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Rollin' on the river
Kayaker organizes Etowah excursion
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Forsyth County News

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Richard Grove talks about his upcoming trips down the Etowah River.

Richard Grove is at it again.

The certified kayak instructor, known by river rats as the man of many 500-mile paddling trips, is on his latest kick to call attention to Georgia's natural resources.

To spread the word about the recent opening of the Dawson County Scenic Etowah River Canoe Launch at River Park, Grove is organizing a weekend kayaking tour.

"This is a wonderful natural resource right here in our backyards," said Grove, a Forsyth County resident. "You can paddle from the Hwy. 53 bridge to the Hwy. 9 bridge and it's absolutely gorgeous.

"You can paddle on the hottest, sunniest day of the year, and I'm not sure you could even get sun tanned. Most of the time you're paddling underneath the trees."

Grove's first trip will begin July 18, with a potluck dinner and barbecue at Up the River Outfitters in north Forsyth. Owner Lance Lehew has allowed the group to camp on the facility's property.

"You go there, set up your tent, get everything out and you get to see what you forget," Grove said. "Because when we get down to Dawson Forest, and you get out and start setting up your tent, you're out of luck."

Grove said the potluck dinner will give the group a chance to get acquainted. The camaraderie is also the reason he's only accepting 25 people.

"I'm not interested in quantity and money," he said. "I'm interested in quality and people having a good time on the river."

The group will be bused early the next morning to River Park by Up the River Outfitters. From there, participants will paddle nearly six miles to a pavilion, where the Dawson County Department of Recreation and Community Activities will provide lunch.

The group will then travel another six miles down to the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, where it will camp for the night.

Grove obtained special permits from the Department of Natural Resources to camp in what he called the most beautiful spot in the park.

"There is a waterfall that's 275 feet from the river, and we're going to camp on the ground between the waterfall and the river," he said. "It's just the perfect place to camp."

Grove's love of kayaking has taken him on several excursions, including a 26-day, 486-mile, solo trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

"I have had such a great time doing it," he said.

"When you climb to the top of the ladder, what your goal should be is to bring other people up to your level. I've gotten to be a professional kayaker, and I want to share the experience."

Grove has shared his paddling passion through organized trips, including a recent 116-mile extreme kayaking tour, as well as tours of other Georgia rivers that last a couple of hours.

He recently took Alpharetta resident Katherine Lawson out on the Etowah. She had such a good experience, she signed up for the weekend outing.

"He took me down the river Sunday for the first time and I loved it," she said. "It's opening up a whole new world for me.

"Richard just has an easy way about teaching you to where you can enjoy it and not feel so anxious or worried about anything. He just really wants you to have a good time and learn something new."

The weekend trip is being offered at a significantly reduced cost, Grove said.

Including transportation to and from the river, camping permits, backup security, a T-shirt, two meals and three safety paddlers, the trip costs $60 per person.

For those who don't own a kayak, Up the River Outfitters is offering a special daily rental rate of $15.

"They won't be professional paddlers on Sunday afternoon when they get off the river, but they'll be darn good kayakers," Grove said.