Archive for March, 2018

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


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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. 

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