Imagine yourself on a river for a week far away from the hassles of everyday life. Three hundred some other paddlers have joined you in your 95 mile journey. You must be on Paddle GA! Paddle GA is an annual event run by Georgia River Network (GRN). Each June they offer a 7 day paddle down one of Georgia’s amazing rivers. The goal: to ensure clean water legacy by engaging & empowering citizens to protect, restore, & ENJOY our rivers. This year’s paddle focused on the hidden gem – the Ogeechee!
The mysterious black water of the Ogeechee – one of Georgia’s few free flowing rivers – meanders through thousands of acres of tupelo / cypress swamp as it make its way to the Atlantic some 16 miles south of Savannah. Its history is rich, even providing Sherman access into Savannah by way of a 16 mile canal connecting the Ogeechee to the Savannah River. Recent history involved a major fish kill four years ago that was instrumental in getting the Phinizy Center research team involved in monitoring her waters.
Phinizy educator Ruth Mead joined the paddle as both a Project WET facilitator and GA Adopt A Stream (AAS) trainer. She traveled to Portal, GA High School on June 19th to lead 5 educators on scholarship to Paddle GA in a Project WET curriculum workshop. The trip started the next day, and Ruth would work with her team throughout the week as they provided fun activities to the paddlers.
The Ogeechee runs wild in the winter months, some ten foot higher than summer. The trails of its path can be seen in the high water marks on the trees and the new channels are constantly being made. Its channels often narrow and wind through tunnels of willow branches before opening back up and gracing its guests with beautiful sandy beaches. The paddlers experienced all of these wonders. The second day and the longest paddle, 17 miles, hour long traffic jams were experienced as the strainer team cut passes in the willows. A rope swing and a sandy beach provided a welcome wait for clear passage.
Throughout the week paddlers were amazed at the intricate buttressing of the cypress and tupelo and welcomed the shade from the majestic Overcup Oaks and Spruce Pines. Towards the end of the week, the famous Ogeechee Tupelo lined the banks – also known as Ogeechee Lime as earlier settlers used its fruit for a lime substitute. The beauty of the river inspired all and eased a few willow scrapes from the novice paddlers.
Ruth not only worked with the teacher scholarship group but joined the AAS team in daily river monitoring. She was delighted to spend time with the two youngest team members and first time Paddle GA paddlers (more notable the daughters of some of the monitor team). On day five she led a group of brave first time paddlers from Camp Creek Middle School in Atlanta in an AAS training. They were serious about understanding watersheds and what they could do to make a difference – a delightful group of girls!
One great week! Special thanks to GRN and Ogeechee Riverkeeper for providing a wonderful opportunity.