Join us Friday, June 22 at 2pm for the Paddle Georgia Ducky Derby! Adopt A Duck and win $250. The Duck Derby will take place on the Ocmulgee River during our River’s End Celebration at Amerson Park. The first duck to the finish line wins for their adoptive parent. 
Duck Adoption Prices:
Duckling: 1 duck for $5
Duck Duo: 2 ducks for $10
Duck Trio: 3 ducks for $15
Duck Family: 6 ducks for $25 (5 ducks & 1 for free!)
Team of Ducks: 8 ducks for $35 (7 ducks & 1 free!) 
Flock of Ducks: 12 ducks for $50 (10 ducks & 1 free!)
Adopt your duck here

educators scholarship

Georgia school teachers will have the opportunity to join the country’s largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure and receive environmental education training for free as part of Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2018.

Paddle Georgia’s Educator’s Scholarship Program will provide complimentary registrations valued at $425 to Georgia teachers in grades K-12. The journey begins June 16 on the Yellow River near Stone Mountain and ends June 22, 86 miles downstream on the Ocmulgee River in Macon.

Recipients of the Paddle Georgia Educator Scholarships will paddle for seven days while receiving training in the Project WET environmental education curriculum and Georgia Adopt-A-Stream water monitoring protocol.

“The goal of the program is to have teachers use their experiences on the river and in the workshops to incorporate environmental education in their classrooms,” said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator.

Paddle Georgia is an annual canoe and kayak journey on a different Georgia river each year. In the event’s first 13 years, Georgia River Network has guided more than 4,500 people down 14 Georgia rivers and generated more than $400,000 for river protection. More than 75 Georgia educators have participated in the scholarship program.

Educators must apply using forms on the Paddle Georgia website: www.garivers.org/paddle_georgia. All scholarship applications must be received by April 20. Winners of the scholarships will be announced April 25.

This year’s Paddle Georgia route along the Yellow River features impressive shoals, rock outcroppings and bluffs reminiscent of nearby Stone Mountain and includes two portages around historic mill dams at Milstead and Porterdale that provide access to little-seen portions of the river. The route continues into Jackson Lake where another portage will take paddlers to the Ocmulgee, formed by the Yellow, South and Alcovy rivers. On the Ocmulgee, paddlers will get a first-hand look at a river as it leaves Georgia’s hilly Piedmont region and crosses the fall line into the Coastal Plain. Shoals, rapids, beautiful scenery and even a stop at the legendary Whistle Stop Café in Juliette highlight the journey to Macon.

Daily paddle trips will average about 12 miles, and each night participants will camp at nearby facilities. Teachers will participate in workshops during the week and even create programs for youth and adults participating in the trip.

The trip is suitable for novice paddlers as well as experienced paddlers. Paddlers range in age from 4 to 84, with many families participating.

Sponsors of the event include Hennessy Land Rover, Cedar Creek Park and Outdoor Center, CYA Insurance Agency, Oglethorpe Power, Cary S. Baxter CPA, LLC, R. Terry Pate CPA, China Clay Producers Association, Patagonia and EarthShare Georgia. Partners include American Canoe Association, Café Campesino, Yellow River Water Trail, Ocmulgee River Water Trail, Altamaha Riverkeeper, Georgia Canoeing Association, Georgia Adopt-A-Stream and Project WET.

Georgia River Network is a nonprofit 501c3 organization working to ensure a clean water legacy by engaging and empowering Georgians to protect and restore rivers.

For more information, contact Joe Cook at 706-409-0128 or joecookpg@gmail.com


For two weeks in July and August of 1864, Maj. General George Stoneman and several thousand of his Union cavalry alternately blundered and pillaged their way along the east bank of the Ocmulgee River in Jasper and Jones counties. The ultimate goal of this daring raid behind the Confederate Army defending Atlanta was to rendezvous with other Union cavalry on the west side of the Ocmulgee and destroy railroads leading to Atlanta.


Vincent Payne and Keith Haskell inspect the remains of Lamar Mill. Milling operations at Seven Islands on the Ocmulgee began in 1845. 

Destruction of the railroads would, Union Gen. William T. Sherman believed, cut off vital supplies to the Confederate Army defending Atlanta and force the city’s surrender.

Maj. Gen. Stoneman planned to cross the Ocmulgee on a bridge that presumably spanned the river at Seven Islands, near a mill that was churning out textiles for the Confederacy. But, contrary to intelligence reports, there was no bridge at Seven Islands, only a small ferry. Moving 2,200 men and horses across the river on a ferry boat was simply not practical.

