Archive for June, 2013

A natural limestone bridge frames Ramsey Cook as she paddles on the Flint River near Albany.

A natural limestone bridge frames Ramsey Cook as she paddles on the Flint River near Albany.

Another Paddle Georgia is in the books. This year more than 370 people participated, covering 106 miles of the Flint River over seven days, and, as always, having one great time.

I can’t remember when a river left me so astounded. The Paddle Georgia Navy has now covered more than 900 miles of Georgia rivers. In scouting for these various trips, the Georgia River Network staff has logged at least another 2000 miles. With all these miles under our belts, you’d think you’ve seen it all, but on the Flint each day held new surprises–including surprises I have never before experienced on a river–hummingbirds alighting on hands, bats swimming across the river, barred owls posing in broad daylight, bone-numbingly cold blue springs  and unparralled boat play never before witnessed at Paddle Georgia.

Someone asked me during this journey if after nine years the routine had gotten stale (you’ve seen one river, you’ve seen them all); I don’t think that is possible. In Georgia, we’re blessed with more than 70,000 miles of river and streams. In nine years, we’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to explore.

The Flint made that abundantly clear. I was so astounded I shot more than 2700 photos during the week. Below are a few…with comments.


HummingbirdIt’s well known that hummingbirds are attracted to all things red. Who’d a thought they would be attracted to red Paddle Georgia food braclets. While standing in my canoe to stretch my legs, one zoomed up to me, found a perch on my wrist and pecked fruitlessly at the rubber wrist band. It let out a gentle “tweak” of complaint, waited longer for the nectar to rise, and then, growing impatient, whisked off to find a perch on Chris Lewis’s life jacket (to inspect an orange whistle) and finally to Gwyneth Moody’s arm for a second try at the wrist bands. The only other wild bird I’ve ever have land on me is a Canada jay–notoriusly bold camp robbers of New England’s mountain peaks. This Flint River hummer left me drop jawed–at its beauty, gracefulness and boldness. Incredbile little creatures, they weigh an eighth of an ounce and fly at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.


Snake Eating Fish Every year on Paddle Georgia, someone encounters a water snake chowing down on a fish, and though it is common sight, it never ceases to entertain. It is the wildlife equivalent of our hot dog eating contests. How does such a small animal devour something four times its girth? Ramsey, Jessa Goldman and I had front row seats to the “circle of life.” We watched as the snake pulled the thrashing fish to shore and slowly subdued it, working its mouth from a firm grip in the catfish’s flank around to its face where it slowly ingested it. Only the threat of the sweep boat prevented us from seeing the fish’s complete demise.


Barred OwlThe father and daughter team of George Gibson and Kim Bailey spotted it first. Consummate naturalists, the canoeing tandem spotted a mature barred owl perched in a stunted tree on a island at river’s edge. We caught the eddy at the end of the island to take a look, and found not only the mature owl, but a pair of juveniles–and juveniles that seemed not particularly concerned with our presence. We spent the next several minutes moving closer until the owl was perched in a tree right above us. I have heard their calls at night: “Who? Who cooks for you?” but never had such a close encounter during daylight hours.


Wilson Blue SpringDuring my two previous visits to this well-known swimming hole, the water was either too low or too high. This time is was just right. We paddled up the surging spring run into a blue hole oasis–the water was teeth-chattering cold, clear and reflecting the green leaf canopy that guarded it. A few minutes in that water and my body temperature didn’t rise to normal South Georgia summer time levels until we were well on our way back to camp on the bus. Kim Bailey, Keith Parsons, my daughter Ramsey and I each took turns jumping from the crotch of a spring-side tree into the hole. Life don’t get much better.


Swimming BatYes, swimming bats. Nearing Goat Island and Georgia Power’s Plant Mitchell, we spotted something scurrying across the surface of the water–a scurry I’d never seen before and will likely never see again. Bats do swim and we have the photographic proof. Our attempts to “help” it across the river, I believe, made its crossing even more harrowing, but eventually it reached the eastern shore and climbed upon a cypress knee. “Google” swimming bats and you’ll get the question: “Do you mean swimming baths?” But, in fact, swimming bats are well documented and they do it surprisingly well–flapping their wings like Michael Phelps doing the butterfly. Those that know bats say that it is not a common behavior and is usually performed under stress, though there are some bats in South America that feed on fish. The take home lesson from this encounter–no matter how long we might spend in the woods or on rivers, we are bound to discover something new on any given journey. There is still so much we don’t know about this world.


