VALDOSTA — The annual Mayor’s Paddle is having a tough time getting off the ground — and into the water — this year.
“We’re rescheduling four weeks later, for 8 a.m., March 27,” Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman said of the fun, 11-mile paddle. “Right now, where we usually park the boats at the end of the paddle is under water. The Withlacoochee River is spread out in the flood plain, increasing possibility of people getting tipped over by overhanging branches. So a month later makes a lot more sense for attracting novice paddlers.
“With the Withlacoochee River still hovering around flood stage, myself and WWALS, in consultation with Lowndes County Emergency Management Director Ashley Tye, have decided to postpone the Mayor’s Paddle until March 27. We again ask everyone with a love for our area blueways to mark that date and join us for a great day of fellowship on the river.”
The annual fun paddle had already been rescheduled once due to bad weather.
“Better safe than sorry,” WWALS Executive Director Gretchen Quarterman said.
Participants will gather for the Mayor’s Paddle at 8 a.m. and launch at 10 a.m. The paddle will end around 4 p.m. Paddlers will put in at the Troupville Boat Ramp, 19664 Valdosta Highway on Georgia 133 off Interstate 75 exit 18 in Lowndes County.
Participants will take out at Spook Bridge, west from Valdosta on U.S. 84, left onto Ousley Road, right onto Old Quitman Highway, stop at the gate.
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“Some of you are aware that it’s a long walk up from the Withlacoochee River below Spook Bridge to Old Quitman Highway,” WWALS member Steve Miller said. “Not to worry: When we do this paddle, WWALS will have a 16-foot trailer to haul boats and a golf cart for people who don’t want to walk the quarter-mile up to the road. At the midpoint, we will also have a truck and trailer waiting to haul out the (few, we hope) people who want to get out there.”
The paddle starts at the site of historic Troupville, the Lowndes County seat before Valdosta. The entrance road is the old north-south Broad Street of Troupville, which continues into the woods. That greatly simplifies planning for the future Troupville River Park. Paddling a few thousand feet, we come to the Little River Confluence with the Withlacoochee, with its view of rivers in three directions. Just upstream on the Withlacoochee is the future site of a paddle boat take-out for Troupville River Camp, with screened-in sleeping platforms and bathrooms with hot and cold running water and air conditioning. Paddle on down the Withlacoochee River and see the turtles, birds, fish, and cypress and pine trees.
The clean water outfall from Valdosta’s Withlacoochee Wastewater Treatment Plant makes an impressive waterfall. Valdosta now tests three times a week on 40 river miles from U.S. 41 to the state line, which is one big way we know the river is clean from E. coli most of the time, along with twice-weekly downstream testing by Madison Health in Florida, and tests by WWALS, plus occasional bacterial tests and DNA marker and chemical tracer data from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. WWALS will test the water quality from the river the Thursday before the paddle. See wwals.net/issues/testing.
Paddlers will pass several creeks and the Sabal Trail methane pipeline. If the river stays up somewhat, participants will float right over County Line Shoals, just upstream from U.S. 84. Just below U.S. 84 is a railroad bridge, and around the last bend is Spook Bridge, so famous it has its own movie. Paddlers will take out on the left bank just below the bridge.
Bring: the usual personal flotation device, boat, paddles, food, drinking water, warm clothes, and first aid kit. Also trash pickers and trash bags; every WWALS outing is also a cleanup.
This outing is free to WWALS members, and $10 for non-members. You can pay the $10 at the outing, or online at wwals.net/donations/#outings.