Tag Archives: Tom H. Johnson Jr.

Winners: Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest 2021-08-21

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, GA, August 23, 2021 — Chosen by three judges from a record number of Finalists from Atlanta to Palatka, WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. (WWALS) is pleased to announce the winners of the Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest.

[All winners]
All winners.
L-R: KJ Wingate, Katherine Ball, David Rodock, Sweet William Billy Ennis, Jimi Davies and his brother, Kathy Lou Gilman, Rachel Hillman.
Photo: Angela Duncan for WWALS.

The winner of Continue reading

Four miles an hour, Nankin to Sullivan, Withlacoochee River 2021-08-07

Update 2021-08-16: Two Withlacoochee River 360-degree transits by WWALS on Earthviews 2021-08-16.

Rain poured during the shuttle from Nankin Boat Ramp to Sullivan Launch, but the weather relented as we started to paddle, just as expedition leader and weatherman Bobby McKenzie predicted.

22 people paddled in 21 boats, entering Florida three times, past McIntyre Spring, Arnold Springs, the Valdosta Railway Trestle, and Horn Bridge. Only a few took out at State Line Boat Ramp, because they were musicians and they had a gig that same evening.

Almost all continued past PCA and Jumping Gully Creek to Sullivan Launch for a total of 14.22 miles in barely four hours. Subtract half an hour for the lunch stop at State Line Boat Ramp, and that’s 3.5 hours, for 4 miles per hour.

[Valdosta Railway Trestle in the middle]
Valdosta Railway Trestle in the middle

WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman left her boat in the truck until the last minute, because she did not want to paddle in the rain. WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. and Mary Carolyn Pindar drove four hours for this outing, so they were going to paddle anyway, as was I. Continue reading

Pictures: Banks Lake Full Buck Moon paddle 2021-07-23

The weather threatened earlier in the day, but relented. Banks Lake was glassy smooth, and the Full Buck Moon broke through the overcast. There were bats. Everybody was happy.

[Banners, boats, moon]
Banners, boats, moon

Holding the Suwannee Riverkeeper Banner is Chris “Turtleman” Adams, the only paddler actually qualified to pet an alligator.

[Bobby McKenzie, safety lecture]
Bobby McKenzie, safety lecture: don’t pet the alligators.

Thanks to Bob and Sue Raffaele for the Old Town Canoe. WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. paddled, and I photographed, as we acted as sweep, to be sure nobody got left behind. Continue reading

Pictures: Banks Lake Full Strawberry Moon paddle 2021-06-24

Good turnout for a Thursday paddle! 26 paddlers enjoyed great weather, bats, and the Full Strawberry Moon through clouds at Banks Lake NWR.

It’s only $10 per paddler with free boat rental thanks to the Lakeland-Lanier Chamber of Commerce and Banks Lake Outdoors. Or the whole thing is free with WWALS membership, which starts at $25 individual or $40 family.

[26 paddlers, cypress, bat tree, moon]
26 paddlers, cypress, bat tree, moon

This time we were joined by Bird Chamberlain and almost all of Dirty Bird and the Flu, one of our headliners at the Fourth Annual Suwannee Riverkeeper Songwriting Contest, 7-11 PM, Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the Turner Center Art Park, Valdosta, GA. Continue reading

Pictures: Juneteenth @ Reed Bingham State Park Lake with Macedonia Community Foundation 2021-06-19

Fannie Gibbs of Macedonia Community Foundation invited WWALS to their Juneteenth celebration at Reed Bingham State Park Lake. So we took boats and volunteers and got people in boats on the lake.

Including Fannie, in a boat, with a paddle, in the rain!

[Juneteenth at Reed Bingham State Park Lake with Macedonia Community Foundation and Suwannee Riverkeeper]
Juneteenth at Reed Bingham State Park Lake with Macedonia Community Foundation and Suwannee Riverkeeper

Thanks especially to Fannie Gibbs for inviting WWALS. We will keep writing joint grant proposals until we get some funded for boating and swimming lessons, historical research, and paddle outings designed around African-American waterway history. Meanwhile, we will keep doing things like this anyway. Continue reading

Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List 2021-01-26

The U.S. National Park Service in January announced a 15-day comment period for nominating sites to the UNESCO World Heritage List. We nominated the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, using testimony from some of WWALS members. I added the illustrations to this post of the WWALS nomination letter. And you can still help stop the titanium strip mine from locating too near the Swamp.

[Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers]
Okefenokee Swamp, Suwannee River, birds, mine, paddlers


January 26, 2021

To: Jonathan Putnam
Office of International Affairs
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
jonathan_putnam@nps.gov
(202) 354-1809

Re: Nominating Okefenokee NWR for UNESCO World Heritage List, Docket Number NPS-WASO-OIA-31249 PIN00IO14.XI0000

Dear Mr. Putnam,

As you know, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR) is on the UNESCO Tentative List for the United States, and thus is eligible for the U.S. to submit an ONWR nomination file.
https://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5252/

[Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp]
Suwannee River in Okefenokee Swamp
in WWALS map of all public landings in the Suwannee River Basin.
The purple line is the approximate actual divide between the Suwannee and St. Marys River watersheds in the Swamp, still being worked out with St. Marys Riverkeeper.

