paddle georgia 2021
Okefenokee-St. Marys River
Everything you need to know to register and participate in our
Jan. 23-24, 2021 Okefenokee-St. Marys river adventure
About The Trip
Our Okefenokee-St. Marys river adventure features two days of paddling: a 14-mile journey through the eastern portion of the Okefenokee Swamp on Saturday, Jan. 23, and a 6-mile trip on the blackwater St. Marys River. We’ll camp at Charlton County’s historic Traders Hill Campground which features beautiful campsites on flat lawns beneath towering oaks draped in Spanish moss. Amenities include a large pavilion where we’ll serve meals and conduct programs, restrooms with showers, RV hook ups, a camp store and the St. Marys River located within walking distance of the camp. Registration fees include campsite, six catered meals, shuttle service, Paddle Georgia 2021 t-shirt or other merchandise, Paddle Georgia 2021 boat sticker, maps and guides and educational programs.
Registration Fees: Adults–$340, Youth 17 and Under–$170. Registration opens Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 8 a.m.
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!
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.
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, 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.
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.
Jan. 23: Our route begins at the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area within the National Wildlife Refuge (be prepared to pay a $5 parking fee). From this launch site, we’ll paddle up the Suwannee Canal and then explore Chesser Pairie en route to Monkey Lake and the shelter and toilet located there. We will then return to our launch site via the same route for a round trip adventure of about 14 miles.
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 TRADERS HILL CAMPGROUND JAN. 22-23
Jan. 22: 2-8 p.m.
Jan. 23: 7-8:00 a.m.
All participants must check in at Traders Hill Campground during the times listed above. Upon check-in, you will receive your event packet that includes items like your T-shirt and your on-river maps and descriptions.
Note: Participants arriving earlier than 2 pm on Jan. 22 WILL NOT be allowed to register early.
Directions from I-95 at Exit 6 to Traders Hill Campground: From the exit, travel west on Laurel Island Parkway 1.4 miles and then turn right on Colerin Road/Laurel Island Parkway. Proceed 3.8 miles and turn right on GA 40. Travel 16.3 miles to Folkston and turn right on 3rd Street. Go one block and then turn left on Main Street, proceeding 0.3 mile to Okefenokee Parkway. Turn left and proceed 2.9 miles to Traders Hill Road. Turn left and proceed 1.3 mile. Turn left and proceed 0.2 mile to campground.
Meals are included in the cost of registration. We encourage you to arrive Friday, Jan. 22, and enjoy our kick off evening meal beginning at 6:30 p.m.. Breakfasts and sack lunches will be provided Jan. 23 and Jan. 24. Dinner will also be provided Saturday, Jan. 23.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, we will not have a dishwashing station. All meals will be served using disposable plates and utensils.
Lunches: Provided by Creative Catering, sack lunches come with your choice of sandwiches: tuna salad, egg salad, vegetable with hummus, turkey, or roast beef. 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 will be served daily beginning at 7 a.m. Daily menu includes vegetable frittata, sausage links and bacon, breakfast potatoes, grits with butter, assorted muffins, fresh fruit, orange juice.
Dinners: Dinners will be served daily beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 22: BBQ Chicken, Quinoa Salad, Warm Sweet Potato, Black Bean, and Rice Casserole, Greek Veggie Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Feta, and Candied Walnuts, Peach Cobbler with Whipped Cream, Fresh Fruit Salad, Iced Tea and Lemonade
Saturday, Jan. 23: Peel and Eat Shrimp, Sausage, Corn, and Potatoes cooked in Old Bay Seasoning, Cocktail Sauce, Honey Mustard Sauce, and Boom Boom Sauce, Creamy Coleslaw, Cucumber Tomato Salad, Macaroni and Cheese, Apple Crisp, Fresh Fruit Salad, Iced Tea and Lemonad
SPECIAL EVENTS, TOURS AND MORE
As we finalize our evening educational programs, that information will be posted here!
Jan. 24 Chesser Island Homestead and Boardwalk: For those in no rush to return home following our Sunday paddle on the St. Marys, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge includes the Chesser Island Homestead where you can see how the early settlers around the Okefenokee lived. You can also take a walk on the Chesser Island Boardwalk to the Owls Roost Tower to get a great view of the Okefenokee Swamp. Of course, you can visit the attraction any time during your stay!
CAMPSITE INFORMATION AND ALTERNATIVE LODGING
Traders Hill Campground: A Charlton County gem, Traders Hill Campground sits in a beautiful location on a rise above the St. Marys River. Located at the head of navigation on the St. Marys River, Traders Hill became an important trading location in the early 1800s and in 1840 became the first county seat of Charlton County. Our campsite sits beneath towering oak trees festooned with Spanish moss. RV sites are also available. The campsite also features restrooms with showers, a camp store and a large covered pavilion where we will hold our meals and programs.
On-Site Lodging: There is no on-site lodging, though RV hookups are available for additional charges. Please contact Traders Hill Campground directly to reserve a space: 912-390-9288.
Nearby Amenities: Folkston is located four miles north of the campground with numerous amenities including grocery store, pharmacy, bank and many restaurants and motels.
Alternative Lodging in Folkston: There are numerous options in the Folkston area. Click here for a full listing and contact information.
Distance to Launch Sites/Take Out Sites: Our launch site on Jan. 23 is located within the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge at the Suwannee Canal Recreation Area approximately nine miles from Traders Hill Campground. All participants will drive their vehicles to this launch site Saturday morning.
Our launch site on Jan. 24 is located 0.1 mile from the campsite. Cars will be parked at the launch site. Bus transportation will be provided to return participants to their vehicles at the conclusion of the paddle.
Directions from Traders Hill Campground to Suwannee Canal Recreation Area: Return to Okefenokee Parkway (GA. 23) 1.4 mile via Tracys Ferry Road. Turn left on Okefenokee Parkway and proceed 3.2 miles. Turn right on Suwannee Canal Road and proceed 4.2 miles to parking area.
Friday, Jan. 22
Registration: 2:00-8:00 Traders Hill Campground
Set- Up Camp: 2:00-8:00 Traders Hill Campground
Dinner: 6:30-7:30 Kick-Off Feast provided by Creative Catering
Evening Program: 7:30-9:00 Welcome, Safety Briefing, Special Program by Okefenokee Swamp Park
Lights Out 10:00
Saturday, Jan. 23
Registration: 7:00-8:00 Traders Hill Campground
Breakfast: 7:00-8:00 Provided by Creative Catering
Launch: 8:00 Caravan to Launch Site
Take-Out: 4:00 Caravan to Campground
Dinner: 6:30-7:30 Dinner provided by Creative Catering
Evening Program: 7:30-8:30 Announcements, Special Program by St. Marys Riverkeeper
Lights Out 10:00
Sunday, Jan. 24
Breakfast: 7:00-8:00 Provided by Creative Catering
Launch: 8:00-8:30 Launch located at campsite
Take-Out: 11:00-12:00 Scotts Landing with Shuttle Buses at 11 a.m. and noon.
Dinner: 12:00-2:00 Break Camp & Depart
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 Jan. 15 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 High Temperature: 86 F; Average Low Temperature: 68 F. Average September Rainfall: 5.6 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 2021
a project of
Georgia River Network