Cecilia Nachtmann of Rome joined 35 kayakers and canoeists from across Georgia for a 112-mile, seven-day journey on the Flint River as part of Georgia River Network’s annual Paddle Georgia event.

The trip kicked off on Sunday, June 20 at Crisp County Power Dam near Cordele and ended Saturday, June 26 with a celebratory fish fry lunch provided by the Flint Riverkeeper at Bainbridge Boat Basin Park.

Georgia River Network traditionally hosts more than 300 people during its annual week-long river adventure, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it chose to organize a small-group version of the trip. Paddle Georgia, which is considered the largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure in the country, has taken place each year since 2005, with the exception of last year.

Each day, Nachtmann and the other participants paddled between 9 and 22 miles down river and camped on the riverside each night where they enjoyed catered meals, educational programs and games.

“Paddle Georgia’s purpose is to connect people to the rivers that Georgia River Network works to protect,” said Paddle Georgia coordinator, Joe Cook. “On this trip, our 36 participants experienced the lower Flint River and learned more about the river from local river stewards, scientists, zookeepers, and land managers in the evening.”

The event also included additional day-time educational programs on the river. With Georgia Adopt-a-Stream, participants helped collect chemical and biological data, capturing a snapshot of the rivers’ current health. Paddlers also observed and learned more about the Flint River’s plant life and fish with scientists from The Jones Center at Ichauway.

Although this year’s participant list was necessarily short, it was packed with Paddle Georgia veterans, a few of whom have participated since the event’s beginning in 2005, meaning they have now paddled more than 1,600 miles of Georgia’s rivers.

“This is the 16th anniversary for Paddle Georgia. In the event’s first 15 years, GRN introduced more than 4,550 paddlers to water trails on 13 Georgia rivers,” said Georgia River Network’s executive director, Rena Ann Peck. “Along the way the event has generated more than $440,000 for river protection.”

This year, participants were tasked with raising $1,000 for river protection through a Canoe-a-thon challenge. The fundraiser continues through November, but to date, more than $44,000 has been raised for Georgia River Network’s river protection and water trail development projects.

Next year, Georgia River Network plans to return to its traditional Paddle Georgia trip and the organization expects more than 300 participants to paddle 100 miles on the Upper Flint River from near Thomaston to Montezuma/Oglethorpe, June 19-25. For more details about Paddle Georgia 2021 or 2022, visit www.garivers.org.

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