Hey, paddlers, start working on that j-stroke. Georgia’s State Park System has unveiled a new club just for canoe and kayak enthusiasts. The Park Paddlers Club includes six state parks with waterways ranging from tidal rivers to the celebrated Okefenokee Swamp. Members can earn a bragging-rights t-shirt by paddling all 22 miles at Crooked River, George L. Smith, Magnolia Springs, Reed Bingham, Stephen C. Foster and Sweetwater Creek state parks.
To join, park visitors buy a $10 membership card at any of the six participating parks. After completing the trails and getting their card punched at each park office, members can sport a bragging-rights t-shirt.
Most participating parks are in middle or south Georgia, while Sweetwater Creek is just 14 miles west of Atlanta. At this metro park, club members will explore three miles of a scenic reservoir. The easiest paddle is less than a mile long at Magnolia Springs State Park in Jenkins County, while the most difficult is a four-mile loop on a tidal river at Crooked River State Park near St. Marys. At George L. Smith State Park near Swainsboro, paddlers can explore a pretty mill pond dotted with Spanish-moss draped trees. Visitors to Reed Bingham State Park in Adel will complete more than three miles, floating past lily pads and a bald eagle nest. Finally, at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo, paddlers can look for alligators, bears and other wildlife in the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp.
While none of the water trails include rapids or are considered difficult, they all have currents that can be impacted by wind or tide. The club is a fun way for people to work on their paddling skills while also exploring Georgia’s natural beauty. Many parks feature black-water lakes that reflect the trees and sky above. All have exceptional birding and wildlife watching opportunities. At Reed Bingham State Park, many visitors come just to see birds such as eagles, limpkins, turkey vultures and black vultures. At Crooked River State Park, lucky paddlers might even see a manatee. The DNR plans to add additional trails in the future.
Other clubs offered through the Georgia State Park System’s “Get Outdoors Georgia” initiative include the Canyon Climbers Club for hikers and the Muddy Spokes Club for mountain bikers. To learn more, visit www.GeorgiaStateParks.org or call 770-389-7401.