The Alcovy River is an 80-mile Georgia river with its headwaters beginning in Gwinnett County in Metropolitan Atlanta. It was originally named the Ulcofauhatchee River by the Muskogean Indians but it was changed by new American settlers to “Alcovy River.” Settlers moved on this land before the treaty of limits between the Unites States and the Creek nation of Indians on January 22, 1818. “Alcovy” is certainly easier to say than the original name. Below is a picture of the river I took in May 2009.
The Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF) owns several hundred acres of land bordering the river in two other counties, Newton and Walton. Their headquarters the “Alcovy Conservation Center” are located on 119-acres on the Alcovy Greenway – a continuous system of public and privately owned natural areas and open spaces bordering the Alcovy River.
My husband received an invitation from GWF to attend the dedication of a new trail and information kiosk located at the “Alcovy River East End” a 16.7 acre property the Federation purchased in 2002. This is how on November 1st we drove the 1 hour 40 minutes to Newton County (about 36 miles east of downtown Atlanta.) We were pleased to be outdoors again after our last drive in John’s Mountain (posted on this blog last week.) First we listened to Jerry McCollum, GWF president, and Ms Terry Tatum, 5-Star Project Officer, giving information on the river and the partnership.
The 5-Star Wetlands Restoration Project is made up of a dozen different organizations and their members involved in the reclamation and restoration of this piece of land and river which had been the dumping ground for construction debris.
Jerry gave a certificate of recognition to Scout Troop 222, one of the twelve partners. The troop spent many hours working on the East End project assisting in trail construction and maintenance. Jerry then gave another certificate of recognition to the original team that started the environmental study on the Alcovy River and its long term protection. My husband was one of them. (Jerry graciously acknowledged he had been given his first job as an intern when my husband was Chief of Resource Planning at the Department of Natural Resources under Governor Jimmy Carter.)
All the attendees were presented with a guide on the Alcovy River in Newton County. The beautifully illustrated magazine called Ulcofauhatchee: A guide to life along the Alcovy River explains the history of the river, its ecological significance and the work done by the 5-Star Partners.
The Alcovy River starts as a small and creek-like stream then widens with a shoal at mid-run to finally end with a series of white water rapids. I did not see the shoal or the rapids but found these pictures on the Net (courtesy Georgia Tourism and Courtney McGough.)
This guide has many stunning photographs showing historical places along the river, like a mid-century cemetery, the remaining walls of a gristmill and of a bridge burned by Sherman’s Army during the Civil War. It also gives a detailed map, which could be used as a driving map, of all the former plantations that settled near the river.
In May 2009 we visited GWF Alcovy Conservation Center and hiked the trails bordering the river (see post here .) I was surprised to see swamps. My husband explained that they were a relic from the time the oceans receded eons ago. The swamps act as filter and keep the Alcovy one of the cleanest of all the Piedmont Rivers. At the time, in spring 2009, I took pictures of the Tupelo Gum trees (Nyssa aquatica) shown below and at the top of this post.
I wish I could have seen the swamps with autumn foliage as pictured on this page of the guide below, but we were going to East End to look at the new trail.
In the Muskogean Indian language “Ulcofauhatchee” means River among the PawPaw trees. Hatchee means river – there are several US river names ending with “hatchee” like the Loxahatchee River in Florida, the Buttahatchee River in Alabama, the Sequatchie River in Tennessee, etc. After the presentation refreshments were served. They included home-made cookies containing local Pawpaw fruits. They were tasty – I had never eaten a Pawpaw or even seen one. I found these pictures on the Net (authors unknown.)
The guide indicated that these fruits can still be found in organic farms specializing in native fruits and vegetables. I’ll try to find some.
The attendees then drove to the Alcovy River at East End for the unveiling of the new information kiosk and trail. With the shadows it was not easy to take a good picture.
We listened as it was explained how the Scouts and volunteers spent many hours clearing Chinese privet, an invasive species. We then walked along the new trail bordered by fallen young trees.
Some of the group walked to a canoe launch but I did not go as the trail went down a steep hill. I went to look at the river in a small area with many dead-falls.
In the 1960s the State of Georgia had plans for numerous watersheds to be dredged, including the Alcovy River. The fight to stop dredging and channelization of the Alcovy River in Atlanta and before Congress in Washington, DC, drew national attention. This started a movement to end the damaging practice which destroys floodplain and riverine habitat throughout the country. The battle to save this small river in a rural area of Georgia ended the destructive way we deal with watersheds. This also changed the way governments managed watersheds – the little, swampy, Alcovy River made a significant impact for the good of our environment.