ATHENS — President Jimmy Carter saved it; famed Confederate general and Georgia governor John B. Gordon was raised on it; Malcolm X’s grandparents worked as slaves along it, and this June, more than 300 adventurers from across the country will paddle it during Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2020.
The seven-day, 99-mile canoe/kayak/paddleboard journey on Georgia’s Flint River will run from near Thomaston to Montezuma and Oglethorpe June 20-27. Billed as an educational river adventure by its organizers, participants have likened the event to “summer camp for adults and families.”
Registration opens Friday online at www.garivers.org Registration fees for adults range from $120 for two-day options to $425 for the full week. The trip is limited to the first 450 registrants.
The journey will take participants through what is arguably the most scenic stretch of river in the state — the Pine Mountain escarpment and Sprewell Bluff area in Upson, Talbot and Meriwether counties.
“This is really a bucket list adventure for Georgia’s river lovers,” Paddle Georgia Coordinator Joe Cook said in a news release. “It’s one of those stretches of rivers that everyone wants to paddle at least once in their lifetime. And, its beauty would be gone if not for the efforts of concerned citizens and Gov. Carter in the early 1970s.”
That’s when the soon-to-be president successfully halted a dam proposed at Sprewell Bluff, and later as president implemented policies that stopped two other proposed dams on the Flint. But that’s not the only history paddlers will experience during the June adventure.
They’ll also stroke their boats past the ancestral home and plantation of Gov. John B. Gordon, a towering figure in Georgia’s post-antebellum period, and the land near Reynolds where Malcolm X’s grandparents once toiled as slaves.
The journey begins in Meriwether and Pike counties and passes through Upson, Talbot, Taylor and Crawford counties before winding to the final destination in Macon County: the twin Flint River towns of Montezuma and Oglethorpe.
The trip features nightly camps near Thomaston at Camp Thunder, a Boy Scouts of America facility, at Taylor County High School in Butler and in downtown Oglethorpe. Catered meals, river education programs, both on the river and in camp, visits to sites of historic, cultural and natural significance, entertainment and river camaraderie round out the week.
Through a partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, participants will even have the opportunity to become certified as Georgia Adopt-A-Stream citizen water monitors during the journey.
Paddle Georgia is considered the largest weeklong canoe/kayak camping adventure in the country and attracts paddlers ranging in age from 4 to 84.
Georgia River Network is the state’s only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to protecting the state’s rivers and promoting recreation use of those rivers. It organizes the annual event to bring attention to rivers and promote the development of recreational boating trails.
“The whole goal of Paddle Georgia is to establish relationships with Georgia’s rivers,” said Rena Peck, Georgia River Network’s Executive Director. “Our paddlers usually fall in love with the river, and when that happens they go home to get involved in protecting the rivers, streams and lakes in their own backyard.”
The event also serves as a fundraiser for Georgia River Network and local river protection groups. This year’s proceeds will benefit Flint Riverkeeper based in Albany. Since its inception in 2005, GRN’s Paddle Georgia has introduced more than 5,000 people to Georgia’s rivers while generating more than $500,000 for river protection and water trail development.
In recent years, Georgia River Network has worked with Flint Riverkeeper and other stakeholders to develop and establish the Flint River Water Trail and a statewide recreational boating trail network.
Georgia River Network is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization working to ensure a clean water legacy by engaging and empowering Georgians to protect and restore their rivers from the mountains to the coast.