VALDOSTA – John S. Quarterman of Hahira will be among more than 330 people participating in Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2019 set for June 15-21 on the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers.
Quarterman is joining canoeists and kayakers from across Georgia and 13 other states for the 92-mile, 7-day journey from Valdosta to Mayo, Fla., according to organizers.
On the river by day, at night, the participants will camp at nearby facilities. The group will tent at Grassy Pond Recreation Area in Lake Park, June 14-18, as they explore the Withlacoochee River in Lowndes and Brooks counties and Madison and Hamilton counties in Florida. They then move downstream for four nights at Camp Suwannee in Dowling Park, Fla., where they will continue their journey on the Suwannee River, organizers said.
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 with the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program to give a snapshot of the current health of the rivers, organizers said.
This is the 15th anniversary for Paddle Georgia. In the event’s first 14 years, GRN has introduced more than 4,300 paddlers to water trails on 13 Georgia rivers. Along the way the event has generated more than $430,000 for river protection. WWALS Watershed Coalition and its projects, Suwannee Riverkeeper and the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail, will be the beneficiaries of the 2019 journey.
Many participants will be embarking on their 15th Paddle Georgia, meaning they have journeyed more than 1,400 miles on Georgia rivers, organizers said.
“We have many paddlers that return year after year,” said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator. “That’s one of the special things about Paddle Georgia. There’s lots of camaraderie and paddlers support one another. Over the years, it has become something of a family reunion as much as a paddle trip.”
The Suwannee, celebrated in Stephen Foster’s song, is well known. With its origins in the Okefenokee Swamp, the Suwannee sports blackwater and moss-draped tupelo and cypress tree-lined banks and is among Florida’s most popular paddling destinations.
"Though lesser known, the Withlacoochee serves up the same heavy dose of Deep South river vibe," organizers said. "But Paddle Georgia organizers are emphasizing the surprises participants will find along these rivers."
The Withlacoochee, despite flowing through flat terrain is home to unexpected shoals, and both rivers are dotted with beautiful, cold, blue hole springs, some of which have been named among the best swimming holes in North America, organizers said.
Information for the media, including a daily itinerary, directions to campsites, launch sites and take-out sites can be found on the Paddle Georgia website: www.garivers.org/paddle-georgia
Sponsors of the event include Hennessy Land Rover, Cedar Creek Park and Outdoor Center, CYA Insurance Agency, Oglethorpe Power, Cary S. Baxter & Harbin, LLC; R. Terry Pate CPA, China Clay Producers Association, Colonial Pipeline, Outside World Outfitters, Brown and Caldwell, Nestle-Purina, Len Foote Hike Inn, The Rain Barrel Depot, Vibe Kayaks, Alston & Bird, Georgia Power Company, Fruit of the Loom, Jerzees, Solar Tyme USA, Patagonia, Ryland Environmental, Chaparral Boats, Maxxis, Stream Techs, Siegel Insurance/Auto Owner’s Insurance, REI, Chattahoochee Paddle Company, Georgia Kayak Fishing, and EarthShare Georgia. Partners include American Canoe Association, Café Campesino, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Suwannee Riverkeeper, Georgia Canoeing Association, Georgia Adopt-A-Stream, Project WET, Six Flags Over Georgia and Odo-Ban.