Two Weeks On The Oconee

No Matter If There’s Water In It

originally published July 26, 2006

June 10

Jesslyn Shields

The bridge in the background is the Sparta Highway outside Milledgeville, where we started our trip.

We put in at Milledgeville, on the fall line. Our starting point is a boat ramp beside the highway bridge just east of downtown. In a perfect world, we might be putting in at Athens - right downtown, say, or even upstream of town, somewhere up in Jackson County. If we did that, though, we’d no sooner be underway than we’d have to paddle Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair, back to back, and carry all our gear around the two reservoirs’ dams: no fun.

We also might have put in at the dam just upstream of here, where the Oconee is backed up to form Lake Sinclair, but last winter I chatted with a Georgia College and State University student who does a lot of paddling around here, and who advised me that if we put in at the dam, we’d have to walk the whole way down to the highway bridge in town. That stretch of river, he warned me, is often terribly low - all rocks - when they’re not letting much water out of the dam.

A hot day in the middle of the dry June of a hot and dry summer fits the bill for low water, and I’m glad we’ve taken the college kid’s advice. Here at the bridge, the river is low, its water an eerie shade of lake-water green. It works itself into a minor riffle where it passes between the crumbling pilings of a former bridge, but what there is of downstream flow looks generally pretty weak. A few young guys are slowly walking around neck-deep in the river, holding their cans of beer up above the surface and looking at us funny. Other than that, the start of our two-week journey is unceremonious. We unload the four canoes and all the gear from our trailer and from Rick’s dad’s pickup, swipe a Dale Earnhardt cooler out of the truck at the last minute, and send Rick’s little brother on his way home. Then we’re on our way downstream. Starting out, we have a crew of eight: Dean, Caroline, Jessica and myself, who all live in Athens; Bryan and Jesslyn, who just moved back there from Missoula, MT; plus Rick and Marie-Line, who these days live in (of all places) Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Rick grew up in Georgia like the rest of us, but I haven’t figured out how he convinced Marie-Line to join us for a camping trip down here in the middle of June.

We’re below all the shoals of the Piedmont, but the banks and the river bed are still rocky in most places here, and we notice it especially with the water so low. In one spot, we come upon a grouping of huge boulders along the left bank. They look like giant rounded chunks of north Georgia’s bedrock, taken out of the ground and tumbled down to a resting stop here at the very bottom of the Piedmont. We travel only a few bends downstream before coming into a long, straight stretch of river - the fall line straightaway - that probably was the river’s last little run to the ocean back in the days when an ice age had the lower half of Georgia submerged in seawater. In one of our drybags is a book by the late Georgia scientist and naturalist Charles Wharton called The Natural Environments of Georgia that shows a satellite image of this very straightaway - thought to be one of the first aquifer-recharge zones of the Coastal Plain section of the river. All of Georgia’s big rivers pass through a straightaway just like this one where they drop off the edge of the Piedmont and into the Coastal Plain. The Oconee’s is particularly long and straight, and in my mind’s eye, I can see that satellite picture as we paddle down it. At the end of the straight, we’ll go around a bend: from that point forward, we’ll be in the swamp, where the river will twist and turn and double back on itself like the Mississippi in the Delta. We won’t get there, though, until tomorrow.

Tonight, our camp is on a low, damp sandbar - not a real sandbar, but just a little sand flat that would be part of the riverbed if the river were any higher. We’ve only paddled a few miles, and we’re still more or less in Milledgeville, but it’s nice and quiet down here on the river. Our crew of eight old friends, six of whom will do the whole trip down to the Altamaha, cooks and enjoys a dinner - of some groceries that are still fresh, which will be a rarity soon, and some beer that’s actually cold, thanks to Dale Earnhardt - and settles in for the night.

June 11

Jesslyn Shields

Birdwatching by boat.

In the morning, we do the survey of birds and riparian vegetation that we’ll do at points spaced every 10 miles down the river. (We used GIS software to plot the points, and out here we use a GPS unit to find each survey area; we’ll record data and observations from these successive stops on every day of the trip.) The land above the sand flat is a young forest, viny and thorny, and getting hot as the morning wears on. With the greenbrier and some poison ivy, the forest isn’t the most pleasant place to be, but then again it’s shady. Also, I’m reminded of why we do these survey points on our river trips. Stopping every 10 miles to look around lets us know what’s in the floodplain that we’re traveling through. The river is only a curvy line that cuts through this landform, these swampy lowlands. Whenever I go canoeing, I spend most of my time looking up, looking left, looking right, wondering what’s up there. These randomized survey points at least force us to check in on the landscape above the river, to learn it for half a day at a time and know what it looks like.

