unlike other rivers that flow over smooth beds of rock, the Flint’s limestone comes in shelves and looks like Swiss cheese. Those irregular surfaces undoubtedly churn the water in erratic directions—a sharp contrast to the peaceful, clear pools of the springs and blue holes and a fitting metaphor for the forces shaping the Flint’s future. That future seems as uncertain as a canoe ride through Hell’s Gate Shoals.

Rogers showed us Flint River flow statistics covering the past 50 years that paint a bleak and frightening picture of a river literally being sucked dry. Can farms survive if water supplies in the area continue downward trends? Can we change the way we use and return water to the Flint to restore its flows?

DSC_1257

Lindsay Boring points out long-leaf pines on the Jones Center property.

Our visit to the Jones Center offered hope. There, Director Lindsay Boring talked of long-leaf pines–the once dominant tree of the region that covered some 90 million acres from North Carolina to Texas. Today, less than four percent of these majestic forests remain. The Jones Center, and many others, are leading the way in restoring this important ecosystem. And as a result, the critters that call the long-leafs home are also returning–namely the red cockaded woodpecker that relies on the trees for nesting cavities. In 1997, the Jones Center documented just one of the birds; by 2007, they had recorded 60 individuals, and they predict that by 2050, the federally endangered bird may be eligible for delisting–a success story not unlike the bald eagle and American alligator–both of which paddlers spotted on our four-day journey.

Saving a river is not much different from saving endangered species. We have the capacity; we just need the commitment.

Jamie Rogers points her keyak into the sunrise as the Paddle Georgia Navy launches from Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat.

Jamie Rogers points her keyak into the sunrise as the Paddle Georgia Navy launches from Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat.

Still, the star of Fall Float on the Flint was the river itself. In 10 years of Paddle Georgia events, covering 1,000-plus miles of Georgia rivers and 70 days on the water, I have never had the opportunity to paddle through and photograph more beautiful light and scenery.

Some of that was a function of the time of year: we found ourselves arriving at the river closer to sunrise when light is most spectacular; and partly it was a function of camping on the river as we did for two nights at Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat.

That said, in any light, the Flint is a spectacularly scenic path. At one bend, sycamore roots break through ancient limestone, inexplicably holding fast to rock shelves overhanging the water. At another turn, a carpet of lush green southern maidenhair ferns blankets a bluff. The next bend holds ancient cypress trees, their knees lining the banks like a brood of children crowding about their mother’s feet.

As scenery goes, the Flint is hard to beat. Put 175 people on it for four days, and you’ve got a recipe for one great time…and so it was.

We expect to return to the Flint again next year for another Fall Float on the Flint. Oct. 9-12. Mark your calendars and plan on floating.

–Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia Coordinator

A few parting shots…

Pat York powers through the Flint's shoals.

Pat York powers through the Flint’s shoals.

Leslie Raymer snaps a shot of a young shoal bass. Georgia Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Brett Albanese, an avid fisherman, said, "It's a cute fish now, but when it gets to be an adult, it's going to drive some men and women crazy." The big, not-so-cute shoal bass skunked Brett in his efforts to catch one without the help of his seine net.

Leslie Raymer snaps a shot of a young shoal bass. Georgia Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist Brett Albanese, an avid fisherman, said, “It’s a cute fish now, but when it gets to be an adult, it’s going to drive some men and women crazy.” The big, not-so-cute shoal bass skunked Brett in his efforts to catch one without the help of his seine net.

With Fall Float taking place in the middle of the school year, the average age of Fall Float paddlers was  considerably higher than the summer verison of Paddle Georgia. That did not, however, keep some of the adults from acting like kids, including Joe Kidd.

With Fall Float taking place in the middle of the school year, the average age of Fall Float paddlers was considerably higher than the summer verison of Paddle Georgia. That did not, however, keep some of the adults from acting like kids, including Joe Kidd.

photoOur last day on Fall Float 2014 had arrived with amazing speed and camaraderie. All 175 paddlers packed up their camp, loaded aboard the Baker county school buses and hit the Flint.

