ATHENS — Georgia River Network, Georgia’s only statewide advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting Georgia’s water, aims to introduce more than 600 people to Georgia’s waterways during 2022 through a series of paddle trips and boater safety trainings.
The creator of Paddle Georgia, a canoe/kayak camping adventure that attracts more than 300 people and has grown into the nation’s largest weeklong river adventure, Georgia River Network is again adjusting to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by offering a series of small-group adventures beginning in January and running through November 2022.
The organization has two-day weekend canoe/kayak camping trips planned for the Okefenokee and St. Marys River in January, Alapaha River in March and Ohoopee River in April. More than a dozen additional trips will follow. Registration for these events begins Dec. 20 at 8 a.m. Spaces are limited on each trip to approximately 30 participants.
“The pandemic has made organizing large-group events difficult,” Paddle Georgia Coordinator Joe Cook said. “For the past year to keep everyone safe, we’ve limited our trips to about 30 people so that we can better prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
At the same time, the organization has seen an uptick in interest in river recreation as people have flocked to the outdoors during the pandemic. Sales of paddle sports equipment jumped 56 percent in June 2020 from a year earlier and continued to grow in 2021.
“Demand for canoe and kayaks is at an all-time high,” Cook said. “Interest in our adventures has followed the trends that paddle sports retailers are reporting. For our organization, it’s an opportunity to convert that interest in paddle sports to action to protect our rivers.”
During Georgia River Network’s trips, participants are introduced to river flora and fauna and river advocacy issues through educational programs including optional citizen water monitor trainings through Georgia’s Adopt-A-Stream program. Some trips involve river cleanups, others explore local river history. All serve as fundraisers for Georgia River Network, which uses the funds to protect rivers and develop the state’s water trail system — a network of boating trails connected by public access points on multiple Georgia rivers.
In early 2022, the organization will release a Georgia River Guide smartphone app featuring detailed information about more than 30 water trails around the state.
Georgia River Network’s 2022 Paddle Georgia River Adventure schedule includes:
Jan. 14-16 — Okefenokee-St. Marys River: Two days of paddling and two nights of camping at Traders Hill Campground to explore the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys River along the Georgia-Florida line in Charlton County.
March 11-13 — Alapaha River: Two days of paddling and two nights of camping at Venture of Faith Camp to explore this South Georgia river as it flows through Echols County and into Florida.
April 8-10 — Ohoopee River: Two days of paddling and two nights of camping at Ohoopee River Campground to explore this blackwater beauty in Tattnall and Toombs counties.
May 6-8 — Yellow/Alcovy River: Two days of paddling these tributaries of the Ocmulgee River with two nights of camping at historic Salem Campground in Newton County. This trip is designed for families and children.
May 21 — Etowah River: A one-day adventure on the Etowah River with a visit to the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site in Bartow County included.
May 28 — South Chickamauga Creek: A one-day adventure on this intimate creek lined by soaring limestone bluffs to celebrate this Catoosa County water trail in North Georgia.
June 19-25 — Paddle Georgia on the Chattahoochee River: Our seven-day adventure returns to the place of its birth in 2005. This small-group trip from Buford Dam, through Atlanta and on to the Heard County seat of Franklin is reserved for Georgia River Network supporters participating in our annual Canoe-a-thon fundraising competition.
July 23 — Chattahoochee River: A one-day adventure on the Chattahoochee River as it courses along the state line between Alabama and Georgia from West Point Dam to the mill village of Riverview. The trip includes portages around two historic mill dams that Georgia Power Company will soon remove, restoring natural flows on this section of river.
Aug. 6 — Flint River: A one-day adventure and celebration of the Flint River Water Trail as it spills over shoals in Meriwether County.
Aug. 20-21 — Conasauga Snorkel & Paddle Weekend: Two days of exploring the upper Conasauga River watershed, featuring snorkeling in the river’s famed “Snorkel Hole” and a paddle trip along the river in Murray and Whitfield counties.
Sept. 10 — Oconee River Full Moon Paddle: A one-night adventure on the Harvest Moon, exploring the Oconee River as it spreads into Lake Oconee in Greene County.
Oct. 7-9 — Fall Float on the Flint: Two days of paddling and two nights of camping at Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat to explore the Flint River in Baker, Mitchell and Decatur counties.
Oct. 28-30 — Ossabaw Island Adventure: Two days of paddling and camping on this famed barrier island in Chatham County.
Nov. 11-13 — Okefenokee-Suwannee River: Two days of paddling and camping at Griffis Fish Camp to explore both the Okefenokee Swamp and the Suwannee River in Clinch and Ware counties.
Nov. 19 — Ebenezer Creek/Savannah River: A one-day adventure on this historic blackwater creek and the Savannah River in Effingham County.
GRN is a statewide 501(c)(3) organization with the mission of helping everyone enjoy, connect with and advocate for economically vital and clean flowing rivers.