As Suwannee Riverkeeper and for our umbrella organization WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc., I would like to encourage you to nominate ONWR this year. The vast majority of the Okefenokee Swamp is in the Suwannee River Basin, and some 85% of the outflow of the Swamp goes down the Suwannee River, which continues through Georgia and across Florida, where it is the subject of the state song, to the Gulf of Mexico.

[Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico]
Okefenokee, Suwannee River, Gulf of Mexico

WWALS member Bobby McKenzie sums it up from his perspective:

“As a world traveler for the past 20 plus years I must say that the Okefenokee Swamp holds its own when it comes to enchantment. I never would have thought I would have used the term enchantment to describe a swamp, but it happens to be the best one. My adventures have taken me to many places, each with their own charm and enchantment and history. I recall my first experience outside the United States, it was to the Chagos Archipelago part of the British Indian Ocean Territory. The crystal-clear waters of the islands and the sanctity of the massive coconut crabs and the hawksbill sea turtles. Soon I found myself living in South Korea and experiencing the Buddhist temples embedded in the cliffs of the East Sea (more well known as the Sea of Japan) and the fishing islands of Sunyu-do in the yellow sea. At Jeju Island with its botanical gardens, lava tubes, and extinct volcano, I ascended the stairs of Mt Sanbanggulsa Temple where a spring drips from the ceiling pools into the temple cave and had a ceremonial sip. Years living in Europe showed me the awe of the Dolomites, the Carpathian Mountains, the Iron Gates, the Danube Delta and the switchback road of Transfagarasan. I have met the wonders of the Black Forest, I’ve skied Mount Blanc, Matterhorn, and the Zugspitze and swam in the ocean at Vilamoura in Algarve with its ocean caves. I dove the cliffs of Ischia and enjoyed the hot thermal springs of the Mediterranean. I’ve hiked miles through the Ardennes Forests and the ancient vineyards along the Mosel River. I have witnessed the famed White Cliffs of Dover, the puzzling Stonehenge, the North Sea, English Channel, and the beaches of Normandy. My time in Hawaii introduced me to the many natural phenomena such as the Makapu Tide Pools, the Queen’s Bath at Moku Nui, and the Mermaid Caves in Nanakuli. The pill boxes at Lanikai, Coco Head along with the Hidden Lagoon offered breath-taking views of the island of Oahu.

[Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd's Island]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Bobby McKenzie in canopy towards Floyd’s Island 2020-11-07

“There are many places I that I can recall that I have not mentioned. But all these places share one thing in common, they are amazing places that most people have never heard of or will see in their lifetime. They are all wonderous and inspiring places in their own right. This is true with the Okefenokee Swamp. I first learned of the Okefenokee as I was planning my move to South Georgia from Hawaii. I was searching for outdoor activities and the first thing I came across was a website talking about 120 miles of water trail and multiple camping options in the swamp. I immediately wanted to do this trip or at least a portion of it. I have since made a handful of trips into the swamp and learned about the history of Billy’s Island, the Sill, the timber operation and among other stories. My most recent trip into the swamp was with the WWALS Watershed Coalition. We paddled 8 miles out to camp at Floyds Island. The entire journey was just so peaceful. However, when we made the turn onto the green trail from Stephen C. Foster State Park, the swamp became extraordinarily enchanting. The cathedral-like tunnel that we paddled through for miles until we reached Floyd’s Island was like a portal to a fairytale dimension. In many instances, the colors of the fall, the canopy formation of the trees and the mirrored reflections were hypnotizing, we could have paddled this natural tunnel for hours and still want more. Upon reaching the camp site, everyone in our party was just magically delighted about the spiritual connection that the swamp bestowed upon us. The return trip the next day was even more mesmerizing. I never would have thought that I would have used the word enchanting to describe a swamp, but it was just that. I am glad to add the Okefenokee Swamp to my long list of must-see places. As with all of the places listed above, I never knew that I needed to experience them until I did. The Okefenokee is no different, it’s an enchanting place that you never knew you needed to experience.” Continue reading

Little River Road acre, Lowndes County, GA 2021-02-06

Our rivers are different every time. Especially summer mid-day and winter sunset.

[Summer, Winter]
Summer, Winter

This is the Little River, at the end of Little River Road, where Lowndes County owns an acre.

That acre is 17.24 river miles downstream from Folsom Bridge @ GA 122. That’s long but doable if the river is high.

It’s 7.7 more miles downstream to Troupville Boat Ramp @ GA 133. That’s a normal day’s paddling.

