Georgia River Network's Hidden Gems paddling event brings group to Augusta



After her husband died several years ago, Jo Ellis said she learned that if she didn’t do things by herself, she wouldn’t do them.

So Saturday she drove from Atlanta to join about 55 kayakers on the Savannah River for the Georgia River Network’s Hidden Gems paddling event.

Participants met at the North Augusta boat ramp and took a shuttle to Savannah Rapids, where they launched for a three-mile excursion over the Savannah River’s hidden gem, its last remaining shoals.

“Everything else is covered up by lakes,” said Sa­van­nah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus, who partnered with Georgia River Networks to present the event.

Halfway through the trip, the group stopped for lunch and presentations about the river, its history and the wildlife supported by it.

“(Georgia River Net­work and the Savannah River­keeper) work together on a lot of things throughout the year, mainly paying attention to what’s going on in terms of policies that are getting made that will hopefully protect our rivers,” said April Ingle, the executive director for the Georgia River Network.

“We work really closely with the Savannah Ri­verkeeper on that kind of thing all throughout the year, but it’s also kind of fun to partner with them to give people the opportunity to get out and enjoy rivers as well.”

Ellis got a kayak in July as a birthday gift. She wanted to find something to do with her leisure time that got her off the couch and away from her computer.

Until Saturday, she had taken it out only on lakes and still waters. She said her first trip down the river was “very much fun.”

“Georgia River Networks provided great support for novice paddlers. They got us through the rapids,” she said.

Eulouise and Joe Williams drove from Roswell, Ga., to join the excursion.

“It was a wonderful day. The river’s clear and pretty and just gorgeous,” Eulouise Williams said.

The Williamses join groups to kayak two or three times a month. They also usually kayak on still waters.

Eulouise Williams said the shoals were a little intimidating but the event was well organized and the hosts made sure everyone stayed safe.

“I was afraid of the rapids, but they make you at ease and they stand there by you, and there’s not much way to get hurt,” she said.

Erik Lawson said his family has never kayaked before.

The Lakeside High School senior said his mother signed them up.

“Right when I got on (the kayak) it was a little bit shaky, but it was kind of natural,” he said about learning to paddle.

He said he learned a lot more than he expected.

“I’ve pretty much learned that the river is a key feature to Augusta, the wildlife and environment and such,” he said. “It’s something that we should restore and keep up and going as much as we can.”

Lawson said he had a lot of fun and will most likely try kayaking again.

“It was a good way to spend my Saturday,” he said.

The Georgia River Network will hold its fourth and final Hidden Gem event of the year Nov. 16 in Cox, Ga., on the Altamaha. For more information, visit



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