Paddle Georgia 2022
conasauga River Adventure
About The Trip
On this two-day, two-night adventure set for Aug. 19-21 we will explore the headwaters of the Conasauga River in Northwest Georgia, hiking, snorkeling and paddling what is considered one of the nation’s most biologically diverse rivers. We’ll hike the Conasauga River Trail which offers beautiful views of the river and access to prime swimming holes in the Cherokee National Forest and then we’ll wade into the river with snorkels and masks to view some of the river’s incredible fishes–everything from tricolor shiners to holiday darters to the rare Conasauga logperch. The following day, we’ll take to the river in canoes and kayaks to explore the river’s gently flowing waters in Murray and Whitfield counties.
Camping will be at historic Prater’s Mill, a preserved and restored circa-1855 grist mill on the banks of Coahulla Creek near Dalton with catered meals and tent camping.
Registration Fees: Adults–$350, Youth 17 and Under–$225. Registration opens Tuesday, April 19 at 8 a.m.
Please review the following and be prepared to help us minimize the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus during our journey. If you are unwilling to abide by these regulations, please consider staying at home. Full refunds will be provided for those cancelling.
Georgia River Network encourages all participants to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Only individuals who have been vaccinated or who can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of the event will be permitted to participate.
Before and During Your Travel To and From Event
If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, please stay home.
If you are an older adult or you have a serious underlying medical condition, please consider staying at home.
Before embarking on a trip, please consider being tested for COVID-19 to ensure that you are not carrying the virus.
During travel to and from the event, minimize your contact with other people and always wear a face covering when social-distancing guidelines can not be followed.
Wear a facemask during periods where you may be in close proximity to other participants (launch/take out sites/campsite areas/restrooms, shuttles etc.);
Do not share equipment, food, water and other supplies
Maintain social distancing of 6 feet at all times;
Maintain strict hygiene by washing hands frequently; do not touch eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Limit use of indoor areas and wear face covering when using indoor facilities.
In the buffet line at meals, maintain social distancing, wear face coverings and allow servers to serve your plate.
During shuttle rides on buses or vans, please wear a face covering.
Bring your own water for the weekend. This will eliminate and minimize the handling of hoses, faucets and other water dispensers.
Text Message Alert System
To receive text message alerts from Georgia River Network staff regarding this event please text GARIVERS to 84483 on your cell phone. This system will be used to communicate important information to participants in a timely manner in the event of an emergency or other situation in which information needs to be sent to all participants as quickly as possible.
Aug. 20: From our camp at historic Prater’s Mill, we will carpool to the Conasauga River Snorkel Hole in the Cherokee National Forest where we’ll hike portions of the Conasauga River Trail and spend time snorkeling in the Conasauga Snorkel Hole, a popular spot where swimmers can view dozens of different species of fish from two-inch-long holiday darters to two-foot-long river redhorses. The Conasauga River Trail is an easy, flat trail that parrallels the river for almost 3 miles. You can travel as much–or as little of it–as you like.
Aug. 21: Day two features an 8-mile paddle trip on the Conasauga as it winds gently through its wide valley in Murray and Whitfield counties. Narrow and intimate, the river is shaded by riverside trees, with occasional shoals and gravel bars. Along the way, we’ll stop to seine for fish and get up close and personal with some of the river’s rare creatures.
What To Bring For Snorkeling and Hiking
For our Aug. 20 day of snorkeling and hiking in the Cherokee National Forest, we will split into two groups. One group will hike while the other snorkels; then we’ll switch. So, you’ll need shoes you can hike in and get in the water with. Feel free to bring hiking shoes and water shoes (no flip flops please). You’ll have a place to change and store your shoes. For snorkeling, please bring a mask and snorkel. Wet suits are nice, but not necessary. The water in August is still very cold but bearable for most swimmers. Wet suits will enable you to enjoy the snorkeling comfortably for a longer period of time. Underwater cameras are recommended as you’ll have the chance to get close to many of the river’s fish. Dive fins are not necessary as the river is shallow and fins tend to encumber movement in the shallow water. ***Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the U.S. Forest Service is currently unsure whether they will be able to provide snorkel guide service programs in August. If they are able to provide this service, snorkel equipment and wet suits will be provided by the Forest Service. We’ll keep all registered participants updated of developments. For the hike, bring a small day pack that will carry water, food, first aid kit and other personal items.