FossilsOn day six of the journey a band of teenage explorers and I stopped on an island adjacent to some shoals in seach of the illusive and federally protected purple bankclimber mussel. I’d been told this might be a place to look, and being a lover of mussels, I was determined to find one of these thick-shelled behemoths of the mussel world. We found no purple bankclimbers, but turn a passel of inquistive youth loose on a wild island and you’ll turn up something. A thorough exploration of the spit of land turned up three turtle eggs, a cold-water spring, a crayfish, sandshell mussels and a mother lode of fossils. Charlie White found the first one, and before we were done, we all had souvenirs and reminders that our lives on this planet are but a blink of an eye in geological time. The fossilized remains that we held in our hands were remnants of a time when present day South Georgia was covered by the sea…a time tens of millions of years ago. On this day, the Flint made me feel very small….and very blessed.


Westrick SpringIn preparation for each Paddle Georgia, I pour over maps, local histories, previously published guides, internet references and even pick the brains of locals familiar with the river. These collected notes go on the daily maps. When I’m done, I like to think I’ve captured everything worth seeing along the river. Westrick Spring escaped me. I’d noted it on my planning maps, but never bothered to paddle up the spring run and explore it. Thankfully, the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream team and others found it and pointed others up its path. At the end of that path was perhaps the biggest surprise of the trip–a massive, crystal clear blue hole, teaming with fish and reminiscent of a tropical paradise. Paddle Georgia participants have traversed more than 900 miles of this state’s watery trails, and never had we witnessed water this pristime and breathtakingly beautfiul.


Boat PlaySometimes its not nature that surprises you; its our natural capacity for play. GRN Development Director Davin Welter and his band of youth (including Hayden Lanzilotta) took boat play to new heights. Borrowing from the phone booth stuffing stunts of the 1950s, this group took it upon themselves to see how many people could fit on a kayak before sinking the vessel. When that fun wore old, they turned the boats into balance beams and paddle-powered water skis.


Camilla MasqueradeThe Mitchell County-CamillaChamber of Commerce rolled out the red carpet for us with a great street party behind the historic Mitchell County Courthouse. During Reconstruction, this town was the site of the “Camilla Masacre” in which 13 “freedmen” were killed by the county sheriff and a posse of angry whites. But when Paddle Georgia descended on Camilla, blacks and whites ate, drank, danced and reveled together. The Flint runs essentially the same course as it did in 1868 at the time of the masacre; the course of Flint River communities has changed siginificantly.


Taking the PlungeNo Paddle Georgia would be complete without a leap from a high place into the river. The Flint, lined with limestone bluffs, offered up appropriate plunge holes in abundance. I hazard a guess that there is little else that can make parents feel like kids again better than a jump from a cliff. Daniela Dilorio and her sons Evan and Marco Newman took the plunge together.


Lights Out: NeverThe GRN staff goes to great lengths to insure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed when it comes to campsite accomodations. But this attention to details is no match for “state-of-the-art” school buildings with computer-programmed lighting systems. Even a late night visit by the school’s facility manager could not dim the lights in the home of the Bearcats. For this we apologize.


The Grand FinaleThe Bainbridge Boat Basin was our final destination for the week. There we celebrated what is arguably our best Paddle Georgia ever–the largest with more than 370 people participating and the most successful with more than $40,000 raised through the Canoe-a-thon. After a fish fry feast provided by Flint Riverkeeper, we said our goodbyes. The end is always bittersweet; it is hard to say good bye to a river and the companionship and comaraderie that forms during the week. Our hope is that each participant will carry a love for rivers back home and start a love affair with a stream in their backyard. Thus, the journey never ends. Dee Stone, Mike McCarthy, Bonny Putney and Dan Jones celebrate at river’s end.


The Aftermath106 miles, 7 days, 1 great time…and lots of exhausted paddlers and GRN staff–including Mary Alexander, Jesslyn Shields, Chris Manganiello, Debra Tate and Dana Skelton. THANKS FOR MAKING PADDLE GEORGIA 2013 A JOURNEY TO REMEMBER!

Click here to see some additional photos from Paddle Georgia on my Flicker site. 

Joe Cook

June 26, 2013

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The last day of Paddle Georgia has finally arrived and paddlers – although a bit P1010890rugged- still had the same spunk and excitement as the first day, P1010900playing, lounging, and cruising along still meeting new people and catching up with paddlers from years past.P1020088

The geology of the river, with the underlying Floridan aquifer, bubbling springs, and towering  cliff banks with hidden fossils of creatures from the Oligocene epoch 35 million years ago and the importance of this resource for water supply, never ceased to amaze paddlers.

