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Archive for June, 2022

For the second year in a row, Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia—normally a epic adventure undertaken by hundreds—was a pandemic-induced small group affair with about 35 fun-loving paddlers traveling 112 miles down the Chattahoochee River, and another 60 joining us for shorter portions of the journey.

Janina Edwards (in kayak) and Ramsey Cook (in canoe) ripple the surface of Bull Sluice Lake as they stroke toward Morgan Falls Dam near Roswell.

People often ask why Georgia River Network undertakes such journeys. The official answer is we’re connecting people with Georgia’s rivers, establishing those intimate relationships with flowing water that lead individuals to donate to river protection causes, call and e-mail their local legislators about water policy and volunteer for citizen water monitoring and river cleanup programs.

But an equally true answer is: It’s just a heck of a lot of fun. After all, a bad day on the river is better than a good day at work. Our work just happens to be on the river, and blessed we are for that!

The Chattahoochee was our destination for the first ever Paddle Georgia in 2005. We repeated that journey in 2014 for our tenth anniversary and returned to it this year to highlight the progress made in cleaning up the river and bringing people to its banks for recreation.

For me, the Chattahoochee is an exceptionally special place. It is where I first discovered the pleasures of playing about in boats, rafting through Devils Racecourse Shoals and leaping from the Diving Rock—a thrill that to this day makes the 50-something year-old me feel like a 15-year-old again. This year, the journey was made even more special because my 23-year-old daughter, Ramsey, a veteran of 15 previous Paddle Georgia adventures, accompanied me—a last river hoorah before she embarks later this summer on a career in environmental engineering (apples don’t fall far from the tree, they say).

We jumped together from the Diving Rock, bruised ourselves smashing through the Waterworks Rapid (some how the canoe survived and we remained upright and dry) and frolicked in the falls at Hilly Mill Creek…memories I’m certain will last beyond my lifetime.

Chase Delbridge splashes down at the Chattahoochee’s Diving Rock

As I looked about, I saw others making similar memories. There was Larry and Chase Delbridge, the father and son team from Marietta, also leaping from the Diving Rock and body surfing together through the river’s gentle shoals in Carroll County.

There were three generations of the Pate family on the journey—dad Terry, daughter Meghan Zimmerman and granddaughter Ellie Zimmerman. Amongst our decidedly older entourage, six-year-old Ellie did much to enhance our party’s “cute factor.” When Meghan coaxed her daughter beneath the roaring falls at Hilly Mill Creek on the final day of our journey, it seemed the cautious youngster’s conversion to full-blown river rat was complete.

Day 2 of our journey brought a host of father and son teams to us in the form of Boy Scout Troop 1906 from East Point. Led by Nick Brooks (check out his Instagram feed at www.instagram.com/outdoorgearandbeer/), among the scouts were Nick’s sons Asher and Preston.

Made possible through funding from the John and L.A. Spears Foundation, Georgia River Network teamed up with Chattahoochee Nature Center to provide a paddle trip and camp out for the troop. For some, it was their first journey on the Chattahoochee, and one they won’t soon forget. Among the memories: a swamped canoe getting pinned to DeKalb County’s water intake structure, taking part in collecting some 400 golf balls from the river bottom (yes, 400!) and a close encounter with a barred owl at the Nature Center.

Julieta and Javier Barkes let out screams as they descend Daniel Shoals with father, Philip, and mother, Liliana.

Our final day of the journey brought to us the intrepid Barkes family. In tow with parents Philip and Liliana were six of their seven children (one of the teenagers was on a trip of her own). When Philip and Liliana stroked through Daniel Shoals, with their youngest, Javier and Julieta, on board, the squeals that emanated from the children were streaked with both terror and joy. The family water battle that broke out below the shoals was epic—those were squeals of pure joy.

Watching the revelry of these families brought to mind my childhood spent on the Chattahoochee and my mother and father who in the late 1970s saw fit to invest in a cheap inflatable raft, if only to avoid the exorbitant raft rental costs of the era. That K-mart raft put me on the river seemingly every warm weekend of my youth and has kept me there ever since.

Ellie Zimmerman, 6, who accompanied her mother Meghan and grandfather, Terry Pate, on the journey, plays behind the curtain of Hilly Mill Falls in Heard County.

Unwittingly, they planted a seed that has now born two generations of river lovers. Ramsey starts her first job next month—engineering water projects to protect our planet’s most precious resource…if she ends up building senseless dams I’ve threatened to disown her!

I know not what will become of Ellie Zimmerman or Javier and Julieta Barkes or Asher and Preston Nicks, but I know for certain their lives will be richer and more adventurous because their parents took them playing about in boats. And, maybe, just maybe, each one of them will grow up to love rivers. Then the world will be just a little better place to live.

Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia Coordinator

June 27, 2022

Haikus and Water Dog Jokes

In keeping with Paddle Georgia tradition, during this year’s event we cracked jokes about gulf coast water dogs, a aquatic salamander found in the Chattahoochee basin (previous events have poked fun at gopher tortoises, darters, blind cave salamanders, shad and sturgeon). Participant Anne Ledbetter added what might become a new tradition–haikus. For your entertainment–though some may be cringe worthy–here’s the best of this year’s animal jokes and haikus:

A man was seen walking down the middle of the Chattahoochee holding a leash. A confused and befuddled bystander asked what the man was doing. He replied: I’m walking my water dog. –Georgia Ritchie

What did the catfish say to the water dog? Hush, puppy. –Janina Edwards

What’s the difference between a water dog and a dog in the water? Simple, one is a salamander.–Sarah Topper

…and a water dog limerick courtesy of Sarah Topper below:

Brionte McCorkle and Georgia Milteer with Georgia Conservation Voters frolick in the falls at Hilly Mill Creek on Day 7 of Paddle Georgia.

There once was a dog named “water”

He swam in the river like otter

He’s not a dog really

And his gills are real frilly

So it confuses the people a lotter

…that being entirely enough, we move on to haikus below:

Carolyn Morris of Thomasville runs the Chattahoochee’s Waterworks Rapid in Fulton County.

The crawdad was found

By Chase released safe and sound

Back to swim around

-Powell Andrews

Jared Garrison of Snellville drifts through one of the Chattahoochee’s gentle shoals downstream of Atlanta. Thirty years ago such intimate contact with the Chattahoochee downstream from the big city would have been almost unthinkable, but thanks to progress in improving the City of Atlanta’s water infrastructure, the health of the river has dramatically improved.

Yucky river muck

How you cling to my bare toes

Now I’ll stink all day

-Bailey Sauls and Cecilia Nachtmann

Harold Harbert, director of Georgia’s Adopt-A-Stream citizen water monitoring program, shows off a small softshell turtle. The Adopt-A-Stream staff collected stream health data throughout the seven-day journey and trained some participants to become citizen water monitors.

Early morning fog 

Chattahoochee curtain rise

Beauty crystallized

-Janina Edwards

Leslie Raymer of Decatur relaxes in camp after a day of paddling. Participants camped on land next to or near the river each evening of the trip, enjoying catered meals and nightly education programs.

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