Paddle Georgia Day 7
By Ruth Mead, Sr. Environmental Educator
Paddle Georgia day seven – 15 miles to Rome! The day started early with everyone busy breaking down camp and preparing for the final day on the river. My tent was not the last down, but close to it. I loaded my stuff onto the gear truck and headed to meet my paddling partners. Seira and I were paddling together and hoping to not get too far behind the group with our 4 monitoring sites. I grabbed a quick breakfast, filled the water bottles, grabbed our stuff and headed to the bus. Seira was right behind me, having stopped for coffee.
We climbed on the bus only to find all but one seat filled. The bus driver allowed us to sit on the floor, so I happily joined the bus driver sitting on the motor box by the steps. I had a front seat view of the countryside as we headed to the river and an entertaining talk with the bus driver who had been canning peaches for the past two weeks.
We thought we were on the last bus but were happily surprised to find out otherwise. That gave us the jump start we needed from the sweep boat. Our first monitoring site was Armuchee Creek. We paddled up to the first sandbar on the creek and were greeted by a couple of other paddlers. Before our monitoring was complete, 15 to 20 boats had joined us and they were enjoying the cool waters, seining for fish and studying the foot prints on the sandbar. Bobcat prints were among the mix! The usual fish, dragonflies and crayfish were caught in the nets, so off we went.
On route to our next site, which was at mile 9, we rounded Jones Bend to find a party at Jones Bend Island. No one was in a hurry today. We all just wanted to relax and enjoy the last day with new and old friends before the normal routine of life kicks back in (work on Monday). We splashed and floated in the water and relaxed on the inviting shores of the island. Then off we went –
To the next party site – Dozier Creek & Whitmore Island. More water fights, floating ,and for some, it was lunch time. Seira and I opted to hold out on lunch till after our next monitoring site which was at Coker’s Farm. The day was gorgeous, and we found ourselves out of view of other boats for a quiet stretch. And then we saw it – the city of Rome off in the distance. We had two more monitoring sites – Rome water intake and the takeout site for the day – Heritage Park.
Passing under the last bridge over the Oostanaula, the Etowah River came in sight, and we were soon on the Coosa River that forms at the confluence of the Oostanaula and the Etowah. The end was in sight, and we had yet to see the sweep boat. We made it – 103 miles!
The afternoon was filled with packing up boats, congratulating paddlers, enjoying the bluegrass band, and waiting for the duck race. At 5 o’clock, 500 some yellow rubber duckies were dumped in the water from the Oostanaula foot bridge and the race was on. Every duck had been purchased as a fund raiser for Georgia River Network, and there was a $250 prize for the winning duck. It was amazing how spread out the ducks got but 20 minutes later, we had a winner. No worries, all the duck were collected and taken off the river.
For most, the event ended with a fish fry provided by the Coosa River Basic Initiative – catfish, hushpuppies, coleslaw, watermelon and cold ice tea! Awards would follow – the volunteer of the paddle award, best foot tan line award and age award – the youngest to the oldest. Aviva at one-year-old (although she did not paddle, she rode in her playpen most of the way), the oldest at 83 and everyone else in-between!
A handful of us were camping at Heritage Park and catching the morning shuttle back to Murry County High School. When the festivities were over, we headed into town in search of The Dark Side of the Moon where the bluegrass band that entertained us earlier was playing. The local IPA made for a rewarding finish to the day. Respectfully submitted by Ruth Mead – Happy Paddling!