Folks who enjoy fishing were amongst the first to launch, ready to see what their lines would pull in. Shoal Bass were particularly exciting to see, given their threatened status.

The landscape of the 18 mile section that we paddled today had a bit of a different flavor than that of the previous 3 days. Long beautiful, golden sandbars and steep reddish bluffs jutted out of the river, as well as no shortage of farms, pastureland, and plantations.

The wind picked up significantly in the late morning as if the Greek God Aeolus decided we hadn’t had enough of a workout on the last 54 miles of paddling and wanted to make sure we returned home with chiseled muscles to impress our family, friends and coworkers.

Falling leaves swirled and danced above us gracefully before touching the water below and joining other leaves ebbing along with the flow of the rivers current.

Dobsonfly egg cases which resemble bird droppings could be seen on tree trunks and on the tips of leaves, soon to hatch out and fall into the water below to begin their cycle of life. Metamorphosing from ferocious swimming predatory nymphs called Hellgrammites (often used as fish bait), to flying adults, the males of which have 2 inch mandibles.

Other less conspicuous critters that were spotted along the banks include tree frogs, turtles, giant spiders, and the chimney-like burrows of Crawfish. Just to name a few.

The Springs we encountered were small but pristine, and the water seemed to boil forth with more fury than previous blue holes we had seen.

We pulled into our final landing with a sense of accomplishment and a heightened understanding and passion for this mighty river and sensitive ecosystem.

As your head hits the pillow tonight- with a well-earned thump – we hope you reflect on the new friendships, experiences, and knowledge gained from this first Paddle Georgia Fall Float, and we look forward to seeing you on the next Georgia River Network adventure!

Y’all come back now, y ’hear?

Keep on rollin’ down the river ~

Gwyneth Moody

Georgia River Network
Community Programs Coordinator

Most paddlers were up before sunrise this morning – the campground dotted with bobbing headlamps as people prepared for the day ahead.  After a scrumdidaliumptious breakfast of grits, eggs, sausage, biscuits with grape jelly and of course a big cuppa delicious coffee from the friendly folks at Café Campesino, we were ready to hit the river! It was such a convenience to launch directly from our campsite at Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat…   

After a couple of miles we came upon a large sandbar on the edge of the 29,000-acre Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center Outdoor Laboratory where a presentation about the amazing diversity of mussels was being held.  Participants could also walk back into the Long Leaf Pine Forest to learn about this threatened ecosystem, and the endemic and keystone species that live here such as the gopher tortoise.

The Georgia Adopt-A-Stream team were out in force training paddlers to become certified in water quality monitoring taking water samples at every tributary in order to determine the health of the river.

Millions of years ago the Georgia Coastal Plain was covered by the ocean and sea creatures lived, died and were buried by sediment and eventually fossilized, which you can spot embedded in the limestone river banks.

Although the temperatures today were the hottest we’ve experienced yet, reaching the low 90’s – you could tell that this part of the State has already  felt the breath of fall as a few leaves had turned to beautiful hues of red, orange,  and gold.

The last highlight of our journey today was a brief paddle up the majestic Ichawaynochaway Creek. The clarity of the water almost matched the springs we’ve encountered in days past, but had a distinctive reddish tint rather than blue. It was nice to sneak off into the Creek which had an intimate feel as opposed to the wide breadth of the Flint River.

Today’s paddle was a little over 17 miles but seemed to go by much faster than yesterday’s jaunt, leaving time in the afternoon for fun and games back at camp ranging from hoola hooping and corn hole to relaxing in a riverside hammock and getting a rejuvenating massage from Eddie  ‘Magic Hands’ Escobar.

Satterfields provided another sumptuous supper that left everyone feeling satiated, smiley and ready for the evening entertainment of S’mores and river trivia by the campfire.

Rejuvenated after a great day, paddlers are ready for our last day on the fabulous Flint tomorrow!

Keep on rollin’ down the river ~

Gwyneth Moody

Georgia River Network
Community Programs Coordinator

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