Tuesday September 19th, 2017 11:14AM

'Paddle Georgia' will return

BUFORD - The country's largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure will return to the Chattahoochee River this summer to celebrate its tenth year of introducing citizens to Georgia's rivers and raising money to protect those waterways.

Georgia River Network's "Paddle Georgia 2014", with more than 400 paddlers, will launch on the Chattahoochee below Buford Dam near Cumming June 21 and travel for seven days and 115 miles, finishing the journey June 27 in Franklin.

The first Paddle Georgia in 2005 followed the same route, and the 2014 trip marks the tenth year of the annual pilgrimages on Georgia's rivers.

During Paddle Georgia's first nine years, GRN has introduced more than 2,800 paddlers to more than 900 miles of water trails on 11 different rivers. Along the way the event has generated more than $180,000 for river protection.

"Last year, the event sold out in less than 24 hours," said April Ingle, Executive Director of GRN. "The response has been overwhelming. After ten years, it has become a trip that people mark on the calendars and look forward to all year."

More than 150 spots on the 2014 trip have already been claimed through a priority registration for participants who raised more than $200 through a Canoe-a-thon to benefit GRN. These individuals raised more than $50,000 to secure their spot on the trip.

All remaining spots for Paddle Georgia 2014 will be awarded through a lottery. Those interested in participating in Paddle Georgia 2014 can enter the Paddle Georgia Lottery now through Feb 27 via the Paddle Georgia website.

The 2014 edition of Paddle Georgia will introduce paddlers to the Chattahoochee River as it courses through metro Atlanta-from its northern suburbs in Forsyth, Cobb, and Fulton Counties and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area - to the river's rural haunts in south Fulton, Douglas, Coweta, Carroll and Heard counties.

Daily paddle trips will average about 16 miles, and each night participants will camp at nearby facilities such as schools and parks. In addition to spending each day on the river, paddlers will have the opportunity to explore everything from historic sites to water treatment facilities.

"The trip is much more than just a paddle," said Joe Cook, Paddle Georgia coordinator, "The goal is to show people not only the river's beauty but also how we use and depend on the river for everything from our drinking water to producing electricity. It's an educational adventure."

The trip is suitable for novice paddlers as well as experienced paddlers. Paddlers range in age from four to 84, with many families participating. Registration fees range from $155 to $350 for the seven-day trip.

In addition to supporting GRN's efforts to protect Georgia's rivers, proceeds from this year's event will benefit the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization working to protect the Chattahoochee from its headwaters in the North Georgia mountains to the Florida state line.

Through support from sponsors and individuals, GRN offers scholarships for both teachers and students to participate in the trip. Georgia teachers can participate and receive Georgia Adopt-A-Stream and Project WET training so that they can take environmental education to their classrooms. Teacher scholarship applications can be found on the Paddle Georgia website.

Sponsors of the event include Georgia Power; Columbia Sportswear; Captain Planet Foundation; Hennessey Land Rover; Len Foote Hike Inn; Cary S. Baxter, CPA, LLC; The Outside World; StreamTechs; Sweetwater Pools; Cedar Creek RV & Outdoor Center; AGL Resources; China Clay Producers Association; Chris Shiver
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