“A week-long canoe trip is not an easy thing for individuals to plan,” said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia Coordinator. “This trip allows people to participate in a great adventure without having to fret over all the logistics. We will have people ranging in age from 7-77 who will come on the trip as families, as individuals and as friends. By the end of the week we will all be one big community brought together by the trip.”
Paddle Georgia is more than just a canoe and kayak trip. The event includes educational programs on the river’s cultural and natural history, tours of facilities and historic sites located along the river, nightly games and entertainment, and even a research program in which participants will help collect chemical and biological data to give a snapshot of the current health of the Coosawattee and Oostanaula.
“You travel for seven days with a great group of people seeing sites you’d never see from the highway or even back roads,” said Georgia River Network Executive Director April Ingle. “You never have to stop to fill up your gas tank and never have to stand in line at airport security, but you’re always just one paddle stroke from a great swimming hole.”
The Paddle Georgia 2009 route takes paddlers through what remains of the free-flowing Coosawattee and on into Carters Lake. A portage around Carters’ Dam - the tallest earthen dam east of the Mississippi - will return paddlers to the Lower Coosawattee and on to the New Echota Historic Site to see the land where the Coosawattee and Conasauga rivers join and the Cherokee Indians once called their Capital.
From there the route continues down the Oostanaula, passing over the remains of both Native American fish weirs built 500 to 1000 years ago and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rock wing dams built during the 1800s to facilitate navigation on the river.
“We’re especially excited about exploring the Upper Coosa River Basin this year because of all the special critters that live in these waters,” said Cook. “The Upper Coosa is home to 30 aquatic animals that are found no where else in the world, making the Coosa system the most biologically diverse river basin in North America.”
The Coosawattee Watershed Alliance (CWA) in Ellijay and New Echota Rivers Alliance (NERA) in Calhoun will both provide volunteers to assist with various aspects of the event. These local groups will also receive grants from Georgia River Network generated through event registration fees and the event’s Canoe-a-thon donations. The Paddle Georgia Canoe-a-thon is where participants solicit donations from friends, family, co-workers and neighbors on a per-mile basis to benefit the river protection groups.
Local communities and businesses will benefit from the event, as the paddlers will call Ellijay, Calhoun, Armuchee and Rome home for the week. Paddlers will camp at Gilmer High School in Ellijay June 19-21, Calhoun High School in Calhoun June 22-24, Armuchee High School in Armuchee June 25, and Heritage Park in Rome June 26.
“Aside from bringing much attention to our rivers, Paddle Georgia also pumps a lot of money into local communities,” Ingle said.
Volunteers and staff at Gilmer County, Calhoun and Armuchee high schools will serve breakfasts to Paddle Georgia participants to raise funds for school athletic and other groups.
Nine Georgia teachers will also be on trip to participate in the paddle and receive Project WET training. Project WET is a powerful tool for students to learn about the importance of Georgia’s water resources.