Paddle Georgia discovers the Withlacoochee River

Would you like to paddle the Withlacoochee and Suwannee Rivers for a week in June 2019 with 300 of your closest friends? Our rivers topped Paddle Georgia’s poll of six destinations. Joe Cook, Mr. Paddle Georgia, called me back in July about this possibility. That’s why on July 5, 2018, I blogged A week on the Withlacoochee River in June?

Shoals on the Withlacoochee River
Paddle Georgia discovering the Withlacoochee River has rapids.

It turns out there was a story in the Albany Herald, July 5, 2018, Vote for Paddle Georgia’s 2019 destination is open: Water enthusiasts asked to select a waterway for next year’s Paddle Georgia.

Yesterday, Joe Cook announced on the Georgia River Network blog, Withlacoochee & Suwannee Make Their Case for Paddle Georgia 2019,

Ordinarily at the end of each year’s Paddle Georgia, we announce the following year’s destination. We didn’t do that this year. Instead, we thought we’d let you decide.

The winner of our survey was the Withlacoochee and Suwannee rivers. Running a close second was the Upper Flint River. The Savannah, Oconee and St. Marys were distant 3rd, 4th and 5th runners up while the Satilla got the least votes.

Thus, in our never-ending pursuit of river adventure (and solving the logistical challenges of finding campsites and transportation for 300-plus people for a week), we did what we always do. We hit the river.

In this case, we hit the Withlacoochee and Suwannee. Specifically, Paddle Georgia veterans and Georgia River Network board members Kit Carson and Terry Pate along with 1400-mile Paddle Georgia participant Chris Thompson and I surveyed about 90 miles of the rivers over four days.

First a note on river conditions: it being a wet summer, we were riding on about twice the average flows for the month of June. The river was full and moving and the river’s shoals (yes, there are shoals on the Withlacoochee) were mostly washed out.

Yes, they discovered there are shoals on the Withlacoochee River. The same ones I blogged about.

Back to their report:

Second, a note on next year’s destination: the river is still undetermined. Campsites, transportation and other logistics must be explored further, but the Withlacoochee and Suwannee made a strong case for themselves.

What they (our river adventurers) said: “A cross between the Ogeechee and the lower Flint.” “Class A Rating.” “Beautiful. The springs were worth the paddling.”

Yes, they discovered Madison Blue Spring, which is something you don’t find in Georgia: a first magnitude spring right on a river. They didn’t mention the two second magnitude springs on the Withlacoochee in Georgia: McIntyre and Arnold Springs. See previous blog post.

Since Joe says there’s still some doubt about the choice for Paddle Georgia 2019, here’s that poll of six destinations. Maybe you’d like to vote on it. This choice looks interesing:

Withlacoochee: Suwannee: Blackwater, limestone shoals and springs highlight this cross-border paddle. We’ll spend three days in Georgia on the Withlacoochee and then descend into Florida to meet the Suwannee and travel on one of the South’s most storied rivers. Portages? None. Whitewater? Yes, small shoals are created by the limestone geology of the area.

See you next June, paddling down the Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail and the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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