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Annual Apalachicola RiverTrek
October 6, 2021 - October 10, 2021
Fourteen paddlers and their volunteer support crew are planning for the annual Apalachicola RiverTrek October 6-10 with high hopes, launching from River Landing Park in Chattahoochee and completing their journey at Apalachicola’s Battery Park. RiverTrekkers this year hail from Apalachicola, Port St. Joe, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Punta Gorda and Asheville, North Carolina. Six have participated in RiverTrek in the past, while eight others are new to the 107-mile journey.
On the five-day RiverTrek, paddlers will kayak the entire length of the river from Chattahoochee to Apalachicola. They will paddle more than 20 miles a day, braving heat and possibly rain, camping on sandbars and sharing group meals and stories. They will swim, laugh, and enjoy first-hand one of Florida’s most diverse and inspiring rivers.
From guest speakers in the evenings and online prior to the event, paddlers will also learn about the incredible number of plants and animals the river supports, including tupelo trees that contribute to sweet tupelo honey and 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.
The paddlers will experience the river’s diverse scenery. Large bluffs—the tallest in Florida—can be seen along the upper reaches, and most of the shorelines throughout the journey 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 wildlife. Bald eagles are commonly seen, either fishing, soaring or perched on tall shoreline trees.
Part of RiverTrek’s purpose is to raise necessary funds for Apalachicola Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization that has advocated for the river and bay since 1998. Individuals and businesses sponsor the paddlers in a “walk-a-thon” fashion, and all proceeds are donated to Apalachicola Riverkeeper. The money supports the essential work of advocacy, outreach, education and collaborative research as it relates to the Apalachicola Basin.
RiverTrek was begun by paddler Earl Morrogh in 2009 and volunteer coordinators have expanded its size and scope each year. Martha Haynes of Wakulla County echoed feelings shared by many RiverTrek participants this year: “I can’t think of a better way to combine my love of camping, paddling, and learning than to be a part of the RiverTrek 2021 team. A five-day, 106-mile paddle, with informational talks along the way, accompanied by like-minded outdoor adventurers is a dream come true, especially after a year and a half of being mostly at home!”
Lee Rigby of Woodville, participating in his second RiverTrek, added, “I was surprised and pleased with the response to my request for support by my friends and business contacts when I went on the 2019 RiverTrek—raising much needed funds for this important organization. The Apalachicola River is a vital ecological resource, and I am hoping that in celebrating my 70th birthday by participating in the 2021 RiverTrek, I can bring more awareness to the river’s needs and raise more funds to help address those needs.”
Other RiverTrek participants include teachers, writers, kayak guides, business people, military veterans, a video journalist and a woodworker. Rob Diaz de Villegas will cover the entire trip for WFSU TV. To learn more about the Apalachicola RiverTrek, log onto www.apalachicolariverkeeper.org/rivertrek/.