Lunchtime, Sunday. After we’ve finished the surveying, we all go for a swim in the river and find the water surprisingly shallow most of the way across. The sandbar extends under knee-deep water for 30 yards or so, and then before you reach the opposite bank there’s a deeper channel, maybe only five yards wide, where most of the water flows. We’re all still swimming when our Atlanta contingent - three friends joining up for the next four days - come paddling downstream in a massive aluminum canoe they’ve borrowed for the trip. Kathryn is a nature photographer (of a particularly artistic bent), and her friend Kathy, an environmental activist and community organizer, has brought her six-year old son Logan along. We all do some catching up over a lunch of fruit and bagels with peanut butter (standard river issue), and then set out for the day’s paddle.

The river’s flow is particularly slack in the straightaway, but it’s only a couple of miles before we round a bend and enter the swamp. Here, every bend of the river has a sandbar sloping up above the water; in the evening we find our camp on one of those. This is real sandbar camping: a lot like going to the beach, but if you pitch your tent too close to the woods, the mosquitos will remind you that you’re still in the swamp.

June 12

“Where’d y’all put in at?” Milledgeville, Rick and I tell the man standing on a boat ramp in the middle of the swamp watching our flotilla pass by. “Where y’all headed to?” Down to the Altamaha, we respond. “Whoo. Got some rain comin’, you know. Tropical storm. Y’all remember the first Alberto?” he asks, referring to the sleeper storm that flooded towns like Montezuma, GA in the middle of the summer of 1994. “Well, this one’s called Alberto, too!” Damn. The weather maps showed nothing but hot and dry when we left home. So much for them. We paddle on around the bend, only a little worried, without delving for any more meteorological insight the stranger may hold.

Throughout the afternoon, a sneaky, persistent haze slowly works itself into a solid bed of light clouds. A warm, wet breeze seems to always come at us out of the south. At times it carries the scent of the ocean on it. As we arrive at camp, a few fat drops start to fall; just when we’re all pulling our tents out of drybags, it materializes into a downpour. Fortunately, the shower doesn’t last too long. Soon we get a respite long enough to string up a tarp over the night’s kitchen - just in time for the steady showers to arrive. A giant pot of stew gets cooked up for dinner, and a great spirit of camaraderie takes over our crowded camp. It’s always funny what a little rain will do.

June 13

Jesslyn Shields

Many of the river’s low sandbars are just part of the riverbed, exposed to the sun by a dry summer.

Lunch. So far, we haven’t had too much more rain. Can’t quite tell what’s up with this Alberto. The sky is cloudy, but that’s all for now. Kathryn and Logan are fresh back from exploring a big, former meander of the river that’s drying up just downstream of camp. A family of Killdeer live in there, and Logan has collected some “specimens,” as he says, for his collection: rocks, shells of dead Corbicula (the invasive Asian clam), dead insects. I play a little soccer with Logan while eating my day’s ration of bagel and peanut butter, using the ball Rick and I fished out of a snag yesterday. Logan kicks it past me, and when I go to retrieve it, I catch sight of a Great Egret far off to the south, flying high on a background of dark, slate-gray clouds. The bird, all white, appears positively luminescent.

Quarter to five, Tuesday afternoon. We stop for a bird point count at a landing, with a metal grate boat ramp - maybe a smart idea? - and a sign in red and black steel: Connell Landing. Some one of these Connells is a welder. Breezy and drizzly now; such weather, with light rain off and on, so far today. Clouds moving west; the boys first noticed after we left camp three. A twisted, cut-up, devilish stretch of river behind us - and snaggy, but fortunately the current’s not strong. On the other hand, we ground ourselves too much because it’s still so shallow and the channel is very narrow and sometimes hard to find. The sand - underwater and on the lowest parts of bars - has a rust-red color to it. Don’t know what to make of it. From Piedmont red-clay erosion? If so, why is it just on submerged or low sand, nowhere else? Maybe it’s just what you see when the water gets low, and older layers of sediment are exposed.

The rain picks up again just above camp around 7 p.m., where we pass under an old railroad bridge cutting straight across the swamp. It looks like the railroad’s been trying to maintain its bridge against the force of the river for many decades. We pass under the middle segment, an old drawbridge that once swiveled on a huge round piling to let the steamboats pass through. Just downstream, an island has formed, made up largely of bricks that have washed out of the oldest of the bridge supports.

Notes on cloud movement, as of 8:30 Tuesday night: Bryan says they were going a little north of west when he first took notice today, then due west. Now, they’re moving south-southwest. While dinner cooks, there’s lots of meteorological conjecturing, drawing in the sand, and so forth by Kathryn, Bryan, Rick, Dean, me, in company of one Evan Williams. After consideration of wind direction and storm rotation in the northern hemisphere, a cautious optimism prevails that we may have already seen the worst of the tropical storm.

June 14

“Don’t believe everything you hear. It’s just a bunch a’ crazy people around here.” So proclaims the young girl working the cash register at the corner store in Toomsboro, after reflecting on our story about the fellow who had us scared of the oncoming tropical storm. She has, perhaps, more wisdom than other folks around here: we awoke this morning to find a perfectly clear, blue sky.

