Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Rivers to Reefs 2014
Mission Information

Tuesday: June 24, 2014
Log Day 3

Kevin Faircloth; Reidsville Elementary School,
   Reidsville, GA
Bethany Todd, Lamar County Middle School,
   Barnesville, GA
Melanie Vaughn, Lamar County Middle School,
   Barnesville, GA
Sarah Willis, Reidsville Middle School, Reidsville, GA

Kevin Faircloth

Kevin Faircloth paddles a large canoe with local tour guide, Scott, as Georgia Aquarium videographer Rod Finch records the paddling experience

Kevin Faircloth paddles a large canoe with local tour guide, Scott, as Georgia Aquarium videographer Rod Finch records the paddling experience.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Today has been full of learning experiences. Our first stop of the day was in Macon, Georgia where we collected a water sample from the Ocmulgee River. From there we traveled to Hazelhurst, Georgia to paddle with Scott and Nick from Three Rivers Canoe Tours. We experiences first-hand the way that the rivers come together; where one ends, another begins. Stopping on a sand-bar mid-way through our canoe trip, we collected another water sample at the convergence of the Oconee and Ogmulgee Rivers where flow together and become the mighty Altamaha River.

The water sampling process seemed complex when we first began but with many opportunities to work as a team, the process is becoming much easier. There were a few comical moments and some obstacles to overcome during our canoe trip but, overall, it offered valuable education and life experiences while we all had a good time. From here we hustled down to Darien, Georgia to catch a ferry over to Sapelo Island, Georgia where we are spending a couple of nights and busy days.

Learning to paddle as a team

Learning to paddle as a team, Brandy Chastain and Kaitlin Dunn work to paddle against a strong current at the convergence of three rivers.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

On Sapelo Island, Mrs. Lulu welcomed us into her kitchen and prepared a wonderful meal for us; a traditional low country boil of locally caught shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn. After dinner, Mrs. Yvonne Grovner showed us how to weave a basket from local grasses and plant leaves. While I expected basket weaving to be difficult, I actually found that it had a calming affect for me when it was my turn to try my hand at it. I felt focused while working at it and appreciated the sense of accomplishment as I helped to create something beautiful and useful.

Through this workshop my eyes are being opened to the fact that we all need to be more connected to our communities and better stewards of our planet. As a social studies teacher, I will be able to share the cultural experiences and historical information that we are gaining through our stay in the Geechee community of Hog Hammock. And I am grateful for both the hospitality and good food provided by the people of this community. This Rivers to Reefs Educators Workshop is very organized and well-planned. I am thankful to Kim, Cathy, Amy and Theresa for sharing their knowledge, expertise and experiences with us.

Bethany Todd

Bethany Todd and Lisa Schwenk assess the results of a water quality test

Bethany Todd and Lisa Schwenk assess the results of a water quality test.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

Today has definitely been my favorite day so far, however, not because of the 5:30 AM wake up call. Canoeing was definitely an adventure! I was pretty proud of the skills that Melanie and I gained on the river. It was nice to get intimate with nature and enjoy God's creations.

We stopped to collect a water sample and picnic at the tri-rivers sandbar where the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers meet to form the Altamaha River. My water testing skills are improving more and more with each test. I feel like I am gaining a wealth of knowledge to take back to my students in Lamar County. I can't wait to show them pictures and tell them about the many adventures of this week.

After canoeing, we loaded up and headed to Sapelo Island where we jumped head first in the rich culture of the Hog Hammock community. Dinner was definitely a treat and so was the basket weaving demonstration (very therapeutic). We have covered a lot of ground today and although I am totally exhausted, I am so thankful for the experiences that Rivers to Reefs is making possible for me.

Melanie Vaughn

We rose before the sun this morning to start today's adventure. This is the day that I have been most excited about canoeing! After a brief stop in Macon, Georgia to collect a water sample, we were off to the town of Hazlehurst for an afternoon of paddling. Bethany and I were excited to be partners in a canoe (we were nervous too). We felt that we were starting to get the hang of paddling about half-way through our canoe trip where we stopped to do a water sample and eat lunch.

Jennifer Okiyama and Melanie Vaughn work as part of team to conduct a water quality test

Jennifer Okiyama and Melanie Vaughn work as part of team to conduct a water quality test.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

After our stop, our journey continued on the Altamaha River. I was a little (ok, a lot) nervous to paddle into a slough, but we made it out without an alligator encounter. Our skills improved so much that we were actually the first canoe team to make it back to dry land.

After our canoe trip we boarded the bus for a nap/bus ride to the ferry landing. We boarded the ferry and rode over to Sapelo Island. We were picked up by our gracious hosts and taken to where we'd be staying. Mrs. Francine was super hospitable. Riding in the back of a truck brought back wonderful childhood memories. After becoming acquainted with our 'home' for the next two days we went to dinner at Lulu's Kitchen. Oh my what a feast!

After dinner we watched Mrs. Yvonne Grover weave baskets and some of us even tried it. It was amazing to watch her practice this unique art, handing down over generations. She made it look so easy. The atmosphere here on the island is just incredible; I can't wait to see what tomorrow holds.

Sarah Willis

Today was a blast! We were extremely busy, but still had an amazing time.

Participants ride truck to overnight accommodations oon Sapelo Island

Participants and instructors pile into the back of trucks owned by local residents for transport to their overnight accommodations.
(Photo: Cathy Sakas)

After yesterday's certification through Adopt-a-Stream, my team and I were ready to put our water monitoring skills to the test. Our first stop was in Macon, Georgia at Spring Street. There, we waded into the stream and began completing all the water quality monitoring tests we were taught on yesterday. We checked temperature and pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, and phosphate levels.

Once we were finished with our testing, we headed down to the town of Hazlehurst where we paired up and paddled down the Oconee River to the tri-river sandbar. This is where the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers meet to form the Altamaha River. Standing on the sandbar offered a unique view. We all observed the two rivers meeting, curving and giving birth to the Altamaha River. We completed all of our water monitoring tests here as well. I am finding it very interesting to compare the results from one location to another. During our paddle, I was happy to see wildlife all around us. Insects were buzzing, fish were jumping, birds were flying, and turtles were sunbathing. We even got to watch a group of deer cross the river.

During all of today's activities, our leaders helped to point out ways we could use what we were seeing in our classrooms. It was also great to brainstorm lesson ideas amongst each other. One thing that sticks out the most was when Cathy asked us to pick up sand as we stood on the sandbar. After we all got a handful, she said "You're holding mountains." When I stopped to think about it, it's kind of mind-blowing how powerful water can be and how far the sediments I was holding had traveled.

Cathy Sakas shares history of tri-rivers converge

Cathy Sakas shares the natural history of the tri-rivers area where the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers converge to come the Altamaha River.
(Photo: Amy Rath)

After paddling, we were all very tired, but we still had to catch the ferry to Sapelo Island. This is a special treat for me, because I have always wanted to visit the island. As I expected, it is beautiful. Once we arrived, a delicious meal was cooked and served by a local family. Then we had the pleasure of watching a basket weaving demonstration by Ms. Yvonne Grovner. The baskets she makes are incredible. As we tried our hand at weaving, our respect for her basket-making skills grew.

Today I felt extra lucky to have been chosen for this Rivers to Reefs Educators Workshop. I can't wait for our marsh activities tomorrow.


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