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Atlanta Has Two River Systems, and One Is Ours!

By Henry Bryant
The South River Watershed Alliance (SRWA) has several activities coming up that southeast Atlantans might be interested in. The group is an environmental organization that relates directly to us. (If you guessed that our area of town is drained by the Chattahoochee, you are wrong. If you guessed the Flint in Clayton County, wrong again.)
The South River rises in Atlanta under the Atlanta Airport and eventually finds its way east to Moreland Avenue not too far south of Custer Avenue. The South River System provides water for the Constitution Lakes that are near there. The two main creeks in our neighborhoods – Intrenchment and Sugar – are part of that system as are all of the other creeks in the area that flow into those two. While the Chattahoochee River flows provides our water in Atlanta before it flows on to the Gulf of Mexico, the South River combines with several other rivers south of here and eventually makes it to the Atlantic Ocean at Brunswick.
Recently, I had the chance to check something off my bucket list. For 30 years I have had the dream to canoe on the South River. Back then I was told that I could do that only if I had a death wish, since the river was so polluted by Atlanta sewage and runoff. Since then a treatment plan was built on Intrenchment Creek and a larger one on the South River at Jonesboro Road. Much work has been done to clean up our runoff, too, and so the SRWA offers canoe trips where once it was unthinkable.
The trip was easy since they supplied the canoes, paddles, and life preservers, and I have some canoe experience, albeit rusty. My son and I met the expedition party at a put-in on the Dekalb-Rockdale County line. Lunch was even provided (from Stone Soup in Grant Park).
The water in the river rises and falls at a rapid rate since there is so much pervious surface in the city. When it rains here and all of that water rushes into the river, the river rises (as much as 5 to 8 feet) and runs faster. Twenty-four hours later, water levels may have fallen several feet. We have had rain this summer and so the river was running, but on the day that we went, there were some granite boulders showing in the water to navigate around. Those along with sand bars (again from the runoff) provide for testy moments in a wobbly canoe with tentative paddlers. Even so, we did not roll over and stayed dry.
The day was beautiful. It was unbelievable that something this close to the city was so green and un-urbanized. Fish are even returning to the river! We only passed a couple of signs of civilization; otherwise, we could have been James Audibon on a nature expedition in the early1800s, or maybe some Native tribesmen from earlier. The group was convivial and there was a stop midway with a docent to explain some of the nature we had seen.
There are two more trips coming up. By October there may even be some fall foliage to admire. There is also a fundraiser party that sounds like fun.
South River Jamboree, Party with a Purpose – October 5
SRWA’s South River Jamboree annual fundraiser is only two months away. There are only three small but important steps you need to do to make sure you don’t miss this once a year event. Add the date, October 5 to your calendar; purchase your tickets, only $30 per person; and, of course, show up. We look forward to seeing you! South River Jamboree is a Party with a Purpose to support the restoration of the South River. Please visit SRWA’s website, www.southriverga.org, for business and individual sponsorship information and to buy tickets. The event will be held at the historic Lithonia Women’s Club in downtown Lithonia. If you need more information, please call Jackie Echols at 404-285-3756.
South River Canoe Outing – September 28 and October 26
SRWA’s last two South River canoe outings of the season are September 28 and October 26. Paddle the South River in Rockdale County from Lorraine Park and Trailhead on Highway 138 to Oglesby Road, a distance of approximately 5.5 miles. Canoeing experience is not required, but you should be physically able to paddle for an extended period without tiring. Cost is $30 per person which includes canoe rental, insurance, and lunch. Contact Jackie Echols at southriverwatershedalliance@gmail.com or 404-285-3756 if you have questions. Kayakers are welcome and must confirm to receive additional information. Don’t miss this opportunity to see and experience the South River. Sign up at www.southriverga.org on the event page.

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