Big Slough was an enchanting side trip from the main stem of the Flint- with aquatic plants we had not seen up until now- truly a wetland sanctuary!  And even P1020046the exotic and invasive Hydrilla covering the stream bed with its green fuzzy alien tentacles was a beautiful sight.

The river was lined with dead trees standing tall like telephone poles- which had giant fist sized holes providing housing for Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Wood Ducks just to name a few….P1020024

P1010949It seemed that around every bend a paddler had found a cozy spot in the shade to take a snooze in their boat-drifting, and bobbing to the rhythm of the river.

We are so proud of the Camp Horizon kids for their positive attitudes and perseverance. Such a strong and inquisitive group – and so much fun to hang out with!P1020041

It was touching to see so many families out on the river together. Steve and Elliot Cousins are such a awesome father/son duo, who have been attending Paddle Georgia for many years, and as Elliot said “It’s a great way to spend quality time together, especially since Paddle Georgia always occurs on Father’s Day”.P1010956

Folks pulled into the last Take-Out with grins from ear to ear and paddles raised high! 106 Georgia river miles under their belt with fantastic stories of their adventures to bring home to family and friends.

P1020098Parrie Pinya, an avid paddler and veteran Paddle Georgian passed onto the great spirits earlier this year and it was her wish to have her ashes spread into the rivers of Georgia she loved so dearly. Needless to say it was a great honor and we took her ashes with us on our entire Paddle Georgia journey and held a Memorial ceremony, releasing her into the beautiful current of the Flint river.P1020183

This has been such a magical experience for us all and we really look forward to seeing everyone next year on the Chattahoochee for Paddle Georgia 2014.

Keep on rollin’ down the river!

Gwyneth Moody

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The 6th day of Paddle Georgia has finally arrived and paddlers really have become P1010798true “river rats” with theirP1010660 sun tans/burns- giddy attitudes and desire to linger as long as possible enjoying the river.

It seems that every day people come off the river exclaiming it was their favorite day yet – and today was no exception.

P1010626Kids played incessantly, discovering mussels, snails, and flint in the sand between their toes as well as a few awesome rope swings to jump from on the limestone cliffs.

Paddle Georgians love to have their boats decorated with a mascot every year rangP1010560ing from a flock of flamingos and Hippo’s to a Re-Egret, a Happy Turtle, and a  Recycled TraP1010670sh Dude. Gotta love the creativity!

The Camp Horizon youth ‘made like a caterpillar’ and rolled down a giant sand dune- screaming and hooting for joy the entire way down.

Those with their hearts set on catching fish were not disappointed- as George Gibson a first time paddle Georgian caught 3 Shoal Bass over a 15 minutes period.photo

P1010714Bobby Marie recounted his incredible tale of a 3 foot Gar jumping out of the river into his boat- and flipping him over after giving him a major arm abrasion. P1010563Although this sounds a bit “fishy” it was verified by 2 eye witnesses who saw the incident in its entirety and were completely awe-struck. So amazing and only on Paddle Georgia!

The Bovine Spring gurgled away and paddlers whipped out their snorkels to get an underwater look at the spring water spewing forth from the depths below.P1010790

The most magical spring we have encountered thus far was Westrick Spring about a mile from the take-out. Although hidden within the Cypress forest, once discovered it was an oasis of crystal blue water – so clear you could see to depths of 20 feet.P1010862!

The night ended with the best talent in Georgia showing off their smooth moves, great rhythms, and beautiful poetry and voices.

It was truly a magical day and we are so sad that tomorrow is the last.

Keep on rollin’ down the river…

Gwyneth Moody

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We could not have asked for a more beautiful day on the river with gorgeous P1010192blue skies, intermittent puffy clouds, and the perfect cool breeze.

Upon arriving at the Put-In, our attention was quickly drawn to a display by the Department of Natural P1010200Resources who were giving awe-inspiring information about the fascinating fishes and mussels that live in the Flint, which they had seined from the river the pP1010266revious evening.P1010406

Adopt A Stream and the Environmental Protection Division have been collecting water quality data at every tributary and spring entering the main channel and are now up to a total of 80 sites sampled! We are so grateful to have such an awesome team  involved with Paddle Georgia and to learn about the water quality of the river in which we swim and fish.P1010496P1010473

We were greeted by staff of the Jones Ecological Research Center along the way. A few staff had just gathered mussels and other organisms from the river bottom and were still in their wetsuits, while others gave educational tours and presentations about the Longleaf pine ecosystem, essential to the survival of many species of wildlife, such as the Gopher tortoise and Red-Cockaded woodpecker.P1010402

The trees on this section were exceptionally large and majestic, towering over you like giant gnomes with pointy hats.P1010410

The morning forays of raccoon, mink and deer were imprinted in the muddy riverbank along with the yummy clams they had pried open for a delicious snack.

