VALDOSTA — With severe weather threatening the past weekend’s annual Mayor’s Paddle excursion, organizers made the decision to move the 11-river-mile event to Feb. 27.
“We don’t want to risk inexperienced paddlers in this kind of weather,” expedition leader Bobby McKenzie, who made the decision to postpone the paddle, said. “The new date is Saturday, Feb. 27.“
“We want to send a positive message about paddling, and the weather this weekend does not work for that, so we’re going for three weeks from now,” Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson said. “I am still excited to partner with WWALS to hold the Mayors Paddle. In the past year we have made huge improvements to our sewer system infrastructure, showing our commitment to preventing any issues that may impact our Withlacoochee River. I invite everyone to come out and join us for a day of fellowship on the river.”
Paddlers will start gathering at the Troupville Boat Ramp of the day of the paddle at 8 a.m. The launch is set for 10 a.m. The boat ramp is located at 19664 Valdosta Highway of Georgia 133 off Interstate 75 Exit 18 in Lowndes County. The Mayor’s Paddle covers 11 river miles and is expected to last six hours, or much less if the river is high and moving fast. The event is free to WWALS members and $10 for non-members. In case of bad weather or high or low water, backup date is March 13.
“WWALS is happy to welcome everyone to one of our many paddles,” WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said. “We have at least one daytime river paddle a month, in Florida or Georgia, plus an evening full moon paddle at Banks Lake, near Lakeland. We’ll be testing temperatures with an infrared thermometer as people arrive. If you’re ill in any way, please stay home.”
Paddle take-out will be at Spook Bridge, west from Valdosta on U.S. 84, left onto Ousley Road, right onto Old Quitman Highway, stop at the gate.
“It’s a long walk up from the Withlacoochee River below Spook Bridge to Old Quitman Highway,” WWALS member Steve Miller said.
“Not to worry: When we do this paddle, WWALS will have a 16-foot trailer to haul boats and a golf cart for people who don’t want to walk the quarter-mile up to the road. At the midpoint, we will also have a truck and trailer waiting to haul out the (few, we hope) people who want to get out there.”
Non WWALS members can pay their $10 fee at the outing, or online at https://wwals.net/donations/#outings. WWALS will test the water quality from the river the Thursday before the paddle.
Participants will pass several creeks, and the notorious Sabal Trail methane pipeline. If the river stays as high as seems likely, paddlers will float right over County Line Shoals, just upstream from U.S. 84. Just below US 84 is a railroad bridge, and around the last bend is Spook Bridge, so famous it has its own movie. Paddlers will take out on the left bank just below the bridge.
For more WWALS outings and events as they are posted, see the WWALS calendar or the WWALS outings and events on the organization’s web page. WWALS members also get an upcoming list in the Tannin Times newsletter.