RiverTrek 2014 is Oct 7-11!

5 days of paddling and kayak camping to raise funds for Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Support Crew volunteers are critical to success of this expedition, too. Please let us know if you would like to participate as a support crew member – food times!

RiverTrek 2014 is October 7-11. On the morning of October 7, 2014 twelve paddlers will launch their kayaks at the northern end of the Apalachicola River just below the Jim Woodruff Dam in Chattahoochee, Florida. Five days and 107 miles later, they will reach their destination of Apalachicola Bay and the city of Apalachicola, Florida. From the steep bluffs of the northernmost Apalachicola to the marshlands of the coastal plain, paddlers will experience the most diverse habitat in North America – all while raising money to help the River! These twelve experienced paddlers are volunteering to raise money for Apalachicola Riverkeeper and the important work the organization is doing to restore, protect and preserve this National treasure. At journey’s end, the paddlers will emerge from their kayaks at Battery Park in Apalachicola to a festive finale in celebration of their return.

You can help

This group of paddlers is in a brisk (and friendly!) competition to see which of them can raise the most money for Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Starting in August, each RiverTrek paddler will work to raise money for Apalachicola Riverkeeper by gathering sponsors—friends, neighbors, and businesses to donate to Riverkeeper on their behalf. will be hard for them to top the amount they raised last year ($29,000!), but they are eager to surpass last year’s total. You too, can be part of the adventure and the fun by supporting a specific paddler with your donation to Apalachicola Riverkeeper or, if you simply can’t decide which paddler to support, hit the “I support ALL of the RiverTrek paddlers with my donation” button. All proceeds go to Apalachicola Riverkeeper – the only organization whose sole mission is to restore, protect and preserve the Apalachicola River.

WFSU-TV produced an internet series on Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s (2012 and 2013) RiverTrek. These videos highlight the issues the Riverkeeper is working to address and resolve. To learn more about RiverTrek and the Apalachicola River, see RiverTrek 2012 and 2013

2013 Paddlers

Daniel Alsentzer

AlsentzerDaniel is an avid explorer of Florida’s land and waters, spending much of his time sailing and paddling on Apalachee and St. Andrew’s bays. When not above water, Daniel is often underwater, diving offshore reefs or the depths of Florida’s many spring caverns. He is a native of Tallahassee and has roots along the Gulf Coast in Apalachicola, Panama City, and New Orleans. His intrigue with the region’s geography and commitment to its environment led him to a Master’s degree in urban & regional planning. A course in river basin planning, titled “Saving the Apalachicola”, was inspiration for pursuing a career in environmental protection. He now works as a park planner for the Florida Park Service. His work and recreation continue to take him to every corner of the State.

The RiverTrek is a great opportunity for Daniel to further his knowledge of one of the region’s most significant waterways and dedicate some enjoyable time to a good and immediate cause.

George Blakely

BlakelyGeorge is an avid paddler and outdoorsman who cares deeply for the environment. He is an artist-activist whose artwork reflects his concern for the natural world. All of his life George has engaged in outdoor activities, from traveling the American West with his family as a child, through Boy Scouts, and later in life exploring the rivers, creeks and trails in the Big Bend area as well as exploring the southern Appalachian mountains of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. He has hiked the entire lower half of the Appalachian Trail.

George taught art at Florida State University for 35 years where he is now a professor emeritus. Through his teaching, George developed a service-learning curriculum that engages students in outdoor activities like biking, hiking and paddling intended to help them learn about, and become involved in issues that impact the environment. An avid volunteer, George has volunteered with the Florida Trail Association, Adopt a Road Leon County, Keep Tallahassee-Leon Beautiful and Keep Wakulla County Beautiful. He hopes you will help protect the Apalachicola River by supporting his participation in RiverTrek 2013!

Rob Diaz de Villegas

Diaz-de-VillegasRob Diaz de Villegas is a producer and lead editor at WFSU-TV. Rob believes that a healthy river and bay are critical to the identity of this area and to the entire “Forgotten Coast”. He feels fortunate to be able to work and play in this area and documents his experiences through videography. “To me, this River has a story worth telling”.

After years of producing music and cultural programming, Rob finds himself outdoors more often of late. That suits him just fine. He currently produces WFSU’s In the Grass, On the Reef project, a collaborative effort with several marine ecologists conducting research on Florida’s Forgotten Coast. This includes research on Apalachicola Bay’s beleaguered oyster reefs. You can follow In the Grass, On the Reef at http://wfsu.org/coastalecology.

Mim Duncan

Duncan“As a late-comer to exploring the outdoors, I discovered skiing and backpacking after moving to Colorado when I was twenty-five. I worked as a middle school counselor and later as a mental health therapist. After my husband died in a plane crash, I moved to Florida to enjoy beaches and warm weather. Upon discovering kayaking, I gave up the beaches and fell in love with the many rivers”.

