River Trip 2013 - Week 1 - Columbus to Chattahoochee

Introduction – We are still working on the detailed arrangements for the first week of the river trip. We have identified a preliminary schedule of the overnight points along the way, but the educational sessions and points of interest are still being developed. The crew and volunteers are working diligently to bring the additional details together and will be doing an exploratory run on May 25th with trip leaders. Stay tuned to this web page for updates.

Arrival and Orientation Day – Plan to arrive at the Columbus City docks on Friday, 10/18, before the trip begins to help ensure we have as much preparation done so we can leave early on Day #1. If you are taking the shuttle from Atlanta, the departure site is The Dam Store at 1250 Buford Dam Road. You may also coordinate directly with trip staff to arrange for a pickup along the I-85/185 corridor on the way to Columbus.

Day #1 : Columbus City Docks to River Bend Park (25 Miles) – This day will begin just below the last historic mill dam on the Chattahoochee River. Much of the river along this stretch is part of the Fort Benning military reservation. Lake Eufaula actually backs up water all the way to the mill dam when the lake is at full pool, so there is not much of a river flow. As you paddle this streatch of the river you will watch it transition from the high banked and deep valley of the Columbus fall line river course into the broad flood plain and alluvial sedimentation area near River Bend Park. There are many interesting geological features notable during the transition from the fall line into the coastal plan. And don’t worry about the length of this paddle run and the absence of moving water, as we have our fourty USCG certified 40 passenger catamaran, the Starfish Enterprise, to provide a break for any paddler that would like to hop a ride and put the kayak in tow.

Day #2 : River Bend Park to Florence Marina State Park (15 Miles) – This day will take us from the alluvial area at the very beginning of Lake Eufaula into the main body. You will paddle past some very interesting limestone bluff areas with deep ledges going into the water and notice meandering tributaries that are backed up with lake waters. During the days of gravel operations, much aggregate extraction came from this area which was transported via barge down to the Chattahoochee gravel operations.

We are hopeful that, given the season, we will get a nice Northwesterly backing wind for this stretch of the paddle trip as lake paddles can be very demanding in the event of a head wind. Either way the Tiger Lilly will offer a break from the rigors of an open water paddle should it be necessary. Florence Marina is an attractive state park with nice facilities for the evening we will spend there. A truly picturesque little marina store and a boat basin with many wooden classics.

Day #3 : Florence Marina State Park to George Bagby State Park (30 Miles) – This day takes us through the main body of Lake Eufaula where we will traverse past the mid lake ridge and by the large bluffs on the Western shore where the city of Eufaula is located. The lake passage is a beautiful one with mostly wooded shores, beaches and lots of wildlife. George Bagby park is another very nice facility with nature trails and nice accommodations. This is very close to the dam and locks and the historical river crossing at Ft. Gaines.

Day #4 : George Bagby State Park to Smith’s Landing Sandbar (20 Miles) – This day will transition our adventure from a lake trip back to a steep bluffed river corridor. Going through the locks will drop us 88’ from the lake level to the river. This is the longest lock drop in the Eastern US. Upon emerging from the locks into the river basin, the steep vegetated banks provide a stunning variety of plant and animal life. This portion of the river is subject to changing river levels due to the power generation at the dam. We will traverse a good distance down river where the rises and falls are somewhat moderated and camp at Smith’s Landing sandbar. This landing was a significant stopover on the riverboat passages as it provided a safe mooring and enjoyable leisure area. It has been owned by the same family since those times and is still place for an afternoon or evening stay. There is at least one of the old paddle wheel boats sunken in the bend across the river.

Day #5 : Smith’s Landing Sandbar to Coheelee Creek Public Use Area (15 Miles) – This day will continue our southward trek through the river corridor where we will pass many of the historical riverboat junctions and landings. The river banks are sparsely populated with only an occasional cabin along the shore. Most notable along this stretch is the abundance of nature in the river basin. Around mid day we will pass through the shortest “lake” along the river trip where the George Andrews lock and dam raises the river level over the rapids that once made this river treacherous for steam boat traffic.

