By Rachel McDaniel
Over the past several years, I’ve become what many would call a ‘river rat.’ The Flint River is – of course – my favorite place to float, listening to the dripping water from my paddle, feeling the sun on my skin and watching wildlife in their own world as we float downstream. I’ve seen birds of prey with fish in their talons, fish jumping from the water and heard the most beautiful orchestras of frogs and crickets.
A good friend of mine – Alison Stephens – opened me up to this amazing new world and my loving husband gifted me a kayak for Mother’s Day one year (he would probably never have guessed that I’d use it so much!)
In about a year and a half, we have traveled 81 miles of the Flint River – from Fayette County to Taylor County. Access to different parts of the river can be challenging and we even spent the night on the river once (with permission from a property owner of course), sleeping in hammocks and not leaving anything but footprints behind.
From our experience, some of the most beautiful areas of the river are through Pike and Upson counties and – while access was a bit more difficult – the desolate areas of Talbot and Taylor counties are breathtaking as well.
Unfortunately, Pike County’s only public access was blocked last week by a huge load of rocks right by the river’s edge and a giant ‘driveway’ complete with culvert right across where we have taken our kayaks so many times.
I understand the local homeowner’s view point. Some people are pigs and don’t care about littering or causing damage to other people’s properties.
However, for each one person like that, I’d wager that there are several more who love the solitude of the river and find peace there floating downstream that can’t be found elsewhere. Many of us pick up after others and I couldn’t count the old rusty cans from decades ago (based on their appearance) that we’ve picked up out of the river over the years.
The Flat Shoals access is especially important to us since the Joe Kurz Wildlife Managament Area is several miles upstream and makes for a perfect four to six hour float. We have taken our girls down the river as well and they have their own kayaks where they are the captain and make their own decisions about the routes to take. I hope they enjoyed those hours on the river as much as we did.
The shortest trip in Pike was from the Highway 362 bridge to Flat Shaols and it was the perfect trip for a beginning kayaker who may be tired and sunburned before traveling the other local routes of the Flint.
Unfortunately, access to the Highway 362 bridge was closed earlier this year as a large fence and gate was built near the river’s edge.
It breaks my heart that Flat Shoals is now off limits as well – meaning there is nowhere at all in Pike County where I can put in or take out my kayak. If we put in at Joe Kurz WMA (outside of Gay, GA), we would have to travel all the way to the Upson County side of Highway 109 to get our kayaks out of the water and onto a truck to take back home.
While that particular area is not the best, Upson County has many very nice boat ramps that are open to the public in addition to the outfitter on Highway 36.
In fact, at one of Upson County’s public access areas, there is a super long elevated boat ramp to make it easy to drag kayaks and other small watercraft to the river. They even have stairs down into the water and plenty of parking for visitors who enjoy nature and time on the river.
Pike County should absolutely have at least one access area where all citizens can get to the river and enjoy God’s beautiful world of nature. I would even volunteer – and I know others would as well – to keep the area clean and tidy.
While our kids aren’t quite the river rats we are, I certainly pray that many years from now – when they have kids of their own – they will have access to travel the same stretch of the river that they traveled with their own moms when they were kids themselves.
Please contact your commissioner about making river access a right for Pike citizens.