Last October, I had the good fortune to join RiverTrek 2010-a five day paddle on the Apalachicola River from the Jim Woodruff Dam to Apalachicola Bay to raise money for the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. That set off a plan to create the Apalachicola Blueway, a detailed guide for paddlers wanting to explore the river for a day or the entire length. Then Riverkeeper executive director Andy Smith and I scouted the river by boat to create the guide, and the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails produced the maps. Now, the complete Apalachicola Blueway guide can be downloaded on a new river website, produced by volunteer Earl Morrogh.
Why paddle the Apalachicola River? For one, the Apalachicola is one of Florida's most dynamic rivers, the only Florida waterway to emerge from the Appalachian Mountains. It has the largest volume of water flow of any Florida river and it supports an incredible number of plants and animals, not to mention those sumptuous oysters in Apalachicola Bay. The Gulf sturgeon, Apalachicola dusky salamander, Florida yew, Florida torreya tree, and fat three ridge mussel are just some of the rare and endangered species found in and along the river.
Another reason to paddle the river is that it is just plain beautiful. Large bluffs-the tallest in Florida-can be seen along the upper reaches, and most of the shorelines throughout the 106 mile length are forested and undeveloped. At low to moderate water levels, long sandbars are ideal for rest stops and camping, and for studying tracks left by deer, bear, turkey and other critters. Bald eagles are commonly seen, either fishing, soaring or perched on tall shoreline trees.
The Apalachicola's many side streams are just as inviting, especially the mysterious Dead Lakes area near Wewahitchka and the canopied Devon Creek off Owl Creek.
For this year's annual River Trek, beginning October 12th, ten paddlers will kayak the entire length of the river over five days. Individuals and businesses sponsor the paddlers in a "walk-a-thon" fashion, and all proceeds are donated to the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Other purposes are to raise awareness about the river and its threats and to promote the new blueway. "I often heard the Apalachicola River characterized as a great American treasure, but until I paddled it's length and got to know it one paddle stroke at a time, I didn't fully understood why," organizer Earl Morrogh said.
Explore the new Apalachicola Blueway and find out for yourself