Vexed by the river, Stoneman and his men never made the rendezvous west of the Ocmulgee and the daring raid turned disaster. The Confederates repelled and hunted them down as they desperately tried to reach the safety of the Union lines. Their harrowing tales of escape are the stuff of legend.

154 years later, the Ocmulgee is still a vexing vessel of water, if for different reasons. The Paddle Georgia quandary, like Stoneman’s quandary, is how to move hundreds of intrepid explorers safely through the Ocmulgee’s storied Seven Islands region—a place studded with as many historic sites as shoals and rapids.


A kayaker navigates the Class III Lamar Mill Rapid on the Ocmulgee River. During Paddle Georgia 2018 we will paddle or portage around this thrilling ride. 

This past weekend, I traveled with Kit Carson, Mary McDonnell, Keith Haskell and Vincent Payne to scout the Seven Islands, home to Lamar Mill Rapid. In today’s river vernacular, it is a noted “Class III” obstacle (a level of difficulty prohibited by our Paddle Georgia liability insurers).

Some hundred years ago, in the vernacular of The Engineering Magazine, Lamar Mill was a shoal that if properly dammed would be capable of producing 3,500 horsepower. And harnessed it was. Lamar Flour Mill operated there well into the 1900s.

Still further back in history, entrepreneur C.A. Nutting knew only that this impressive force would certainly turn the spindles in his textile mill, and thus at this beautiful shoal, a thriving industry and community sprouted in 1845.

Some 20 years later that community was destroyed. In November 1864 after setting ablaze Nutting’s mill, the Union army did finally cross the Ocmulgee here at Seven Islands, setting down pontoon bridges and marching across the river in route to Savannah.


Kit Carson shoots through shoals on the Ocmulgee River. The Paddle Georgia 2018 route includes numerous small shoals and rapids on both the Yellow and Ocmulgee rivers. 

This summer, we follow in these historic footsteps and hoof prints. 150 year hence, what might the historians note about an army of 300-plus paddlers embarking on a bold journey down—not across—the Ocmulgee?

Our goal might not be as lofty as preserving a country or ending slavery, but never doubt, our week of fun each summer is about something far greater than a playful water battle on a hot summer day.

By traveling the Yellow and Ocmulgee this summer, we push the cause of those working to establish the Yellow and Ocmulgee River Water Trails. We change the conversation from “horsepower” to “Class III.” We usher in an era when our rivers are cherished not just for their power to turn spindles, grind corn or light our homes, but also for their intrinsic beauty and the recreational opportunities they freely provide us.

Onward soldiers! Now to navigate the shoals surrounding Lamar Mill Rapid safely!

Joe Cook, March 21, 2018


Though we saw no beavers on our daylight adventure on the Ocmulgee signs of their nocturnal activity (and industry) were found everywhere. How long did it take to fell this massive tree? 


In addition to exciting shoals, the Ocmulgee dishes up long stretches of peaceful flatwater, much of it bordering the Oconee National Forest. 


The Yellow River in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties cuts through the same geology that gave rise to Stone Mountain. The river might best be described as Stone Mountain Park on flowing water.

I’ve always had an interest in the Yellow River that runs through Atlanta’s eastern suburbs. My mother’s family comes from Newton County and Covington where the river courses just a couple of miles from the farm on Salem Road where Ann Hull Ramsey each fall picked cotton to earn spending money for the county fair.

Every summer, we still spend a week at Salem Campmeeting in Newton County, a gathering that the Ramsey family has attended each year since its inception in 1828. The campground is there because water is there–a bold spring that ultimately feeds the Yellow River and provided water for drinking and cooking in the days before county water came to the campground.

If there is a river that roots my ancestors to the land, it is the Yellow.

Of course, there are other reasons to recommend our Paddle Georgia 2018 route on the Yellow and Ocmulgee rivers. For one, Paddle Georgia alumnus Tonya Bechtler has rallied local support for the Yellow River Water Trail (YELLOW RIVER WATER TRAIL WEBSITE), and over the course of the last several years has helped develop new access points on the river. Now, outfitters offer boat and tube rentals and cities like Porterdale are embracing river


Chris Thompson runs shoals along the Yellow River. Playful shoals like this will be common on the first two days of Paddle Georgia 2018.

recreation as part of their economic development “toolkit.” Her tireless work is the kind that Georgia River Network hoped to inspire when the organization birthed the idea of Paddle Georgia back in 2005.