American Canoe Association Liability Waivers
Very important! You must sign your American Canoe Association liability waiver in order to participate in this adventure. Please click on the link below, fill out the online form and submit it. Once you’ve done that you will receive an e-mail. You must respond to that e-mail to complete the waiver submission! CLICK HERE TO SIGN YOUR ACA LIABILITY WAIVER ONLINE!
Georgia Adopt-A-Stream Workshop
Georgia Adopt-A-Stream instructors will offer chemical water quality monitoring workshops during this event. During the training, students learn chemical water monitoring protocols and collect and test samples for water quality. Following the training, participants can complete the Adopt-A-Stream certification process. By participating in this training, you’ll have the opportunity to assist in Georgia Adopt-A-Stream’s assessment of the health of the waterways we will paddle. When you return home, you’ll have a greater understanding of rivers and streams, and you’ll be certified to conduct routine water quality monitoring on a local waterway. You can sign up to participate during online registration or when you arrive at the event!
ON SITE REGISTRATION AT PRATER’S MILL HISTORIC SITE AUG. 19-20
August 19: 2-8 p.m.
August 20: 7-8:00 a.m.
All participants must check in at Prater’s Mill Historic Site during the times listed above. Upon check-in, you will receive your event packet that includes items like your T-shirt/swag and your on-river maps and descriptions.
Directions from Exit 341 at I-75: From the exit, travel east Ga. 201 4.5 miles to Varnell (at the Dollar General). Turn right on Ga. 2 (Prater’s Mill Road) and proceed on 3.3 miles to entrance to Prater’s Mill Historic Site on the left.
Meals are included in the cost of registration. We encourage you to arrive Friday, August 19, and enjoy our kick off evening meal beginning at 6:30 p.m.. Breakfasts and sack lunches will be provided August 20 and 21. Dinner will also be provided Saturday, Aug. 20.
Lunches: Provided by The Chop Shop In Dalton, sack lunches come with your choice of sandwiches: turkey, ham, roast beef, peanut butter and jelly and veggie/hummus. You will pick up your sack lunch AT THE CAMPSITE following breakfast each morning. Make sure you bring a waterproof bag to keep your lunch dry on the river. Lunches include chips, fruit and dessert.
Breakfasts: Breakfast provided by The Chop Shop in Dalton will be served daily beginning at 7 a.m. Daily menu includes full hot breakfast with eggs, grits sausage or bacon, breads, fruit, cereals, milk, orange juice and coffee.
Dinners: Dinners provided by The Chop Shop in Dalton will be served daily beginning at 6:30 p.m. Dinner menus will be posted when finalized.
All meals will include options for vegetarians/vegans. If you have special food allergies or considerations, please contact Joe Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss and make special arrangements with caterers.
CAMPSITE INFORMATION AND LOGISTICS
Prater’s Mill Historic Site: Situated on the banks of Coahulla Creek since the 1850s, Prater’s Mill has played an important role in this history of Whitfield County. The Prater’s Mill Foundation has graciously allowed Georgia River Network to camp at this unique and historic location that is not usually used as a campsite venue. The county-owned and privately managed park hosts an annual country fair each fall and is used by the public year-round for passive recreation including walking, fishing and boating while the facilities are used for special events like family reunions and weddings. During our stay, this historic mill will be open for tours.
Camp Amenities: This is a primitive tent camping only location! Potable water, a camp shower with hot water, hand-washing station and porta-toilets will be provided. A small pavilion can be used to shelter a limited number of tents in inclement weather. A larger pavilion with seating and stage will be used for dining and educational programs each evening. Parking is located adjacent to tent camping area.
Nearby Lodging and Amenities: The nearest hotels are located 13 miles away in Dalton (Exit 336 at I-75). Groceries and restaurants are located two miles west on Ga. 2.
Distance to Conasauga Snorkel Hole Aug. 20: The Conasauga Snorkel Hole is located 24 miles northeast of Prater’s Mill Historic Site–about an hour drive with much of it on dirt U.S. Forest Service roads. Due to limited parking at the Snorkel Hole, we will carpool to the site using a 15-passenger van and participant vehicles.
