By Georgia Ackerman
July 24, 2021–Many moons ago, long before I was on staff with Apalachicola Riverkeeper (circa 2009), the first Apalachicola Riverkeeper (ARK) kayak trip I joined was a Graham Creek outing led by the talented outdoorsman and all around good guy, David Morse. If you’ve been to one of our clean ups, you’ve probably met David. He’s the kind of person that shows up with his truck and extra trash bags, then offers to haul stuff over to the dump at the conclusion of the clean up. David has been an ARK member and eco-educational outings volunteer since 2007. In fact, David Morse and Tom Herzog (former board president), were among the original, steadfast “Fourth Saturday Paddle” volunteers keeping folks connected to this dynamic ecological wonderland. Incidentally, we rebranded our Fourth Saturday Paddle name a few years ago to Eco-Educational Outings, since we added hiking to the menu and the dates didn’t always jibe with a fourth Saturday. For nearly two decades, outings have been a consistent program at Apalachicola Riverkeeper, offering opportunities to play around the Apalachicola basin region. There’s so much to see and experience. And recreational play in the area creates a relationship with the landscape and waterways.
By the way, did you know the Apalachicola River floodplain is 112,000 acres? It’s Florida’s largest forested floodplain. And of course, there are 400+ miles of streams, sloughs, and lakes in addition to the 107 miles of Apalachicola River to explore here.
Years later, Graham Creek to East River remains one of my favorite paddles, especially in cold weather. It’s perfect for a bike-kayak adventure, too. Of course, in spring, it’s the blooming tupelo that lures us there. Apalachicola River Wildlife Environment Area (ARWEA) is a unique wilderness area. The area spans the lower reaches of the Apalachicola River and floodplain, extending north from Apalachicola Bay to Liberty County.
In summertime, Graham Creek offers lots of shade heading into Tates Hell State Forest. Our recent July visit brought participants from Crawfordville, Tallahassee, Apalachicola and Panama City. While several folks were quite experienced paddlers, including some “RiverTrekkers” past and present, most had not explored this stretch of water previously. Suffice to say, we were all delighted by our morning together. While we encountered no other humans, turtles, alligators, and fish were abundant. Michelle Duncan, a NOAA biologist, taught us some fascinating information on the reproductive health of fish species and Cameron Barton identified a plant species, green fly orchids, unfamiliar to most of us. Cameron is a science educator and plant and tree enthusiast and RiverTrek 2022 team member.
Here’s a link to the photo album from our July trip on Graham Creek.
Georgia Ackerman is Riverkeeper and Executive Director at Apalachicola Riverkeeper. Her favorite recreational activities are camping, paddling and hiking in the Apalachicola River Basin. She can be reached at [email protected]