Exploring the rivers with a splash
A 380-mile river run to the Gulf, by personal watercraft
over two states, is an unusual way to discover a remote and beautiful region.
Special to The Herald
for a three-day cruise down the Apalachicola River brought a great deal of
anticipation. This, and other winding rivers such as the Chipola and Brothers
which merge with the Apalachicola River which flows into the Gulf of Mexico,
are scenic and feature extensive uninhabited areas, beautiful forests, wildlife
and mirror-smooth tannic-stained waters.
However, cruising these
waters on a big boat could still be a bit boring. The alternative was much
This excursion took place
on a personal watercraft (PWC) with Discovery River Tours' three-day ''Apalach
River Run to the Gulf.'' The trip was fun, relaxing and adventurous.
It all began one early
Friday morning on the Flint River, near the city of Bainbridge, in southwest
Georgia. After a short briefing on the day's itinerary and a few necessary
rules and procedures by the founders and operators, Sam Thomas and Vicki
Williams, 13 adventurers and I prepared to embark on a 380-mile round-trip
Doing this trip on your
own would be difficult, at best, without local knowledge of the rivers. The
rivers are difficult at times to navigate, and there are no marinas for
But the Discovery River
Tours staff takes all the worries and hassles out of attempting such a long
cruise on a personal watercraft by providing fuel, food, luggage transport
The first leg of the tour
took us down the Flint River and across Lake Seminole, a large reservoir. We
followed behind Thomas in single file to ensure that everyone stayed within
the channel and in between the wakes of the watercraft in front of them for a
To continue onto the
Apalachicola River we had to enter a lock at the Jim Woodruff dam to lower us
to the level of the river. At the lock, Thomas and his staff entered first to
secure a line across the lock for the rest of us to tie off to for the 20
minutes or so that it took to lower us 30 feet. That was my first lock and it
is an unusual experience, especially from a personal watercraft where you can
see the water swirling below.
After the lock, we were
now in the State of Florida and it was a short ride down the Apalachicola
River before we reached a boat ramp near the town of Bristol Landing. There,
we stopped for a gourmet lunch provided by Williams and her staff. While we
ate, the rest of the staff refueled our watercraft so they were ready to go
after our meals.
Their efficiency is
remarkable, as everyone appears unhurried and relaxed. Only the perspiration
on the smiling faces of the staff gives a clue to the hard work involved to
make everyone comfortable. Thomas says they have been running
personal-watercraft tours since 1993 and they have learned what works well.
With everyone full and
rested, we head back out into the current of the river to resume our 135-mile
journey to Apalachicola. As always, Thomas led the way. Thomas stayed in
constant radio communication with the support van and a staff member at the
rear of our flotilla in case someone encountered any problems.
Even though we maintained
a pace of about 41 mph, we had plenty of opportunity to safely enjoy the view
of the shoreline and forests. The rivers were always perfectly smooth which,
allowed riders to sit on the watercraft comfortably and be able to sightsee.
All riders kept about a 100-foot distance behind the PWC in front of them for
We continued for about 1 ½
hours until we stopped for a snack and refueling at Wewahitchka, Fla.
Our destination was the
beautiful town of Apalachicola, known for its fishing fleets and oysters.
There we stayed at the historic Gibson Inn, built in 1907. That evening after
we showered and relaxed, our group strolled to the waterfront for a seafood
This charming hotel as
well as all meals and fuel are included in the price of the tour. The cost
the ''Apalach River Run to the Gulf'' tour is $905, a reasonable fee
considering the first-class lodging, meals, fuel and work involved. The only
thing not included is the watercraft.
Discovery encourages that
you bring your own but it has a number of watercraft available to rent at
$100 per day. That's not bad when you consider the place that rent them for
$60 per half-hour.
Saturday morning, we set
off on a 120-mile round-trip ride to Panama City in the Florida panhandle. We
took the Intracoastal Waterway thorough beautiful salt marshes and pine
forests. Our first destination was a small marina on the edge of East Bay.
There we had lunch, hit golf balls, talked and relaxed.
The wind picked up and the
crossing back across the bay was a bit rough but everyone made it without
problem. We arrived back in Apalachicola around 3 p.m. and had the afternoon
to ourselves. We had another great dinner, this time at the hotel. (I began
to wonder if this trip was about river touring or the food).
Sunday morning we walked
down to the dock where the temperature was an unusually cool June morning of
69 degrees. We started our watercraft (The Yamaha VX110 four-stroke that I
tested ran flawlessly the entire trip) and idled out to river to start our
135-mile return journey back to Bainbridge.
Thomas altered the route
on the way back to offer a change in scenery. Still, even when we were on the
same sections of the river, the view from the opposite direction gave a whole
different look to the scenery.
We made two stops for
lunch, snacks and refueling.
Who takes these tours? All
types. This tour group consisted of professionals and blue-collar workers,
young and older. Everyone bonded and became friends as we shared the
experiences of the tour together.
Most of the riders had
participated in previous trips with Discovery River Tours. Obviously, they
enjoyed it the first time around.
The ''Apalach River Run to
the Gulf'' is one of a half-dozen tours that Discovery River Tours offers.
The others range from three-to-five days and include the Savannah River Tour
and the 750-mile Tenn-Tom River Adventure that winds through through Alabama
Fatigue? Yes, I tired at
the end but not unduly so. In fact, the next day I checked the tour calendar
for another trip some day.
For more information, call
770-493-1792 or go to pwctours.com
Marshall Brodie writes
about boats for Wheels & Waves. He can be reached at email@example.com