Directions from Prater’s Mill Historic Site to Conasauga Snorkel Hole: From this historic site, turn left on Ga. 2 and proceed 8.9 miles to Ga. 225. Turn left and proceed 1.3 miles. Bear right on Tennga Gregory Road and proceed 3.1 miles to U.S. 411. Turn left and proceed 2 miles. Turn right on Ball Play Road and proceed 1.9 miles. Turn right on Ladd Springs Road and proceed 6.8 miles to entrance to Conasauga Snorkel Hole parking/camping area on right.
Distance to Conasauga Launch Site at Beaverdale Aug. 21: The Beaverdale Superette launch site is located 5 miles east of Prater’s Mill Historic Site on Ga. 2. We’ll drop our boats at the launch site, drive vehicles to the Norton Bridge Road take out site and then shuttle drivers back to the launch site to begin our journey.
Friday, Aug. 19
Registration: 2:00-8:00 Prater’s Mill Historic Site
Set- Up Camp: 2:00-8:00 Prater’s Mill Historic Site
Dinner: 6:30-7:30 Kick off Dinner provided by The Chop Shop In Dalton
Evening Program: 7:30-9:00 Welcome, Safety Briefing, Special Program TBD
Lights Out 10:00
Saturday, Aug. 20
Registration: 7:00-8:00 Prater’s Mill Historic Site
Breakfast: 7:00-8:00 Provided by The Chop Shop in Dalton
Carpool to River: 8:00-9:00 Carpool to Conasauga Snorkel Hole
Hiking & Snorkeling: 10:00-3:00 Group will alternately hike and snorkel
Return to Camp: 3:00-4:00 Carpool back to camp
Prater’s Mill Tours 4:00-6:00 Tour historic mill building
Dinner 6:30-7:30. Provided by The Chop Shop in Dalton
Evening Program: 7:30-8:30 Announcements, Special Program TBD
Lights Out 10:00
Sunday, Aug. 21
Breakfast: 7:00-8:00 Provided by The Chop Shop in Dalton
Break Camp: 8:00-8:30 Pack up camp gear and vacate campsite
Launch/Shuttle: 8:30-9:30. Drop boats at launch site and run vehicle shuttle
Take Out: 3:00-4:00 Take out and load boats
PADDLE GEORGIA POLICIES, SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS, WHAT TO BRING, WHAT NOT TO BRING AND MORE!
Paddle Georgia Policies
- No alcoholic beverages are permitted on the river.
- All participants must attend the pre-launch safety briefing. Participants must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
- Participants must wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation device at all times on the river.
- Participants under age 18 are the responsibility of, and must be accompanied by, a parent or guardian.
- Sorry, no pets allowed.
- All participants must sign a Medical and Emergency Contact Information sheet and a Waiver of Claims and Release of Liability form. Parents must sign for children under the age of 18. (These forms will be sent in the information packet.
- Person-powered watercraft only.
- All participants must respect private property along the river.
- All participants must possess basic paddling skills and be capable of self-rescue in the water.
- No more than 2 children under the age of 12 per adult guardian.
- All children must have a designated seat in the vessel in which they are traveling. (no children on decks of kayaks or as “passengers” in cockpits of solo kayaks)
- Georgia River Network is not responsible for any personal property that may be lost, damaged, or stolen during the trip.
Code of Conduct
At Georgia River Network, we like to think of our river adventure participants as our “river family.” We come from many different backgrounds, but the river is the great equalizer and our common bond. We want all participants to treat one another as family.
- Be respectful of all participants, including their property, their person and their personal views. On our river adventures you will paddle, eat and camp with people that are very different from you. Please respect and celebrate those differences.
- Be helpful. If you see someone that needs a hand in camp or on the river, please lend yours.
- Be courteous. Be prepared to wait in lines for restrooms, shuttle buses, meals and more. Remember, we are all in the same boat; only by working together can we get everyone safely down the river.
- Use inappropriate language. This is a family event with participants of all ages.
- Verbally or physically intimidate or abuse other participants.
- Become intoxicated or under the influence of mind-altering drugs.