After frolicking in the shoals and whirlpools and exploring the many islands formed from the dredging that occurred by the Army P1010234Corp in the early 1800’s to facilitate steamboat passage, we reached the cool, clear, and tannin rich Ichawaynochoway Creek- which almost looked like red tea.

The evening was filled with laughter and cheers of joy as paddlers teamed up to play the game shows ‘Family Feud & Paddle Wet’ Paddle Georgia style.

Excited about boppin’ in blue holes tomorrow!

Keep on rollin’ down the river….

Gwyneth MoodyP1010505

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We have officially reached the half-way point of Paddle Georgia 2013 with 3 DSC_6363days of awesome paddling behind us and 3 more ahead. Everyone really enjoyed their stay at Chehaw with their friendly staff, beautiful grounds and comfortable facilities and we were all sad to leave, but excited about the new digs in Camilla.


Although everyone seemed to cringe at the mention of a 21 mile paddle – the current was the fastest we’ve had yet and we scooted swiftly along.P1000943

P1000998Playful paddlers, as always we encountered hoola hooping in the morning and bubbles in the afternoon.P1010050

Red Tailed Hawks, Belted P1000653Kingfisher, Bob Whites, Pileated woodpeckers, and Green Heron could be heard and occasionally seen through the canopy that shrouded the winding river.P1010062

The limestone caves along this stretch were beautiful and mysterious with their tight crevices and dangling ferns that formed curtains on the rock walls surrounding the cave mouth.

Twisted, gnarly roots of Sycamore and Cypress trees reached out like fingers and hands holding back the river bank, their knees jutting up out of the water resembling mud castles at the beach.P1000972

And even with the usual swimming, lounging, and jumping from rope swings paddlers completed the trip in record time, and were shuttled to our new home of Mitchell County High School.

And what a better way to end the day than with an awesome street party in Camilla!P1010115 It was great to see everyone boogying down and enjoying themselves so immensely.

Looking forward to another day in South Georgia paradise tomorrow!

Keep on rollin’ down the river,

Gwyneth Moody

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The overcast skies we awoke to were a welcomed respite from the hot sunny skies of the last couple days. P1000658But once we hit the water, the sun gave the perfect warmth for swimming, splashing, and playing in the river.P1000690

Although it was the shortest paddle trip of the week, at a little less than 14 miles, today was both Trash day and Professionals day and there was no shortage of intriguing conversations and interesting trash items cleaned from the river.P1000821

Professionals ranged from legislators and riverkeepers to representatives from watershed coalitions and community foundations. This was most professionals’ first time on the Flint river and for some their first time paddling on a river in Georgia.

Rivers Alive ‘Trash Queen’ Bonny PutneP1000675y led the clean-up and reported approximately 100 lbs. of trash collected and 10 tires. P1000764In addition to the usual plastic bags, paddlers found some quite interesting items including a vintage coke bottle, basket balls, a dress, a pair of leather pants, and a can of chicken livers.P1000829

P1000809Touted as one of Georgia’s Seven natural wonders, Radium Springs was quite the thrill. Adults and kids alike, enjoyed the striking arched stone bridge and waterfall and large pool beneath it.

No matter what activity evokesP1000747 the idea of fun to you- it was found at every river bend, shoal, and sand bar, from squirt gun fights and rambunctious circus-like stunts (including flipping GRN Development Director, Davin Welter), to bubble blowing and lazy lounging picnics – it was all smiles all around.P1000803

The Blue Springs were truly magical with the cool 68 degree crystal blue water gurgling from the limestone depths below.P1000701

It seems to just keep getting better with each passing day ~ So glad to share it with everyone!

Keep on rollin’ down the River,P1000891

Gwyneth Moody

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Hot and sunny with temps in the low 90’s, the weather for Day 2 of Paddle GeorgiP1000300a was gorgeous!  P1000375Psyched for the awesome 15 mile paddle ahead we loaded up and hit the river!

