Cook didn’t set out to take up the challenge, but in the course of his work and recreation, paddled 16 of the state’s rivers, enjoying their breathtaking views and he hopes other Romans will take up a similar challenge this year.
With his dog Oconee in tow, Cook paddled along some of the state’s most beautiful and diverse waterways, snapping photos and enjoying his time in the outdoors. But he had no plans of taking up a challenge.
“It’s a project by the Georgia River Network,” he said. “The wanted people to paddle at least 12 of Georgia’s rivers in 2012. I didn’t set out to complete that. But my work with CRBI has me taking groups out on the rivers all the time. And when I wasn’t with a group it was me and my dog and I realized I was racking up those miles and those rivers.”
Cook’s initially checked the Etowah, Oostanaula, Coosa and Conasauga rivers off his list with paddles for CRBI. Then he added the Chattahoochee to that list doing research for a book he’s writing.
Doing scouting for Paddle Georgia, he spent four days on the Flint River. A trip on the Ogeechee (which runs from the coastal plain of Georgia to the ocean) provided a chance to paddle several smaller rivers.
In all, Cook estimates he paddled about 500 miles of Georgia rivers. They are the Coosa, Etowah, Oostanaula, Conasauga, Coosawatee, Chattahoochee, Flint, Altamaha, Little Ogeechee, Vernon, Burnside, Moon, Skidaway, Wilmington, Ogeechee and Ohoopee.
And although Cook’s work takes him out on the river constantly, he said he is still struck by the power and beauty of Georgia’s rivers as well as their diversity.
“I have been paddling for a very long time and I’ve paddled all over the place,” he said. “I am still amazed by the scenery and the wildlife. Each river has a different character. I expected the Flint River to meander with slow-moving waters and sand bars. But it was nothing like that. There were limestone bluffs, shoals and swift-moving water.
“The Ogeechee is so unique,” he added. “I call it the Schitzophrenic river. It’s a wide, blackwater stream but then it splits off and the water is gone. Then it comes back in schoals and rapids.”
Cook said he encourages Rome residents to begin exploring Georgia’s rivers. With over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams and 14 major river basins, Georgia offers a wealth of paddling options for everyone from novices to experts.
For locals who would like to get out on Georgia’s waterways, Cook recommends getting involved with organizations such as the Coosa River Basin Initiative, which teaches classes on paddling canoes and kayaks and organizes group trips on the rivers.
He said a new website, etowahwatertrail.org, offers users a detailed look at the Etowah River, including an interactive map which shows launch and takeout sites, obstacles and gives information about particular parts of the river, including historical points of interest and the class level of rapids.