The upstream odyssey of Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus entered its 12th day Tuesday, with 160 miles behind her and barely 30 more left before Thursday’s planned homecoming in Augusta.
“We were in front of Plant Vogtle this morning,” the environmental group’s director said. “Every time you go around a bend there is something new.”
Piloting a 20-foot Carolina skiff, Bonitatibus launched the journey near Tybee Island on March 2, making stops to visit with elected officials, landowners, anglers and others
whose lives are touched by the Savannah.
“We’ve seen more gators this trip than ever before,” she said. “Especially in the stretch from Brier Creek to Little Hell Landing.”
The trip, dubbed Savannah River Challenge 2012, is also a fundraiser, with a plan to move just one mile upstream for each $200 raised for the organization – a goal of $40,000.
“Right now it doesn’t look like we will meet our goal, but we’ll come out somewhere close to $26,000, which is good,” she said.
“The most welcoming thing in this whole experience has been the people,” she said. “Everyone we’ve met at all our stops has been wonderful.”
In addition to exploring oxbows and Indian mounds and dodging garfish and gators, Bonitatibus is also on a quest to help others learn more about the river through a series of short documentary videos she and her colleagues are producing each day.
“We’re still interviewing the people we meet and showing everyone what there is to see,” she said.
Among the most striking changes seen along the river in recent years is the extent of logging in its vast cypress swamps, which can
take centuries to regenerate.
“The economic downturn has wreaked havoc on the hardwoods,” Bonitatibus said. “But losing those big cypress trees really breaks your heart.”
After stops in Jackson, S.C., and south Richmond County, the skiff is scheduled to pass through New Savannah Bluff Lock and arrive back in Augusta on Thursday.
A 5:30 p.m. homecoming party is planned at the group’s headquarters next to the Boat House facility at the city marina.