So this acre is about 2/3 of the 25 river miles between Folsom Bridge and Troupville Boat Ramp. 25 miles is too long or almost anybody to paddle in a day. So public access at the Little River Road acre would be a good thing. Continue reading

Franklinville Monument, Landing, Road, Tyler Bridge, Withlacoochee River, Toms Branch 2021-02-06

WWALS President Tom H. Johnson Jr. wanted to see the world-famous Franklinville Monument. Well, famous to those who know Franklinville was the county seat of Lowndes County, Georgia, before Troupville, before Valdosta.

We proceeded east on Franklinville Road to Tyler Bridge over the Withlacoochee River, looked from there at Franklinville Landing on the right (west) bank, and also looked at where Tom’s Branch crosses the road and enters the river.

[Franklinville Monument, Tyler Bridge, Franklinville Landing, Toms Branch]
Franklinville Monument, Tyler Bridge, Franklinville Landing, Toms Branch

But first, Franklinville Monument. Continue reading

Okefenokee discussion in Moniac and mine site drive by 2020-11-06

A small group of people who value the Okefenokee Swamp and the rivers it feeds, the St. Marys River down to the Atlantic and Cumberland Island, and the Suwannee River of song and legend through Fargo and north Florida to the Gulf; this group met in Moniac, Georgia, on November 6, 2020, at Lacy’s Kountry Store. Most of us then visited the proposed mine site, which has quite a bit of equipment on it already.

If you want to help oppose this strip mine far too close to the Swamp, now that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has abdicated oversight, you can ask the Georgia government to reject these permits.

[Mine site, discussion]
Mine site, discussion

Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck had just written Continue reading

Pictures: Troupville River Camp site –Gretchen Quarterman 2020-08-27

Yesterday the Detail Group convened at Troupville Boat Ramp to see the site of the proposed Troupville River Park.

[Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), George Page (VLPRA), Mac McCall (Architect), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), Tom Baird (Archaeologist) at Troupville Boat Ramp]
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, of Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), George Page (VLPRA), Mac McCall (Architect), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), Tom Baird (Archaeologist) at Troupville Boat Ramp

A larger Steering Group is meeting weekly to update and resubmit last year’s application for a grant to the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP) for a Troupville River Camp. This year we have strong buy in from Lowndes County, the City of Valdosta, three local Authorities (Parks & Rec., Tourism, and Development), the Chamber of Commerce, McCall Architects, ASA Engineering, Valdosta Disc Golf, and others. Suwannee River Water Management District has already been participating. The local Georgia statehouse delegation was on last week’s call, as was the Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA-DNR). Key to all of this is 74 acres for sale by Helen Tapp of Land Between the Rivers (LBTR), below Troupville Boat Ramp down to the Little River Confluence, to be combined with the existing 49-acre VLPRA park, to create a 123-acre Troupville River Park. If you or your organization are interested in helping with this nature preserve and multi-use park, please let us know.

[Concept Plan by ASA Engineering (rotated and trimmed)]
Concept Plan by ASA Engineering (rotated and trimmed)

Yesterday we looked to see where hiking, biking, and horse trails might go, to see fishing spots along the Little River, to look at the Little River Confluence, where a Viewscape Pavilion can go.

[Withlacoochee River comes in from left, continues ahead]
Withlacoochee River comes in from left, continues ahead

We considered stairs or ramp for boaters to take out of the Withlacoochee River, to look at invasive plants and native palmettos, big oaks, and pines upstream, along with deadfalls and switchbacks. Then we went inland to see where to put bathrooms, dining pavillion, and sleeping platforms for Troupville River Camp.

[Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), Mark Gaither (Disc Golf), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom Baird (Archaeologist), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering, Mac McCall (Architect), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), George Page (VLPRA)]
Chad McLeod (Lowndes County), Mark Gaither (Disc Golf), John S. Quarterman (Suwannee Riverkeeper), Tom Baird (Archaeologist), Jason Scarpate (ASA Engineering, Mac McCall (Architect), Tom H. Johnson Jr. (WWALS President), George Page (VLPRA)

We walked up the big discovery by ASA Engineering last November of old Broad Street, the main north-south street and highway of historic Troupville, the Lowndes County seat until 1860, before Valdosta.

To see where the Championship Disc Golf Course could go, we walked down the Power line right of way and the Old Valdosta sewer line near the Withlacoochee River, below the Georgia 133 bridge over the Withlacoochee River.

Later, I went back and established that the apparent East-west road does indeed go through from the Little River to the Crossroads with Broad Street. I didn’t have much luck finding a road through east to the Withlacoochee River, but I did find a Nice hunting spot on the river, more than one Gopher hole, and got pictures of more of the old Valdosta sewer line easement where a Disc Golf fairway can go.

Many of these pictures are by Continue reading