- Violate quiet hours by engaging in loud talk and disruptive behavior between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
Violations of these policies and our code of conduct can result in the participant being removed from the event without refund.
For Parents and Guardians of Children
Parents and guardians are responsible for the welfare and safety of their minor participants at all times, both on the river and in camp. Understand that while Georgia River Network’s river adventure trips almost without exception attract uncommonly good and kind people, Georgia River Network does not screen participants or conduct background checks on participants.
Registrations with full refunds are available up until the date of the event for COVID-19 related reasons. Other cancellations must be made prior to Aug. 5 to receive a full refund less 10 percent.
What Should I Bring? (here’s a checklist of essential items!) First Aid Kit; Sunscreen; Necessary Medication; Water Bottles (at least 3 quart bottles for each person); At least two paddles for each boat; Flexible mindset; Tent or other shelter, sleeping bag or sleep sack and sleeping pad (if you are camping); proper footwear for river and land; rain gear; whistle for signaling emergency.
Here’s a checklist of suggested optional items: Labels with your name for your boat, luggage, and other personal belongings; Ground Cloth; Reusable Plate/Utensils (wash stations provided); Clothing for weekend; Waterproof Stuff Sacks for Camp Gear; Waterproof stuff sack or case for lunch and other on river items (like dry clothing); Clothes/Swimsuit; Money to tip the caterers; Insect Repellent; Towel/Wash Cloth; Soap, Toothpaste, Toiletries; Flashlight/Head Lamp; Book; Camera; Watertight cases for Boat; Fishing Gear/License; Duct Tape; Sponge; Bailer; Snacks for river and camp; Hat or Cap (don’t forget to get your Paddle Georgia hats!); Bug netting; Extra Length of Rope; Ear Plugs (Some of our paddlers snore!); Sleep Shades (Lights out at 10 p.m.); Laptop & Electronic Communication Devices (optional and frowned upon!); Water Guns/Cannon (optional and encouraged!); Lightweight long sleeved pants or shirts for bug protection in the evening; Layered non-cotton clothing; Bottled Water
What Shouldn’t I Bring? No alcohol Permitted
16 Things You Should Bring on the Water Each Day
- At least two paddles for each boat.
- PFD—every Paddle Georgia participant must wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device at all times while on the river (no ifs, ands, buts or “gee, it’s really hot!” – this policy is STRICTLY enforced)
- Every canoe should have two lines, a bow line and a stern line 8-10 feet each in length secured in such a way that they are readily accessible, but cannot come loose accidentally. Loose rope increases the risk of entanglement in the event of capsize. Kayaks should have grab loops at both bow and stern.
- An extra throw rope in case of emergencies should be stored safely in each boat.
- Attach a whistle to your life vest or body to signal for help in case of emergency.
- A Knife
- Waterproof matches or other fire source in waterproof covering.
- First Aid Kit—while boats will be on the river with basic first aid supplies, each vessel should bring a first aid kit stored inside a waterproof bag or container.
- A repair kit—each vessel should be able to make their own repairs (duct tape, sealant, waterproof tape and other materials are recommended)
- Rain Gear—Be prepared to get wet and potentially cold. Every participant should have access to a lightweight rain jacket and rain pants in a waterproof bag or container.
- Change of Clothes—Be prepared to take an unexpected swim. Every participant should have access to a dry change of clothes kept in a waterproof bag or container.
- Appropriate footwear that will protect your feet from unseen underwater hazards and permit you to walk comfortably on land when launching and taking out and in the event that you must exit the Paddle Georgia course.
- Sunscreen—Sunburn might be the trip’s biggest hazard.
- Water Bottle or Three —At least three quarts per person per day is recommended. Bring sufficient water for the day’s paddle for everyone in your boat. Also consider bringing electrolyte packs or powdered sports drink mix to add to your water to avoid dehydration. Drinking water is not available along the Paddle Georgia route and no drink is provided w/ sack lunches. Many paddlers will fill one bottle with water and another with sports drinks (provided each morning for you to fill your own bottles).
- Food—There is no access to food along the Paddle Georgia route. Sack lunches are provided to participants. No drink is included with the lunch.
