NORTH FORSYTH – A group that boasts itself as the largest week-long canoe and kayak camping trip in the nation will paddle through Forsyth County this summer.
Registration opens Tuesday, Jan. 31 for Paddle Georgia, which this year will travel along the 163-mile Etowah River that flows from the north Georgia mountains to Rome in northwest Georgia, and organizers said they expect the 450 spaces available will fill up within about 24 hours.
“This will be the 13th Paddle Georgia event since 2005, and we’ve found that north Georgia rivers that flow through metro Atlanta are among our most popular trips,” said Joe Cook, event coordinator. “Aside from that, the Etowah is arguably the best family paddling river in the state.
“It’s a beautiful river, rich in history and though there are small shoals and rapids, it’s a great river for novice paddlers.”
The Etowah is one of the most biologically diverse rivers of its size in the country, he said. It is home to three federally protected fish species and to more Native American fish weirs than any other Georgia river.
These rock dams, built by the region’s first inhabitants, were used to catch fish and date back 500-1,000 years.
The annual event is organized by Georgia River Network and will run June 17-23, covering 125 miles of the river over the course of seven days from near Dawsonville to downtown Rome.
The route will take paddlers through Dawson, Forsyth and Cherokee counties before bypassing Lake Allatoona. The final three days will take them through Bartow and Floyd counties and will include a stop at the Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site.
A street party in downtown Catersville at the end of the trip is also planned.
This will be the organization’s second trip on the Etowah after first paddling it in 2006.
Billed as an environmental education experience for the whole family, the event is designed to connect people with Georgia’s rivers, Cook said.
“In addition to paddling about 17 miles each day, participants will learn about the river through nightly programs about the river’s ecology and cultural history and special tours of historic sites and industrial facilities,” he said.
It also serves as a fundraiser for Georgia River Network and local watershed groups that protect the river.
Since the inaugural trip in 2005, more than 4,000 paddlers have been introduced to more than 1,200 miles of water trails on 13 rivers.
Along the way, the event has generated more than $400,000 for river protection.
Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome and Upper Etowah River Alliance in Canton will be the local groups benefitting from this year’s trip.
Registration fees are $425 for adults, $230 for children 8-17 and $30 for children 7 and under.
A limited number of spaces are available for “Paddle Georgia Lite,” an abbreviated version of the trip that includes just the first two days.
Registration fees for the short trip are $120 for adults, $70 for children 8-17 and $15 for children 7 and under.
To register and for more information, visit garivers.org/paddle_georgia.