ATHENS — River lovers will have the opportunity to explore three Georgia rivers and a Georgia barrier island this fall through Georgia River Network’s guided paddle trip program, beginning Sept. 17-19 with a trip that features the Ochlockonee River and Spring Creek in southwest Georgia.

The Athens-based river advocacy group’s paddle trip schedule continues with a two-day trip on the Flint River Oct. 8-10 and a journey in the Okefenokee Swamp and along the Suwannee River Nov. 12-14. On Nov. 5-7, the organization will explore Sapelo Island.

The guided trips feature catered meals, camping, educational programs and entertainment. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the trips are limited to about 30 participants and precautions are taken to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“These are more than just paddle trips,” Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Peck said in a news release. “They are a chance to explore some of Georgia’s most beautiful scenery and learn about issues impacting Georgia’s water resources.”

Registration for these journeys opened in early July. The Sapelo Island and Okefenokee-Suwannee trips are already sold out, though individuals can apply to be placed on the waitlist.

The Ochlockonee-Spring Creek Adventure set for Sept. 17-19 will include trips on the narrow and winding blackwater Ochlockonee River near Thomasville and Spring Creek, a small stream fed by numerous blue hole springs. Participants will camp at Birdsong Nature Center, a 500-acre nature preserve in Grady County. A limited number of spaces remain for this event.

Fall Float on the Flint, Oct. 8-10, features two days of paddling the Flint River between Albany and Bainbridge where participants can dip their toes — or their whole bodies — in crystal-clear and bone-chilling cold blue hole springs. On-river camping and catered meals will be served up at Rocky Bend Flint River Retreat in Newton, where participants have the choice of tent camping, RV camping or renting one of the retreat’s many cabins. Spaces still remain for this event.

Georgia River Network traditionally hosts more than 300 people during an annual weeklong river adventure known as Paddle Georgia, held each June, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the group organized a series of 15 small-group river adventures that have highlighted all 14 major river basins in Georgia.

“The pandemic altered our plans, but it also spawned an explosion in interest in paddlesports,” Paddle Georgia Coordinator Joe Cook said. “We are seeing increasing demand for our trips because people are itching to get outdoors. Kayaking, in particular, has really taken off.”

Founded in 1998, Georgia River Network is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that serves as the voice of Georgia’s rivers and works to empower everyone to enjoy, connect with and advocate for economically vital and clean flowing rivers.

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