- Dry Bag or Ziploc—Bring a waterproof bag to protect items you don’t want to get wet, including your lunch.
Paddle Georgia Safety Procedures
Paddle Georgia participants should be aware that this canoe trip is not a commercially-guided trip. While Georgia River Network and Paddle Georgia staff will be available on the river during each day’s paddle and participants with medical and/or First Aid training will be identified, we cannot personally ensure the safety of all participants. Unlike a commercial trip in which paid guides direct you through each bend of the river, Paddle Georgia is designed to be your adventure, and as such, you are responsible for your own safety. All participants are assuming risks (some of which are outlined below) while participating in Paddle Georgia.
Skill Level Required: The Okefenokee-St. Marys River trip suitable for most novice paddlers. The journey into the swamp will take approximately 8 hours and there is only one location to get out of your boat (Monkey Lake Shelter 7 miles from our launch site). Paddlers should have a basic understanding of paddle strokes, should be able to control their vessels in moving water and be capable of self-rescue in moving or deep water. If you are new to paddling, we highly recommend that you take a canoe/kayak paddling course prior to the trip. Our route is all flat water; there are no shoals or rapids.
For a reminder of basic paddling safety practices, watch this American Canoe Association Video.
Weather: Average August High Temperature: 87 F; Average Low Temperature: 67 F. Average August Rainfall: 2.8 inches
Strainers—Strainers are branches, trees, vegetation or other partially or totally submerged obstacles in the river’s current often found along the river’s edge. These hazards allow only water to pass through freely. The current will pull anything else down, plastering it into place, similar to the action of a kitchen colander. It is best to approach submerged trees or logs along the river bank from the downstream side to avoid having the current pin your boat against the obstacle or flipped by the force of the water. You should also avoid grabbing on to low hanging branches of partially submerged vegetation as this action can often cause your boat to capsize. To avoid a multi-boat pile up, leave enough room between boats to allow each boat to safely navigate around these obstacles.
Weather—Strong thunderstorms and high winds are not uncommon. In the event of inclement weather that includes the risk of lightning, paddle to shore, secure your boat and find cover under a dense stand of small trees. Avoid open areas, especially open areas with solitary trees, and avoid gathering in large groups. By dispersing yourselves over a large area, you reduce the risk of lightning striking numerous individuals at one time. Squatting, with your feet on a personal flotation device or seat cushion, is a good idea when in the midst of a thunderstorm (while on solid ground—not in your boat!).
Sun and Heat—Hats and appropriate sun screen are recommended. If you get too hot, the river comes with built in air conditioning – get in and cool off. You should carry at least three quarts of water each day to avoid dehydration. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also recommended. The first two days are usually the most difficult as we acclimate from spending lots of time in air-conditioned buildings to spending all day in 80-90-degree heat. Prepare by drinking lots of fluids in the days leading up to the trip.
Water Temperature—The combination of cold water and a cold afternoon thunderstorm raises the risk of dangerous changes in body temperature. Be prepared with rain gear and layered clothing that stays warm even when wet (avoid cotton).
Water Quality – Due to a variety of conditions, water quality can vary and organisms that cause illness may be present. Swimming and submersion in the water increase the risk of contracting water-borne illnesses. Ingesting river water should be avoided and cuts and sores should be kept out of the water and treated if exposed.
Trash—Unfortunately, Georgia’s waterways collect refuse from surrounding communities. Proper footwear and exercising caution can prevent unnecessary injuries. Participants should wear sandals or shoes that provide adequate protection from broken bottles, rusted appliance parts and tin cans and anything else you might find at your local landfill.
Venomous Snakes—The land surrounding our paddle routes is potential habitat for three venomous snakes—rattlesnakes, water moccasins and coral snakes. If you encounter any snakes, simply leave them alone. Should you have the misfortune of being bitten, remain calm and get medical assistance as quickly as possible. Bites from these venomous snakes are rarely fatal, given proper medical attention. At any given moment on this trip you will not be more than a few hours from a hospital.
Terra Firma—Please step carefully when paying visits to land. And, remember, the Okefenokee is the “land of the trembling earth!” What looks like solid ground might sink when you put your weight on it!