Mim lived near the Sebastian and Indian Rivers on Florida’s east coast and has participated in numerous cleanups and other efforts to raise awareness of the conditions of our waterways. She knew she wanted to join the Apalachicola RiverTrek from the very first time she read about the Trek several years ago and believes that supporting Apalachicola Riverkeeper through her participation is a great way to have fun and give back to the environment.

Su Ecenia

EceniaFor the last two years, the organizers of RiverTrek have invited the public to join them on their last leg into Apalachicola. “Both years I have showed up in a borrowed kayak and enthusiastically paddled my heart out for 22 miles! Although I am the least experienced kayaker in the RiverTrek 2013 group, I am determined to complete the entire trip from the dam to the bay. I read on the Riverkeeper website that when you can get people out on the river they become intimate with it and begin to understand the necessity of protecting it. My goal for this trip is for it to be a stepping-stone for future advocacy and involvement. What I lack in skill I plan to make up in fundraising, so please help me make lots of money for this wonderful organization precious resource, Apalachicola Riverkeeper”.

Su rides her bike a lot, likes to hike the Florida Trail, and is learning how to spend the night outdoors without serious misadventures.

Todd Engstrom

EngstromTodd Engstrom is an independent ecologist with a strong interest in the ecosystems of north Florida. After receiving his PhD at FSU and spending a few years at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, he came back to Tallahassee in 1990 to be a staff ecologist at Tall Timbers Research Station. At Tall Timbers he studied the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, fire ecology, and old-growth longleaf pine forests. He left Tall Timbers to direct the Greenwood Project for The Nature Conservancy in Thomasville, Georgia.

Todd deepened his knowledge of and appreciation for the Apalachicola River when he conducted a search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker on the river in 2006. He feels that the Apalachicola is an ecological and cultural treasure that deserves the attention and support of our community. Apalachicola Riverkeeper provides an invaluable voice for its conservation. Currently, he is active with the Friends of the Apalachicola National Forest, a group dedicated to ecological management of that national forest, and a long-term study of the threatened Miccosukee gooseberry.

Yvonne Gsteiger

Yvonne is an environmental lawyer with over 25 years experience working on water policy issue-both at the state level and regional levels. Yvonne has been an avid outdoorswoman for most of her life and has spent much of her free time in long-distance cycling adventures, both solo as well with her daughters on a tandem bike. Her love of challenges and adventures has led her to do long distance kayaking and canoe trips from as far north as Alaska to as far south as the Everglades. She has also recently started participating in long-distance back packing and trekking trips, again both solo and with her daughters.

Having spent most of her professional career on water law issues, she has a particular sensitivity and understanding of the complex issues affecting and impacting the Apalachicola River and Bay. She wants to help highlight the water quality and quantity problems impacting the natural system of the Apalachicola River so decisions can be made to protect the resource.

When she’s not busy with her other work and raising her daughters, she plays hammer dulcimer in a local celtic band in Tallahassee.

Tom Herzog

HerzogAs Apalachicola Riverkeeper’s Board President, Tom is totally committed to the mission of the organization and believes wholeheartedly that supporting this organization is an important way to help the Apalachicola River remain the treasured resource it is today.

Tom is an avid North Florida outdoorsman and world traveler who does it all. In fact, it is a rare occasion to find him indoors. Fishing, camping, boating, cycling, hiking, hunting—on the water or in the woods is where Tom prefers to spend his time. He has paddled the Apalachicola River many times over and explores her meandering tributaries, such as Graham Creek, regularly. Tom is a Board member and volunteer trip leader with Apalachicola Riverkeeper. He is eager to again participate in RiverTrek and to be fully involved in protection of the mighty Apalach’ and the Bay.

Scott Keyes

KeyesHaving lived on the water in Florida for the last 60 years and being an avid fisherman, diver, boater, and kayaker, RiverTrek is a perfect extension of my interests. Watching Florida grow-up and “develop,” there is a definite need for additional public awareness for the natural resources our State has to offer.

After graduating from the University of Florida, I did a short tour of duty—7 ½ years as an Air Force pilot. The next 40 years was spent as a commercial airline captain flying internationally. This included 20 years doing a lap or two around the world each month. I took advantage of what the interesting ports of call I visited had to offer in the way of outdoor activity and have hiked Scotland’s Highlands and Hong Kong’s trails and scuba dived in Greece, China, and Gulf of Oman.

For years, my kids and I have explored our area of SW Florida from Naples to the Keys. I think we have camped on every beach south of Naples and boated up every river or creek in the 10,000 islands. Now I get to do the same thing with my grandkids. The last five years I have had the opportunity to join Paddle Florida on 17 of their trips exploring other parts of Florida, from the Ochlockonee River to the Florida Keys. I look forward to helping promote and highlight the Apalachicola River Basin and am pleased to be able to support a worthy organization like Apalachicola Riverkeeper.