Day #6 : Coheelee Creek Public Use Area to Neal’s Landing (15 Miles) – This day will take us past the Georgia, Alabama, Florida tri state border and into Florida. The river at Neals’s Landing is just beginning the transition into Lake Seminole. Another day of incredible natural beauty and easy river paddling, this is a river day to enjoy the ever broadening Chattahoochee as she meanders on her way to Chattahoochee.

Day #7 : Neal’s Landing to Chattahoochee Landing (25 Miles) – This day will take us through Lake Seminole and the confluence of the Flint River. We will stop off at one of the fish camps along the way for a luncheon in what was once a Corps of Engineers construction camp when the lake was being built. Lake Seminole is a broad and very shallow lake where you will see huge broad pans of water lily and forests of stumps in what was once a forest of pine and live oak. We will pass through the lock on Lake Seminole and emerge into the Apalachicola River where we will make the brief paddle to Chattahoochee Landing.

This is our last day on the Chattahoochee River and the start of the Apalachicola River, which is formed by the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers at approximately the center of Lake Seminole. The Jim Woodruff Dam and lock were part of the 1950s era project that established the shipping channel which extends all the way to Columbus, Georgia.

Everyone will boat across Lake Seminole aboard the Starfish, with options to either remain aboard the Starfish or paddle through the lock to Chattahoochee Landing.

This day concludes the first week of the river trip with participants reaching Chattahoochee Landing to meet up with folks joining us for the second week of the trip. After arriving at Chattahoochee Landing, we will tour the Jim Woodruff Dam at Lake Seminole and the historic city of Chattahoochee. For those ending the trip here, a van shuttle will return you to Apalachicola, Columbus or Atlanta.

Later in the evening, spend time getting acquainted with new campers and enjoy a cookout at the magnificent 140 acre Chattahoochee Landing Site recently acquired for expansion of the Apalachicola Maritime Museum. This location has a magnificent view of the river and dam. It is situated on a high bluff overlooking the limestone banks where multiple clear freshwater springs come forth to create the spawning habitat of the endangered sturgeon. This was a major steamboat junction in the 1800s, and the frames of several of the steamboats can still be seen at the river’s edge.

Chattahoochee Arrival and Departures – For those joining us for the second week of the trip, please plan to arrive early on this day to check in for the trip and get situated at the camp site. If you are going to take the shuttle bus, be sure to arrive on time. The departure point for the shuttle from Apalachicola is the Maritime Museum at 103 Water Street. Alternatively, you can leave your car at the Chattahoochee Landing departure site and plan to take the shuttle back from Apalachicola after the trip. If you are taking the shuttle from Atlanta, the departure site is The Dam Store at 1250 Buford Dam Road.

Both sites are secure and have no charge. For those with us on the first week of the trip, we will arrive at Chattahoochee Landing via the river. Plans are to traverse Lake Seminole aboard the Starfish. Those wishing to paddle a portion of this day will have the option to kayak or canoe through the locks and paddle to Chattahoochee Landing.

If you are departing after the Columbus to Chattahoochee section of the trip, a shuttle will return you to Columbus, Atlanta or Apalachicola. If you are continuing the paddle trip, simply find a spot to pitch your tent and get ready for afternoon activities in Chattahoochee.

This day concludes the first week for the trip with participants reaching Chattahoochee Landing to meet up with participants joining us for the second week of the trip. After arriving at Chattahoochee Landing, we will tour the Jim Woodruff Dam at Lake Seminole and historic Chattahoochee. Later that evening, spend time getting acquainted with new campers and enjoy a cookout at the magnificent 140 acre Chattahoochee Landing Site recently acquired for expansion of the Apalachicola Maritime Museum. This location has a magnificent view of the river and dam and overlooks the limestone banks where multiple clear freshwater springs come forth to create the spawning habitat of the endangered sturgeon. This was a major steamboat junction in the 1800s, and the frames of several of the steamboats can still be seen at the river’s edge.