The scenery was green and pristine, cypress cones and moth cocoons dangled from overhanging limbs kissing the river surface and meadows of aquatic yellow blooms and lily pads graced the landscape.P1000354P1000425

Remnants of fence posts and tree stumps from pre-dam days lined the banks with new growth resembling beautiful floral arrangements or frizzy Chia Pets.

Flint Riverkeeper, Gordon Rogers welcomedP1000347 the Paddle P1000569Georgia paddlers on his Party Pontoon Boat wishing everyone a safe trip.P1000454

Dragonflies buzzed and dipped catching rides on our paddles and majestic Egrets and Great Blue Herons took flight overhead.P1000480

P1000491TP1000411he Camp Horizon kids continued to enjoy themselves swimming, singing and practicing for the Talent Show, and stuck it out as the countless motor boats zoomed past on the last 3 miles of tough lake paddling. Great job y’all!P1000398

It was yet another amazing day on the magical Flint river and we can’t wait for the journey tomorrow.

Keep on rollin’ down the river.

Gwyneth MoodyP1000432

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Everyone woke up bright and early – ready for their first day on the Flint. With 14 P1000099miles of limestone loveliness ahead, paddlers could barely contain themselves as the school buses rolled into Chehaw park.P1000087

The Camp Horizon youth group jumped for joy as they watched the stunning river roll by them before setting out. Most of the kids have never paddled before and the enthusiasm for the adventure ahead radiated through their smiles.

Bald Cypress, Sycamore, Spruce Pine, Water Tupelo, Water Elm, Darlington Oak, and River Birch were just a few of the trees we encountered twisting and jutting their knees out of the limestone banks of the river.

DSC_5000To our disbelief a juvenile Ruby ThroatedP1000157 Hummingbird gave a group of paddlers an intimate visit- landing first on Joe Cook’s hand and then visiting mine and continued to bob between the group of  boats attempting to drink the non-existent nectar from anything red in color. It was one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve ever had.

P1000112It was an all-around AMAZING day on the river- as Bonny Putney even said it was her “favorite day on any Paddle Georgia yet!”

The evening was filled with fun and surprises including the Chehaw Park Wildlife program with beautiful live animals and the much anticipated announcement of the Canoe-A-thon winners.DSC_5131

61 people raised a whopping $40,000 with Terry Pate taking the lead by raising $3,260, followed by John Branch, and Alicia Evans. Y’all ROCK!!!!

We are so very thankful for everyone’s hard work, support and success in taking on this challenge with such vigor and enthusiasm!

P1000261This year is also VERY special because it is Georgia River Network, Executive Director and Paddle Georgia, co-founder April Ingle’s 10 year anniversary!

We LOVE you April!

So excited about tomorrow’s journey!

Keep on rollin’ down the river

Gwyneth Moody


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The waiting, the anticipating, the excitement in the air, and the dream of going Imageon Paddle Georgia 2013 for the many new attendees, has finally come to fruition, as 380 paddlers rolled into Chehaw Park in Albany and were welcomed with open arms.

ImageVincent Payne and Tonya Bechtler gave an excellent and thorough overview of skills and techniques for the paddling workshop at the Crisp County Power Company Boat launch.


As we slide into summer, the week ahead has gorgeous weather forecasted and the Flint river is flowing fast with all the rain we’ve had. Everyone is excited about a fabulous week of paddling.

Registration flowed smoothly even with all the crazy questions from paddlers… Ha ha!P1000044

We can’t thank our volunteers enough for their awesome support and assistance, so make sure to give them a HIGH FIVE next time you see them!

Everyone got their Paddle Georgia goodies, ranging from the new Paddle Georgia 2013 T-shirt and hats to maps and dry boxes.

ImagePaddlers are super happy to have fair trade coffee and fresh fruit smoothies provided by Cafe Campesino…. oh so delicious and refreshing!

It’s always a delight to see ‘Tent City’ Paddle Georgia style with the colorful collage of domes that pepper the landscape. No need for Imagean assigned campsite – we’re all buddies at Paddle Georgia.

Joe Cook lit up the crowd and got everyone on their toes for the week long journey ahead!

So excited about our first day on the Flint tomorrow!

Keep on rolliImagen’ down the river,

~Gwyneth Moody

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For all those friends and family who cannot attend Paddle Georgia 2013 but would like to virtually paddle along with us, we have this new and exciting virtual map!

Throughout our journey we will be posting photos with their corresponding GPS locations to this map, so you can enjoy the trip right along with us.
Check it out and share with others!

Click this link:  http://www.garivers.org/paddle_georgia/pgjourney.html#VJ

Keep on rollin’ on the river!

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