McIntosh teacher joins others for a week on the river with Paddle Georgia
Unlike many teachers who prefer to relax after a school year, Mike DeLisle, a Chemistry and AP Environmental Science teacher at McIntosh High School in Peachtree City, has had a busy summer. In June, he participated in the eighth annual Paddle Georgia event. He was one of 350 paddling enthusiasts to take part in the week-long, 105 mile adventure on the Altamaha River in South Georgia.
“This was my third year,” DeLisle explained. “I am an outdoors person and it is easier to paddle than backpack as I’ve gotten older.”
Paddle Georgia is a project of the Georgia River Network. In addition to giving the participants a unique experience on some of Georgia’s most beautiful waterways, the program also creates awareness for the state and health of Georgia’s rivers and what people can do to improve it. Through Canoe-a-thon, the paddlers can raise money for the Georgia River Network and the Altamaha Riverkeeper.
“It’s a good way to see different parts of the state and meet a diverse group of people,” DeLisle said. The youngest paddler on the trip this year was six years old and the oldest was 81.
The day typically starts around 6:30 a.m. as the paddlers, who stay either at a local high school in the gym or on the practice fields, have breakfast and receive a bag lunch before heading out to the river. The paddlers get on the river between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. and get off between 3 and 5 p.m. after paddling an average of 15 miles.
DeLisle was extremely pleased with this year’s trip.
“There were no dams, no rapids, no portages. It was an easy paddle,” DeLisle stated. Portaging refers to carrying watercraft over land between two bodies of water or to avoid river obstacles. “The temperatures were in the 80s, there were no bugs and no rain. You could stop along the way on sandbars and go at your own pace just as long as you made the last bus back to camp.
Day 1 was a 10-mile trip that had the paddlers go through The Nature Conservancy’s Moody Forest Natural Area as well as by the Georgia Power Company’s Hatch Nuclear Plant. Day 2 was 12 miles and took the group by the Ohoopee and the Eason and Iron Mine Bluffs. On day 3, paddlers traveled 14 miles through the Big Hammock Wildlife Management Area. The “Jaunt to Jesup” on day 4 was a 17-mile journey taking the group around places like Beard’s Bluff, Strickland Bight, Marrowbone Round and Yankee Reach. Day 5 was a 22-mile trek giving paddlers a chance to experience the beauty and degradation of Georgia’s rivers ending in Paradise Park. On day 6, the Penholloway Polka led the group off-the-mainstem to different oxbows and sloughs filled with wildlife before ending at Altamaha Regional Park for a campout on the campgrounds. The final day was a 15-mile paddle through tidal marshes and coastal swamps surrounding Darien.
“The whole thing runs smoothly and people come from all over to participate,” DeLisle said, adding that you run into some of the same people each summer.
During the trip volunteers assisted with Georgia Adopt-A-Stream’s research project, participating in monitoring activities. The goals of Georgia Adopt-A-Stream are to increase public awareness of the State’s nonpoint source pollution and water quality issues, provide citizens with the tools and training to evaluate and protect their local waterways, encourage partnerships between citizens and their local government, and collect quality baseline water quality data.
DeLisle heads up McIntosh’s Adopt-A-Stream program. Student volunteers are selected as freshmen or sophomores and must successfully pass a Quality Assurance/Quality Control certification. The goal is 3-4 year participation in the program. McIntosh has 10 testing sites, six on Flat Creek alone, and has won awards from Georgia Adopt-A-Stream for Data Collection in 2005 and the 2007 Adopt-A-Stream Extraordinary Volunteer Watershed Effort Award.
“Kids learn by being outdoors and this program satisfies their research requirements,’ DeLisle said.
DeLisle is also the sponsor for the school’s 4-H Club and recently attended Camp Wahsega, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this summer.
This was the first time that DeLisle’s daughter was able to participate in Paddle Georgia with him and it was a perfect introduction. Next year, Paddle Georgia will travel the Ogeechee River. Visit www.garivers.org/paddle_georgia for more information.