Row, Row Your Boat: Residents to paddle Withlacoochee, Suwannee

Submitted PhotoTerry Pate of Lawrenceville paddles beneath limestone bluffs along the Withlacoochee River. Valdosta will be the starting point for a week-long journey from the Withlacoochee into the Suwannee River June 15-21. 

VALDOSTA, Ga. — For the first time in its 15-year history, Paddle Georgia will cross state lines into Florida from Valdosta. 

Paddle Georgia is an annual canoe and kayak journey down state rivers hosted by Georgia River Network, said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator.

The 92-mile trip, taking place June 15-21, will begin at the Withlacoochee River in Valdosta and will meet the Suwannee River near Mayo, Fla.

Organizers will have a campsite at Grassy Pond Recreation Area from June 14-18.

“(Paddle Georgia) is considered the largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure in the country,” Cook said. “We have each year between 300-450 people participating.”

Members paddled the Withlacoochee last August, and Cook said they “fell in love with it” adding the river is “beautiful.”

About 225 people have already registered for this year’s trip, but Cook said registrants are still being accepted.

Participants can choose to paddle the entire week. They can choose to take advantage of the Paddle Lite option and journey the first two days or last two days.

Adult registration is $425, $230 for youth ages 8-17 and $30 for children age 7 and younger for the week-long trip.

Paddle Lite adult registration is $120, and youth registration is $70.

Proceeds will be given to the Georgia River Network and the Suwannee Riverkeeper to help protect the Withlacoochee, Cook said.

Eight scholarships will be offered to Georgia private and public school educators to cover the cost of attending the trip. Applications are being accepted until April 20.

The educators will receive environmental education curriculum, as well as training for Georgia Adopt-A-Stream, according to organizers.

“The purpose of the program is to encourage classroom instructors to incorporate environmental education into their regular lesson plans,” the release states.

Shuttles will return participants to their cars following the trip. Catered meals, educational programs and entertainment will be provided at Grassy Pond.

“The goal of the trip is to get people to start a relationship with a river,” Cook said. “I believe that people are not as interested in protecting rivers unless they have a relationship with a river.”

To have a relationship with a river, one must spend time with it, he said. Participants also form connections with one another.

The deadline to register is May 31. Visit garivers.org/paddle-georgia/, or call (706) 409-0128 for more information. 

Amanda M. Usher is a reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at 229-244-3400 ext.1274.

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