Jill Lingard

Lingard“I have been following the news about the Apalachicola for the past few years. A years-long drought, interstate water wars, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have had alarming impacts on the ecology of the river and on citizens whose livelihoods depend on the health of this waterway. RiverTrek combines my love for kayaking with an opportunity to learn more about the river and the region it flows through, raise awareness of the issues impacting it, and seek funds for restoration and protection”.

A spill over Big Shoals on the Suwannee River in the early 90s introduced Jill Lingard to the sport of kayaking, and she has enthusiastically paddled dozens of flat and whitewater rivers in the Southeast, since. In 2007, Jill became an active volunteer and board member with the non-profit: Current Problems, which conducts clean-ups of North Central Florida’s watersheds. Jill also serves as Vice President for Paddle Florida and has helped to coordinate their trips on the Suwannee, Peace, Ochlockonee, Wekiva, and St. Johns Rivers, as well as the Florida Keys.

Kent Mayer

MayerKent has roots deep in north Florida—his great-great grandfather homesteaded in what is now Manatee Springs State Park in 1860. In college, extensive SCUBA diving in springs and sinks around north Florida and completing a cave diving course helped him become even more familiar with our water resources “inside and out”. Kent started kayaking in 1980, and has been paddling his beloved black Nordkapp sea kayak for over 30 years. Favorite paddling trips include 3 weeks in Glacier Bay, Alaska, and a month long National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) sea kayaking course in Prince William Sound, Alaska, where he was selected as one of two student leaders at the end of the course to lead a group of students 75 miles without instructors. This NOLS trip was in 1989 a few months after the Exxon Valdez accident, so he was able to experience the results of environmental carelessness firsthand. As a volunteer interpreter and river boat guide at Wakulla Springs State Park he helps educate the public about the importance of water quality.

Preserving and protecting the Apalachicola River is important for our quality of life and economic livelihood. Kent is honored to participate in fundraising for the Riverkeeper and helping raise awareness of this incredible resource, and hopes you will donate whatever you can to help us in this quest.

Michael Mendez

MendezMichael is a 4th generation native Floridian, has enjoyed the Florida waters and natural beauty from Key West to Pensacola. He was raised hearing tales of the abundance of crawfish and sponges in the Florida Keys only to watch it all but disappear during his lifetime. He’s watched the once pristine springs and rivers of North Florida become cloudy and choked with weeds. From the KP hole in Dunellen to the Wakulla River, once pristine waterways are becoming threatened and scarce. Mike feels an obligation to preserve Florida’s natural ecosystems for the children of tomorrow.

For the economic health of our state and the sheer beauty of it, we must protect the Apalachicola River and estuary. Michael lives in Tallahassee Florida with his wife and daughter.

Chris Reed

ReedChris moved to Tallahassee in 1995 and discovered it to be a wonderful place to enjoy with his family. The rolling hills of north Florida, the parks, canopy roads, and rural areas just outside of town are enchanting. He is an avid outdoors enthusiast, and you can often find him cycling the many trails around town, playing soccer, paddling the Wakulla and Wacissa Rivers, trekking to the beaches, and just about anything else his friends can talk him into. One of his favorite excursions is to St. George Island, where he enjoys watching the oyster harvesters at work as he drives over the Eastpoint Bridge.

Inspired by years of sailing along the Florida coasts, he obtained a degree in water resource and coastal engineering and is keenly aware of the stresses put on the Apalachicola River by the decreased flows. With the past year being one of the lowest flows on record, and the Apalachicola Bay oyster beds in peril, raising awareness and our voices is now critical, and Chris is excited participate in this year’s RiverTrek.

Alexis Reed

AReedThis is Alex Reed’s second RiverTrek and she is excited to be able to support Apalachicola Riverkeeper again this year. Alex, a geologist and environmental manager, grew up in North Georgia where she spent her youth hiking the Appalachian Trail, paddling white water on the multitude of regional rivers, and wandering the foothills with parents who grew up along the banks of Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers. Running through her small mountain town, the Chattahoochee River silently and steadfastly existed as the center of her family’s life. Although she has travelled across the country and lived as far away as Maine, California and Colorado, the rivers here have always drawn her back. She and her family make their home in Tallahassee to be close to the Apalachicola River basin.

Alex believes that whether she is forging through the mountains, roaming through the flatlands or dancing to the sea, the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Rivers have remained constant. They give so graciously and we have always taken from them so freely. It is time that we give something back sot that generations to come will know this resource as we have.” Alex participated in RiverTrek 2012.

Chris Robertson

RobertsonChris, a project manager for The Woodlane Cabinet Company, came to Tallahassee in 1988 to attend Florida State and never left. When Chris, an avid cyclist, isn’t on two wheels, he enjoys hiking the forests and paddling north Florida’s streams. A one-time campaign organizer for the Florida Public Interest Research Group, he has long advocated for the environment. Chris also participated in RiverTrek 2012 and is very happy to be supporting Apalachicola Riverkeeper again this year and is eager to add his muscle to support the mighty Apalachicola.