Spring on the Satilla 2017
136 people joined Georgia River Network (GRN) and Satilla Riverkeeper (SRK) for the 3rd annual Spring on the Satilla near Woodbine, GA. The Satilla river is one of Georgia’s wonders and especially during this time of year when Azaleas flank the blanks in full bloom, along with fresh tender buds and green vegetation draped in the swaying old man beards of dangling Spanish moss.
Folks rolled in on Friday throughout the day from all over Georgia and neighboring states (there was even a paddler from England!) to spend the weekend camping with fellow paddlers, meet new friends, and enjoy comradery and 2 days of paddling, while supporting a great cause!
We could not have asked for more beautiful weather with temps in the mid 80’s, blue skies, and a light breeze. After enjoying a leisurely breakfast we loaded onto school buses and were shuttled to the put in located at the end of a long one lane dirt road. Volunteers were on site helping people tote their vessels to the water.
All of Georgia River Network’s events are family friendly and this trip was no exception with multiple families along for the ride with their children ranging from 13 months to 18 years old. My daughter Aviva, now 21 months was no longer the youngest paddler, but no doubt has the most miles for her age under her belt – racking up 210 river miles after this trip!
We were also excited to have a youth group from Camden County High School on the trip again this year. They participated in Adopt-A-Stream training learning about river health and monitoring and had a blast on the river.
Ichthyologist, Camm Swift also joined us for the weekend with seine nets in tow. This is always a treat as we are able to cast an eye beneath the water surface as the seine net captures live macro-invertebrates such as dragonfly and caddisfly nymphs, baby fish, and all sorts of other wriggling critters that you otherwise wouldn’t know were thriving in the shallow depths below.
First time participants had no idea they were about to experience such a magical hidden gem. The dark tannin stained waters created a rainbow of various shades of red, orange, and yellow depending on the river’s depth which contrasted starkly with the glistening sugar white sandbars flanking almost every bend of the first 14 miles of our 28 mile journey. We floated past a handful of locals lounging on sandbars, fishing, and soaking up the sun as if they were at the beach.
The evenings were filled with delicious food and tales of interesting and awe-inspiring experiences on the river. In addition, informative information was given about: the Satilla river by new Satilla Riverkeeper Laura Early, Georgia’s established and developing Water Trails by yours truly, and a special star gazing stroll with river rat Berry O’Neil. Paddle Georgia Coordinator Joe Cook gave a summary of the legislative session, upcoming 2017 GRN events, and shared a few jokes and tall tales. We also held our live auction and Kayak raffle to generate much needed funds to support the continued work of GRN and SRK. Congrats to John and Nancy “Gert”- the lucky Kayak raffle winners!
On our second day the river widened and sandbars gave way to banks held back with gnarled and cavernous stilted tree roots and knobby knees resembling fairy tale creatures. Signs of the coast became ever more apparent as the trees changed to reeds, marsh grass, and rich mud that sunk up to your knees and oh yeeessssss… the tidal influence. Those that did more floating than paddling had to put the ‘pedal to the metal’ the last few miles of the trip as the tide reversed against us. Everyone knew in advance of this occurrence and so were mentally prepared to brace themselves for the final push to the finish line. Some folks (myself included) definitely were a wee bit sore the next day – but it was great to get the exercise and experience such an amazing part of the State.
A wonderful time was had by all and we look forward to seeing everyone at the upcoming Weekend for Rivers Conference, River Celebration Awards Ceremony, and Guided Paddle taking place April 28-29 at the Little Ocmulgee Park & Lodge!
Director of Programs & Outreach
Georgia River Network