The 184-page guidebook will be first available this weekend at the Coosa River Basin Initiative’s annual WATERFEST. Cook, executive director of CRBI, describes with words and photos the 163-mile Etowah River from its headwaters just outside Dawsonville to its confluence in Rome with the Conasauga River to form the Coosa.
“The Etowah is just an incredible river,” Cook said. “It’s an untapped resource because people don’t know about it, but it’s probably the best family paddling in all of north Georgia. It’s a river that really anyone can paddle from expert paddlers all the way down to beginners and there’s tremendous historic resources on it, places where you can actually touch history. Then, of course, you’ve got the biodiversity and the Etowah is one of the most biologically diverse rivers of its size in the country.
“It’s a great place to visit and the guidebook is a way to try to promote use of the river and hopefully then they become stewards of the river.”
Filled with 150 color photos and 17 color maps, “Etowah River User’s Guide” is printed on waterproof paper to be used as a resource while on the water. Included in the guidebook are detailed section-by-section descriptions of the river, entry points and boat launches, river miles, a section on wildlife, fishing tips and historical highlights, such as Native American fish weirs, bridge remains and nearby sites.
“There’s really nothing out there that’s as comprehensive as this,” Cook said. “There are canoeing and kayaking guides to Georgia, but they just give the basics, whereas this gives detailed information about historic sites, wastewater discharges, obstacles or hazards around the river.
“Every section of river you choose to paddle, you can use the guidebook to learn something about the history of the river and of the people around the river. It’s a fun guide to take out on the river or just to read before you hit the river.”
“Etowah River User’s Guide” is the first in a series of in-depth guides planned by Georgia River Network and University of Georgia Press. Cook will continue to author the guides with the Chattahoochee River likely being next in line. Eventually, there will be at least 14 guides, one for each of Georgia’s major river basins, but will likely include more than that.
Georgia River Network Executive Director Laura Ingle described how the idea for a series of guidebooks came about after seeing the work Cook put into the daily section maps for Paddle Georgia, an annual 100-mile paddle trip on a different Georgia river each year.
“In addition to writing the books, he also coordinates our Paddle Georgia trip every year for Georgia River Network and this year we’re getting ready to do our ninth Paddle Georgia trip,” Ingle said. “We do 100 miles of a different Georgia river each year and that’s kind of where the idea of this series was born because Joe would put together these maps each day of the section we were going to paddle that day and they had so much information and knowledge that we thought, ‘We should put this information together and make a guide for the entire river.’
“The information is going to be interesting for people with varying interests, whether they just want to go canoeing or kayaking, but it’s got a lot of historical information for people interested in history as well as people that enjoy fishing and birding and watching wildlife.”
Paddlers can be among the first to buy a copy of “Etowah User’s Guide,” $18.95, at WATERFEST XIII beginning Friday, May 3, from 5 to 8 p.m., at Rome’s Ridge Ferry Park and continuing Saturday with a 13-mile paddle trip. Fore more information on WATERFEST XIII, call 706-232-2724 or visit www.coosa.org.
“Etowah River User’s Guide” will be widely available beginning May 21 with a formal book launch at the Decatur Art Festival. After May 21, the guidebook will be available at most major book retailers and online at www.coosa.org or www.garivers.org.