Archive for June, 2020


In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia Ritchie’s paddling companion “Pink Floyd” promotes safe paddling practices…a facemask and a life jacket. Ramsey Cook practices safe skin care too before embarking on the Flint near Woodbury.

Normally, at this time of year, I am knee-deep in traveling 100 miles down a Georgia river with Georgia River Network and 300-plus river loving friends during Paddle Georgia, but alas, the COVID-19 pandemic put a kabash to large group trips this summer.

Instead, we’ve been encouraging everyone to plan their own river adventures through Paddle Georgia 2020 Pandemic Edition. In seeing the posts on social media, receiving the the texts and e-mails and embarking on my own “pandemic paddle,” I’m reminded of the virtues of solitudinous river travel and nights camped alongside roaring shoals and perched above peaceful water on white sandbars.

Barry Oneill texted me a long list of the critters he encountered on a journey down the Savannah with family and friends. Ibises, bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites, gators…what he didn’t see a lot of was other bipeds. “Perfect trip…only saw 7 people in 5 days. Awesome.”

Philip and Liliana Barkes sent me photos of their epic family camping adventure on the Oconee River (epic because the Barkes have 7 children!). Wrote Philip: “Last week I asked my kids what type of camping trip they liked better, Paddle GA or family canoe camping.  They like family camping but they like Paddle GA a lot more.” Their photos of three canoes loaded with camping gear for nine and the ingenious sandbar cooking canopy were inspirational. 


Georgia Ritchie checks out Dripping Rocks, a waterfall along the Flint River and our Paddle Georgia 2021 route! It’s a great, natural outdoor shower stall!

This week to celebrate what would be the beginning of this year’s Paddle Georgia on the Flint, my daughter, Ramsey, and I embarked on four days of paddling on the intended Paddle Georgia route between Woodbury and Oglethorpe, accompanied on parts by Georgia Ritchie and Cary Baxter (the ever intrepid Perry, GA-based accountant and Paddle Georgia lead boat).

Like Barry, we were struck by the wildlife we encountered. While you certainly encounter wildlife on large group trips like Paddle Georgia, the likelihood of sneaking up on an unsuspecting alligator or a rafter of wild turkeys is greatly enhanced when you paddle small and quiet.


A cooperative water moccasin struck a proper pose before slithering into the Flint’s riverside depths.

We checked off the most-feared animals of the lower Flint–a water moccasin and several alligators and delighted at the clumsiness of soft-shelled turtles on sandbars, coming to the rescue of one who, upon seeing our approach, flipped on its back in its panicked escape down a steep sandbar slope.  Bald eagles, ospreys, Mississippi kites and night herons made appearances. Barred owls sang us to sleep…or prevented slumber. We even came upon copulating box turtles…their embarrassment seemed obvious to me, but Georgia and Ramsey weren’t so sure.

But, the highlight was sandbar camping…something we just don’t get on Paddle Georgia.


Ramsey Cook cooks up dinner on a Flint River sandbar during our Paddle Georgia 2020 Pandemic Edition adventure.

Watching the sun go down on the river in the wild with sand between your toes is good for the soul. The light reflects on the water; you reflect on yourself…or whatever else might come to mind.

For three nights I unplugged from social media and the swirl of news documenting our national social unrest and divisiveness. That, in itself, brought some peace, but when it comes to sandbar camping…as the classic Old Milwaukee beer commercials claim, “It just don’t get any better than this.” 

On the evening of Father’s Day, a rumbling storm threatened as we set up camp on a bar near Miona Ferry, but never dropped any rain. Instead, it brought in cool air and sent the infernal gnats elsewhere. Ramsey and I sat in the sand, watching the river flow and talked of future adventures and dreams. As Father’s Day gifts go, well, it just don’t get any better.


One of the silver linings of pandemic paddling…watching the sun go down on the Flint in solitude.

Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2020 Pandemic Edition continues through Aug. 5 so grab someone you love and get out there. If you are so inclined, I’d highly recommend some riverside camping. It’s one of the silver linings in the age of social distancing.

If you’d rather a day trip with a group, we’ve got ’em planned. Check out our Paddle-Bike Hidden Gems coming on the Etowah, Toccoa, Tugaloo and Ocmulgee later this summer!

And, don’t forget, on Aug. 6, we’ll celebrate our summer of river adventures with a live facebook event: Livestream for Healthy Rivers. The event will feature live music from Rob Jordan, kayak raffles from The Outside World and Vibe Kayak, recognition of our top fundraisers in Canoe-a-thon, river trivia and some classic Paddle Georgia bad animal jokes. Tune in on the GRN facebook page beginning at 7 p.m.

Joe Cook

Paddle Georgia Coordinator


Cary Baxter takes the lead early morning on the Flint River. The other joy of sandbar camping is hitting the water when the light is special and the water is calm.





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The stars here represent the various places along Peachtree Creek that have played a role in the life of Rena Ann Peck, Georgia River Network executive director. (map from David Kauffman’s book about Peachtree Creek: Peachtree Creek: A Natural and Unnatural History of Atlanta’s Watershed)

Mapping out my river origin brought to light that I truly hail from Peachtree Creek.  I was born at Piedmont Hospital at the top of  Peachtree Road and the Peachtree Road Race’s infamous “Cardiac Hill.” Rain falling on that hill drains directly to the creek, and the little creek’s drainage is where I was raised and where I birthed and raised my children.

As a child selling peaches by my Rivers Road house in Atlanta, July’s prickly heat from the peach fuzz would send me searching for cool relief, hiking Peachtree Creek from Peachtree Battle’s little neighborhood brooks to Peachtree Creek’s mainstem at Peachtree Battle Circle where I lived as a teen, riding a tire swing to jump into the rusty water.

Ptree Creek angler son

Lawson Stricker, Rena Ann’s son, cast for fish in Peachtree Creek. These days both mom and son escape to the urban stream.

Peachtree Creek was my “river” to explore. We sloughed through piped tributaries under roads; slid down algae ramps under bridges; and crossed through cave culverts in the dark to secret backyard gardens hunting salamanders under rocks, (and sometimes golf balls to sell at the nearby Cross Creek course).

Many weekend nights, I’d join friends at not-so-secret tailgates under the railroad tracks at Peachtree Creek’s largest tributary, Tanyard Creek, and at Bobby Jones Golf Course on Peachtree Creek’s mainstem.

Bronze frog tadpole

A bronze frog tadpole from Peachtree Creek.

After leaving Atlanta for 10 years residing out in the country on nature preserves, I returned home to the city as a single mother to Cross Creek.

I raised my children on Springlake playing in the headwater creek of the Civil War Battle of the Ravine.  Now I live in Peachtree Hills, creek hiking with my adult son fishing and looking for tadpoles to grow bronze frogs that sound like banjo twangs in my own Peachtree Creek secret garden.

Rena Ann Peck

Executive Director

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