The Ocmulgee River User’s Guide is a comprehensive guide to boating, fishing and camping along the 250-mile length of the Ocmulgee River in Middle Georgia as well as the river’s three main tributaries, the South, Yellow and Alcovy rivers.

Georgia River Network, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, has released the sixth installment in the organization’s River User’s Guide book series. The Ocmulgee River User’s Guide is now available.

The book is a comprehensive guide to boating, fishing and camping along the 250-mile length of the Ocmulgee River in Middle Georgia as well as the river’s three main tributaries, the South, Yellow and Alcovy rivers which course through metro Atlanta.

Printed on waterproof paper and featuring color maps of every mile of the four rivers along with color photographs, the book is more than just a recreational guide. It brings to life the river’s cultural and natural history, detailing points of interest that river travelers will encounter.

“The User’s Guide books are made to take on the river, but they are kind of like a Reader’s Digest of Georgia’s rivers,” said author Joe Cook, who canoed more than 400 miles to gather the information for the book. “It can sit on the coffee table and you can flip it open to learn little known facts about our rivers.”

Topics covered in the Ocmulgee River User’s Guide include the history of Lakewood and Atlanta’s water supply (the South River was the city’s water supply long before the Chattahoochee); the horrific Jasper County murders of 11 “debt slaves” in 1921 (several were chained and forced over the bridge rails on the Yellow and Alcovy rivers) and the story of Union soldiers who spent several weeks at the close of the Civil War manning an Ocmulgee River ferry in Twiggs County (their job was to ensure that Confederate soldiers passing the ferry had put down their arms and possessed proper parole papers).

“It’s not your ordinary guidebook,” said Rena Peck, executive director at Georgia River Network. “You can surely use it to find out where you can access the river and what to expect when you are out there, but you can also use it to learn the story of the river, its people and how the two have shaped one another over several thousand years.”

The 335-page book is the sixth installment in the River User’s Guide series that includes the Etowah, Chattahoochee, Broad, Flint and Oconee rivers. In addition to maps showing public access points and important river features, each book includes an illustrated guide to common plants and animals found along the rivers. The books also provide information about how readers can become involved in protecting these waterways.

The guidebooks are part of Georgia River Network’s broader mission to develop Georgia’s water trail system by improving recreational access to rivers and streams and providing resources that enable people to use Georgia’s rivers more safely and appropriately.

The organization is the creator of Paddle Georgia, a week-long canoe/kayak camping journey that attracts more than 300 participants annually and is considered the largest week-long canoe/kayak camping adventure in the country.

GRN is also in the process of developing a water trail smartphone app that will make much of the information in the guidebooks available online. Currently, organizers in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton County are working to develop the Yellow River Water Trail, while the South River Watershed Alliance is developing the South River Water Trail and a coalition of local governments and other stakeholders are developing the Ocmulgee River Water Trail.

Notably, the book cover features a photograph of Stone Mountain’s Steven Cousins, an avid paddler and former Georgia River Network board member. Georgia River Network believes that this may be the first river guidebook published with an image of an African American paddler featured on the cover. Paddlesports are becoming an outdoor recreation activity where participation by people of color is more and more common.

The Ocmulgee River User’s Guide sells for $24.95 and is available through GRN’s website at www.garivers.org The book was published in cooperation with Altamaha Riverkeeper, Yellow River Water Trail, Ocmulgee River Water Trail and South River Watershed Alliance. To arrange a speaking engagement or book signing, contact the author at 706-409-0128.

Cook is currently at work on the next book in the series, the Altamaha River User’s Guide.

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