Monday, July 20, 2015

Kayaking the Hooch - Part 2

Back in June of 2014 Susan and I completed the first of three segments of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK) - River Discover Series.  That tour of the Hooch took us from Buford Dam to McGinnis Ferry.  I wrote about that trip in my blog - Kayaking the Hooch.  It was Susan and my first paddling excursion beyond the comforts of Lake Spivey.

This year our kayaking adventures started where we left off with the second segment of the series from Jones Bridge to Island Ford.  Similar to the first trip, this was a 9 mile, or so, downstream paddling trek with CRK volunteers and Ranger Jerry Hightower as our guide.

The trips cost $35 per participant which is paid to the Chattahoochee Riverkeepers.  Last year's trip included about 35 paddlers.  Most of the paddlers, this year and last, were in boats designed for use on the river but there were other boats as well, including one 17' long ocean kayak.  It was long, thin and probably very fast on the open water.  Ranger Jerry paddled a canoe.  

The paddling group for the Jones Bridge Park to Island Ford Park trip consisted of 37+/- paddlers several of which were CRK employees and volunteers.  We also had along with us CRK Operations Manager Bonnie Jackson, Staff Attorney Kevin Jeselnik, Communications Director Celia Lismore, and leading the group was Outings Manager Tammy Bates.

This segment of the Chattahoochee is smooth and easy going.  We had two tiny little areas where we had to shoot the Hooch.

The group met at the put-in location at around 9 a.m. at Jones Bridge Park.  Susan and I unloaded our gear there.  While Susan stayed with our gear, I followed the CRK vehicle to the take-out location at Island Ford Park.  Me and others from our group left our vehicles there and took a trolley, that had been pre-arranged by CRK, back to the put-in point.  Logistics is a major factor whenever kayaking the Hooch.  Parking at Island Ford Park was $3.

The trolley
The trip from Buford Dam to McGinnis Ferry didn't have a trolley so the participants coordinated the put-in/take-out caravan of vehicles and people sort of haphazardly, but it worked out.  The trolley on this trip is by far a better option.

The trolley ride back to Jones Bridge Park
When we arrived back at Jones Bridge Park Susan was waiting for me.

Susan is ready to go
Before we left on our adventure Tammy, the CRK Outings Director, gave us a safety briefing.  Wear your PFD (personal flotation device) and watch-out for strainers!  

Safety Briefing

The ramp at Jones Bridge Park

My Garmin 910XT watch and Virb Elite camera in place

CRK sweeper keeping the group together


Ranger Jerry stopped the group to point out the abundant wildlife like Kingfisher birds, Great Blue Heron, Red Tail Hawks, Osprey, and the local flora and fauna.  

We stopped for about 30 minutes for lunch about 2 hours after we started paddling.  Paddlers provide their own food and refreshments.  Last year someone brought home made ice-cream and peach cobbler for everyone, our expectations were set from the first year, but unfortunately the bringer of that little piece of heaven on a hot day was not there.  Susan baked some oatmeal cookies for us to snack on and to offer to our travel companions.  We also had sandwiches, pickles, and chips for lunch.  Start to finish we spent 3 1/2 hours on the river.

Lunch time!
The sandbar, located adjacent to Houseshoe Bend Country Club, was not quite as inviting as the rocky outcrop where we dined last year but it was about the best place to stop on this stretch of the river.

Lunch on the sandbar

Fellow paddlers

Whitewater... or not

Susan catching up to me!!

Susan says - Go get the truck, it's hot!

The ramp at Island Ford Park
One advantage of having a park ranger as part of your group is that you get full access to the locked/gated loading and unloading area of the park nearest the ramp.  It sure beat having to haul two 50 lb. kayaks and gear 200 yards uphill to your vehicle.

Kayaks lined up for loading
The trip to Jones Bridge from our home in Jonesboro was about 44 miles or 50 minutes.  It was well worth the trip.  Susan and I enjoyed the whole group dynamic.  There's a lot to see as well.  I saw a muskrat swim under my kayak as I bumped up against the river bank near Holcomb Bridge Road.  I saw one turtle sunning on a log.  There were lots of geese, ducks, and baby ducks, and other birds. The homes along the river are also beautiful to see especially those in  the communities which line Spalding Drive.

I took a few videos during the trip down the river.  The first two video, both about 15 minutes in length were taken with the Garmin Virb.  My Virb video doesn't include the available metrics like speed, elevation, etc.  That data were captured with my Garmin 910XT and posted earlier in this blog.  The third, last, and much shorter video was taken with my Samsung S5 cellphone.

Overall, this is a fun event for folks new to kayaking and the Chattahoochee.  The Discovery Series helps promote the river and CRK membership is included with the registration fee.  I would recommend one or all of these outings for anyone interesting in paddling.  The water is cold so I wouldn't recommend swimming.  The water is clean but I wouldn't drink it.  Lastly, registration is limited and the trips usually sell out so register early.

Thanks for reading.

See more pictures here.