NORTH FORSYTH — Several local residents will be paddling 110 miles down the Chattahoochee River later this month as part of the Georgia River Network’s Paddle Georgia 2014.
Participants will paddle about 16 miles each day June 21-27 and will be camping at parks and schools each night.
The educational initiative and fundraiser, which is celebrating its 10th year, will also provide them with the opportunity to tour historic sites and water treatment facilities, learn about the Chattahoochee’s history and collect chemical and biological data to evaluate the river’s health.
Proceeds will benefit the river network and the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a nonprofit that works to protect the river.
Phil and Sheliah Cooper of Cumming will be participating for the sixth time. The couple has been paddling on various rivers and in Lake Lanier for several years.
Phil Cooper described Paddle Georgia as a relaxing and “God-given” experience. It is a welcome departure from everyday life, he said, which often is characterized by “crowded cities, traffic jams on highways and rushing through airports in a crazy frenzy.”
Even though the long journey would seem tiring, Sheliah Cooper said “you build strength as you go along each day.”
Phil Cooper also said the bonds formed on the trip are a valuable part of the experience.
“It’s the people you meet … people who are caught up in business — they’re doctors, lawyers … but they seem to have interest in the world and life other than just making money. They seem to have an interest in the better welfare of humanity,” he said.
It will be the second Paddle Georgia for Cumming resident Camm Swift. A scientist, he’s interested in river wildlife.
“I’m going to be one of the unofficial naturalists on the trip, so I’ll show people what kinds of things live in the water and about the biology and natural history of the river and this part of Georgia,” he said.
Swift also is a member of the North American Native Fishes Association and has completed several one-day paddles with that organization, as well as last year’s Paddle Georgia on the Flint River.
In past years, the annual trip has taken paddlers down other Georgia rivers, such as the Altamaha, Etowah and Oconee.
This year’s trip will begin by Settles Bridge in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area near Cumming and end in the Heard County town of Franklin.
About 800 people had expressed interest in this year’s trip, although Paddle Georgia typically has close to 400 participants, river network executive director April Ingle said.
Ingle said a lottery system was used to determine this year’s 450 participants.
Registration for Paddle Georgia 2015 will begin in February of next year.