Jessica and I have run up here in her car - parked since Saturday at Ball’s Ferry bridge, site of engagement with a spur of Sherman’s men on their march to the sea - for ice, beer, potato chips, M&M’s, and 50-some more gallons of drinking water for our jugs from the hose outside the store. While I can’t help but be happy about the cold refreshment, it’s little consolation for losing my lady to her day job back in town: she and Caroline are heading back to Athens today, putting our oversized crew back down at nine. Tomorrow, the Atlanta contingent will do the same, leaving our bare-bones six to push on toward Dublin.

June 15

Jesslyn Shields

A lunch break in the shade of a grove of willows at the water’s edge.

Evening. We came upon our first fish weir today. The river’s running so low that many more rocks are exposed than we ever expected to see in the Coastal Plain. Time and floods had tumbled the rocks around, so we weren’t sure at first whether it was just a little natural shoal line, or a trap built by human hands. Two of our boats floated over the little riffle, and then we turned in the eddy and nosed up to the rock line’s downstream side. Bryan turned a rock over to find a colony of large black ants living perfectly happy in the middle of the river. In the shallow, clear water just upstream of the weir, Jesslyn found a chub nest: a little pile of pebbles with small fish hanging out over it, just swimming there, keeping nearly still and facing upstream. Rick found a mayfly larva on the underside of a rock, and a shard of old pottery. “Yeah, this is a pile of rocks,” he said.

We saw more weirs through the afternoon today. They all consisted of a V of rocks on the shallow side of the river, with a channel for boats opposite. The boats in mind when the weirs were built were probably the rafts of timber sawn from all these swamps two hundred years ago (and later, steamboats piled high with cotton), when each year thousands of shad probably ran through the weirs - some of which were here, of course, when dugout canoes were the only boats this river ever saw.

We also saw the first Wood Storks of the trip - three of them, soaring in their slow circles high above the river and the forest. The large, magnificent wading bird (with a massive bill) is more common near the coast, and we didn’t really expect to see them this far up the river. A good omen?

Late in the day, paddling alone, I heard a frightening noise ahead. (A mine, or a timbering operation, I guessed. It was really loud.) It grew louder, and a four-passenger airboat came around the bend. It stopped, turned around, and went back downstream with much spray of water and terrible noise. I preferred the Wood Thrush who had just started with his evening song.

June 16

Morning. Fog. At breakfast, Marie-Line and I see an osprey just downstream of our bar glide down through the thick mist as if in slow motion, its long wings outspread, to catch a fish in the shallows on the near shore. It succeeds, climbs back up off the water, and disappears again into the fog downstream.

Friday, mid-afternoon. Rocks in shallows on right. Jesslyn spots a mussel (living). We hop out, look around, and find five more. The mouth of a small creek is here, with clear cold water dropping into the river. Lots of Corbicula shells, too.

I go up the small bluff to pee and find beautyberry, a tall Ilex decidua and a short American holly. Also a young beech, some ironwood and a Hop Hornbeam - the first this trip, I think. Also hickory, blueberries (a few small berries are out for my pleasure - but just a few), snowbell; men’s voices far off, away from the river.

“A whole mussel bed,” Jesslyn declares it when I come back and scramble down the bank. Funny, after she shows me how to spot the living ones, their intake valves just showing above the riverbed, I find a few almost immediately. They seem to just appear there, between the rocks. Bryan arrives and reports that on the last sandbar we passed, Jeremy and Ken - friends who’ve joined our train just for the weekend - found and threw back a beached catfish two and half feet long. Shoving off, we count up: we found 20 or 30 living mussels here - the most we’ve seen (alive) in any one place on this river.

Later, we catch up with Ken ourselves. He’s found pieces of at least three old barges lying on the bottom of the river but visible in this shallow, clear water. In a way, there’s something to be said for being on the river when it looks like it’s drying up: many of its secrets become visible to you. I’ve also taken note of a few very large logs emerging from the lower part of the river’s bank in places; they make me think of the “deadheads” that people will soon be dredging up from the bed of the Oconee and the Altamaha with permission of the Department of Natural Resources. Despite these advantages to the observer, it’s sad seeing the river with so little water in it.

Friday night in East Dublin. There’s not a sandbar in sight, so we find a strip of woods across the river from the golf course where we’ll try doing our survey in the morning. (A couple of hours ago, I climbed the high river bank over there, GPS in hand, trying to locate the survey point. Hopping up on a fallen log, I heard men’s voices and looked past a thick canebrake to see the little orange flag waving over their putting green. This is why our survey is randomized: in Georgia one can find many different land uses near the river.) While we pitch tents, Bryan goes exploring and finds a dirt road leading, we hope, to the restaurant whose greasy kitchen we smelled from the river with great excitement. We all follow, and the road leads past an odd tupelo swamp set high above the river, through a couple of gates, and past a strip mine of some kind. We wonder what kind of industrial property we’ve found ourselves on.

