Those of us who live, work or play in Dawson County drive over the Etowah River daily, but beneath the steel and concrete bridges flows one of the county's greatest natural wonders, the river itself.
Offering innumerable recreational opportunities from fishing to canoe and kayaking and even wading in the brisk waters on a warm afternoon, the Etowah River and its surrounding shores encompass some of the county's most beautiful scenery.
Kayaker Richard Grove, who first discovered the enchantment of the Etowah a few years ago, wants to share his love for the river by taking the inaugural overnight, under the full moon light kayak and canoe camping trip down the river. The seasoned kayaking enthusiast and certified kayak instructor also wants a group of beginners to advanced paddlers to tag along for the experience.
The Dawson County Etowah River Experience will begin Friday, July 18 and will continue throughout the weekend.
The group will enjoy over 20 miles of scenic beauty along the Etowah. "This is a Wilderness River Trip where you will have the opportunity to see some of Dawson County's rarely seen beauty," Grove said.
Beauty that includes camping Saturday night in Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, followed by the last few miles to the Old Federal Hwy. bridge in west Dawson County.
"Richard has witnessed first hand what it's like to fall in love with a river. He knows the peace it can bring," said Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Barb Baptista, who met Grove at the April grand opening of the county's first canoe and kayak launch at River Park on Hwy. 9 South.
Grove has kayaked since 2004, actively seeking trips as lazily as a few miles down the Etowah to a month long, 450 mile paddling excursion down the Chattahoochee to the Gulf of Mexico.
"It does not take too long to find out Richard's passion for paddling, his respect for the Etowah River and his commitment to the preservation of its resources," Baptista said.
In preparation for the Etowah trip, Grove and a group of paddlers spent over 81 labor hours, paddling over 12 miles to clean up the river and its banks last month.
The group cleared 10 tires, a sleeping bag, dozens of aluminum cans, and several trees, including a 22-inch in diameter tree that was blocking the river. The clean-up was in conjunction with Keep Dawson County Beautiful's efforts in the Great American Clean-up, said Keep Dawson County Beautiful Director Cathy Brooks.
"Keep Dawson County Beautiful is thankful for the effort that Richard and his team made toward improving and beautifying to preserve and protect the environment in our section of the Etowah," she said.
The Dawson County Etowah River Experience is limited to the first 25 confirmed paddlers, who must be at least 18 years or older. Registration is $60 per person.
No paddling or camping experience is necessary. "This trip is not only a great training ground for beginning paddlers, but is also scenic, exciting and fun," Grove said.
Baptista said she hopes to see several local residents joining Grove on the trip. "His strong paddling experience and unique bubbly personality and the time he has invested on the number one element, safety, tells me that this might be the first of many groups he will be leading on this portion of the Etowah River," she said.
Grove said that he has trips planned down the Etowah River in August and September as well.
For more information or to register for the weekend, call (404) 544-6633.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.