Then there is the river itself. On Oct. 15, with Paddle Georgia veteran Chris Thompson as my guide and companion, I got my first taste of the Yellow. It did not disappoint. Stone Mountain Park–with its granite monolith–is nearby. The Yellow might best be described as Stone Mountain Park on flowing water, for the Yellow cuts its path through the same rugged geology that gave rise to the iconic mountain.

Shoals are frequent, and in places like Milstead and Porterdale, Class II-IV rapids are created (we’ll be portaging around the bulk of these biggest obstacles). Those who like exploring small, intimate rivers with playful shoals will feast on the Yellow…not to mention the Ocmulgee further downstream.


A view from atop Milstead Dam in Rockdale County. The Paddle Georgia 2018 route will involve a portage around this dam and the significant shoals downstream.

Of course, where there are shoals on Georgia rivers, our ancestors dammed and harnessed, and the Yellow is no exception. We’ll be forced to trailer boats around historic textile mill dams at Milstead and Porterdale, and on the Ocmulgee we will do the same at Georgia Power Company’s Lloyd Shoals Dam as well as the mill dam at Juliette, made famous in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

Arduous and annoying though they may be, the portages have their perks. They provide access to the shoals between the dams and in the case of Juliette, the portage path goes right by the Whistle Stop Cafe where you can stop in to sample some fried green tomatoes.


The cotton mill overlooking the Yellow River at Porterdale has been converted into living spaces, part of the revitalization of this 20th century textile mill village.

Indeed, like so many of our Paddle Georgia adventures, we will travel not only on a river, but through time–visiting historic sites like Porterdale, where a hulking cotton mill still stands on the banks of the river overlooking the shoals and dam that gave birth to the community. Further south, we’ll pass by the remains of circa 1849 Lamar Mill and the shoals that accompany it on the Ocmulgee, and ultimately finish our journey at Macon’s new Amerson Park, the former site of the Macon waterworks which was abandoned after the historic flood of 1994.

From my first forays into the Yellow, I’d say it’s shaping up to be a fine trip through Georgia’s rugged Piedmont terrain. It will cover an estimated 84 miles of river with our longest day being 15 miles and our shortest a 6-mile river/lake paddle into Jackson, the reservoir created by Lloyd Shoals Dam.


Chris Thompson runs a ledge on the Yellow River. The river in Gwinnett and Rockdale counties alternates between stretches of flat water and small shoals like this one.

Yes, the portages will be troublesome, but the rewards will be great. And, hopefully, by the end of the trip, there will be many others like me who long for the day when old, obsolete dams will be removed, restoring our rivers to a semblance of what existed when our forefathers first encountered them and rightfully saw in them a wild, powerful thing to be harnessed for the advancement of civilization.

When these dams come down, we can then truly experience “time travel,” seeing with new eyes river features that have been buried for decades, and, in some cases, more than a century. I look forward to that. In the meantime, I look forward to another fun adventure June 16-22 on Paddle Georgia 2018. Registration opens in late January/early February.


A massive rock outcropping slopes down hill toward the Yellow River. The geology familiar to so many at Stone Mountain can also been seen along the route of Paddle Georgia 2018.


When not rolling over shoals, the Yellow moves peacefully between wooded banks.


Yet another shoal on the Yellow. For those who like small, intimate rivers with playful shoals, there will be much to like on Paddle Georgia 2018.

Joe Cook

Paddle Georgia Coordinator

Nov. 21, 2017








It’s WATER TRAIL WEDNESDAY! Time for GRN’s Water Trail Tidbit of the Week ~In the state of Georgia, we have 70,150 miles of rivers and streams that wind their way across the state. How many miles have you covered? See a list of the rivers here:http://garivers.org/gwtc/plan-your-adventure/georgia-rivers.html


It’s TIP TOP TUESDAY! Time for GRN’s Tip of the Week ~Are you a beginner kayaker? Check out this link for tips on what to know before you go! https://www.seeker.com/kayaking-for-beginners-what-to-know-before-you-go-1765390893.html


Six Word Story Time! Playing with the popular six word novel idea, we are collecting six word stories about rivers. Post your 6 word story in the comment section on Georgia River Network’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/georgiarivernetwork This Week’s Six Word Story Stream Theme: “Sunrise”


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