Your Fellow Paddlers—This is a journey involving many individuals with varying degrees of skill level. Space yourselves so that you do not interfere with one another when maneuvering around obstacles. Pileups on the river can be just as dangerous as those that occur on interstate highways.
Paddle Georgia “Buddy System”
We will rely on the “Buddy System” to ensure that all participants arrive safely at the day’s take-out point. Before each day’s paddle, identify your “buddy boat or boats.” This will be the boat or group of boats with whom you will paddle for the day. The group is responsible for ensuring that if someone needs help on the river that someone is nearby to provide help and that no one is left behind. Do not lose sight of your buddy boat or members of your buddy boat group. Participants who have not identified a buddy boat for the day’s paddle will not be permitted to launch from the day’s put-in point. A sweep boat will bring up the rear of the day’s paddle to further ensure that no one is left behind
For tips on kayak safety, watch this American Canoe Association intructional video:
What do I do if I capsize? On slow moving water, stay with your boat and swim it to shore or shallow water where you can dump the water and right your vessel. It floats even when full with water and can support you if you become tired. Make sure your belongings are secured to your boat to keep from losing them in the event of a capsize. Your fellow buddy boaters can assist in recovering any belongings and help you right your boat.In fast-moving water or rapids, get away and upstream from your boat until you reach slower moving water. Float on your back, feet downstream. Don’t try to stand in fast-moving water. Rocks or other objects can trap your feet and the force of the water can hold you under. Moving canoes filled with water can pin or crush paddlers against rocks or trees.
In the event of inclement weather…As noted above, thunderstorms are not uncommon, however, usually these afternoon-variety showers do not last long. If you are on the river during a storm event, take appropriate cover as described above, wait out the storm and continue your journey when it appears safe. Protective facilities along the river for large groups are not available.
We will make every effort to ensure that each day’s paddle is completed in full. However, if all-day dangerous weather is predicted, Spring on the Satilla will be cancelled for the day. Boats will be shuttled to the day’s next put-in point. Rain alone does not constitute dangerous weather. All participants are expected to paddle rain or shine, or they may make their own arrangements for moving themselves and their boats to the next put-in and campsite. Exceptions may be made for families paddling with small children.
Swimming…Swimming is permitted with PFDs, but of course, swim at your own risk. Water quality on this journey varies due to point and non-point source pollution. Water quality is generally at its least healthy immediately following rain events—this is especially true downstream of urban areas.
Private Property…As you will see, our route on the St. Marys takes you through many a neighbor’s backyard. Private property must be respected. It is illegal to trespass onto someone’s property, and it is an offense that is prosecutable by law. You may not enter someone’s property unless you have first received permission. At least one rest stop, with portable toilet facilities and/or restrooms will be available at the approximate midway point of each day’s paddle, therefore it is imperative that you make use of bathroom facilities when they are available. If nature calls, please use a camp trowel and cover all human waste appropriately or carry a sealable plastic bag to remove your waste with you.
Communication in the Event of Emergency…There will be cellular phones on the river at all times (one with the lead boat, one with the sweep boat and others in between). In the event of an emergency, attempt to signal or locate a boat with a cellular phone. If cellular service is available, the participants in these boats can communicate with land-based emergency personnel and on-the-water motorized boats where available.
Universal River Signals…Participants are expected to use universal river signals to communicate with other boats. They are as follows:
- Stop: Potential Danger Ahead—Form a horizontal bar with your paddle and outstretched arms above your head. Those seeing this signal should pass it back to others in the party. Participants should wait for the “all clear signal” before proceeding.
- All Clear—Form a vertical bar with your paddle, raising your arm and paddle above your head. The paddle blade should be turned flat for maximum visibility. This means the trip can proceed. To signal direction or preferred course through an obstacle, lower the all clear to a 45 degree angle toward the side of the river with the preferred route.
- Help/Emergency—Wave paddle over your head and give three long blasts on your whistle. Whistles are best carried attached to your life vest. This means other paddlers should assist the signaler as quickly as possible.
- I’m OK—Holding your elbow out to the side, repeatedly pat the top of your head with your hand. This signals that you are not hurt and do not need assistance.
Paddle Georgia 2022
a project of
Georgia River Network