By Dave Wilson (FSI Outings Leader)
Twenty six springs enthusiasts enjoyed a perfect day hiking along the Alapaha River near Jennings, Florida. This river is notable because of its large fluctuations in water level. When ten inches of rain fall in South Georgia, the water can be 25 feet deep. After informative talks by Florida Springs Director, Bob Knight, and leader, Tom Morris, we began with a side trip to an old settlement, where a pipe had been dug into the side of the bank. While rusty from years of exposure to the elements, it continues to flow at a constant rate. A second side trip was to an old cemetery with tombstones going back 100 years.
While some of us have canoed this river at flood stage when the water raged through the treetops, today it was virtually dry. After a short lunch break, we began our hike by strolling up the middle of the river.
Along the way we were not only able to see fossilized clam (or mussel) shells, several muscular looking Ogeechee Tupelo trees (their honey is the best!), outcroppings of iron sulfide formations, but also a swallet (swallow hole), where the river roars back into the aquifer. If the river had been canoeable, we would never have known the hole was there. We must have spent an hour enjoying the “inside” of the aquifer.
While the swallet was exciting, the main goal of the trip was the “Dead River,” which is a distributary of the Alapaha. Even though most of us are quite familiar with tributaries of a river, distributaries (where the water flows away from the river) are unusual. When the water level is high, the Dead River roars and would make for a deadly canoe trip. Today it silently exposed its magnificent rock formations, dead logs, and trash. The photographic opportunities were endless.
All in all, we had a great day on the river. Several participants put in a word for a followup trip to the Alapaha Rise in the near future. Keep your eyes open for the next trip.