Then, we hop a fence, round a corner in the road, and our whole crew materializes out of the swamp before the eyes of a bunch of teenagers hanging out in the yard of the last trailer at the end of a dead-end street. I ask them which way to the restaurant and get what seem like a few contradictory answers. A lanky guy maybe 18 or 19 points to the right, and a goofy young girl confuses me and points left. She asks me “Whatchy’all doin’?” and I tell her, then ask for directions again. Having fun now, they befuddle me once more, and I shout “Well, which way is it?!” Just then two younger boys walk up and one says, “Yesterday,” as if to answer my question. I laugh out loud, then start walking.

We all enjoy the walk through the trailer park with dusk coming on. In the end, all we have to do is follow the neighborhood’s one paved road in order to get to Jack’s, as our destination is known. Two boys on one bike tag along and show us the way regardless. We pass a yard full of folks cooking out, and a few of us are greeted with a pleasant question from the guy manning the grill: “Out for an evening stroll?” Yep, we answer. Then he sees the rest of our crew coming up the road in the twilight and shouts, “Boy, when y’all go for a stroll you take the whole family!” He decides he’ll start charging a toll on his street. At the end of the block, a badass dude passes us on his Harley, and nods hello.

Jack’s On The River seems pretty famous for East Dublin. Some framed newspaper articles profess so, and a bulletin board mostly dedicated to turkey-hunting pictures (the dominant theme of the whole establishment) manages to share a corner of its space to show off Gov. Sonny’s visit to the place; the vent hoods over the deep fryers all have “Sonny Country” bumper stickers on them, too. We gorge ourselves on fried catfish, quail, steak, hushpuppies, and iced tea (vegetables are scarce on the menu). We close the place down before finishing our feast, then hobble back to camp and get in our tents with the fullest stomachs of the whole trip.

I sit up a little while to let the quail digest, and reflect on how much the look of the river has changed in and around Dublin. Just above town, we started seeing a lot of higher ground on both sides of the river. The swamps have given way to bluffs and high banks with a different kind of forest reminiscent of the Piedmont. Fortunately, the view from the river is not a particularly urban one here in Dublin; from the naturalist’s perspective, in fact, this city presents some of the most distinct terrain of the trip. Now that I think about it, the higher ground is likely the reason for the town’s being here. More than that, though, the Oconee has begun to take on the look of a big river these past two days.

June 17

Jesslyn Shields

Two of the crew compare notes on the day’s paddle.

“You know, we never used to take a cell phone on the river,” I remind Bryan, speaking of our lo-fi river trips of a few years ago, when the crew was smaller, the food was worse, and if we did come to a road, it rarely took us to anywhere good. “I swear I think it’s only making things more complicated.” Bryan, Jesslyn and I are sitting on the bank of the river cooking beans, cleaning boats, and waiting for our friend Scott to call. He’s meeting us today to come along for the second week of the trip. Poor Jesslyn brought her phone “just for emergencies,” but we’ve gone and fiddled with the plan. We called Scott late last night after dinner to tell him to meet us at Jack’s instead of at the highway bridge, which is a mile upstream. We’re done with our golf course survey, most of the crew has proceeded downstream, and at 10 minutes until meeting time, Scott hasn’t called. Bryan picks up the phone and dials. We learn that Scott is on a detour to Commerce - that is, the wrong damn way - and we won’t see him until tomorrow. It’s a long story, and the only loss in the end is a melted block of cheese that stayed in the trunk of the car during the day’s delay. Other than that, we’re all glad to see Scott when he finally catches up with us at a boat ramp 10 miles out of town (which happens also to be hosting one hell of a backwoods party) on Sunday evening.

June 18

Coming out of Dublin, those high banks fade away and we re-enter the swamp, but the river continues to look bigger than it did above that town. There were places below Milledgeville where the river’s deep channel, off the side of the submerged parts of sandbars, was barely wider than an average creek. There it looked like, if the water were to drop just a couple of feet, the whole Oconee River would have been just a little steam. But now it has the feel of a full-grown river, even if it is running low.

June 19

We pull over at a place called Berryhill Bluff. Dean hops out and explores the sandstone outcrops high above the river. Paddling alone, I go up the wide, still creek alongside the bluff. I say hi to a few round young boys out fishing and scared of snakes. The quiet one of them wears a t-shirt that says “Kiss Me I’m a Country Boy.” I spot a Louisiana Waterthrush feeding along the bank of the creek - a songbird that likes water, but we’ve found it to be rare in the Coastal Plain, though common near bluffs that resemble the Piedmont.

Below the bluff, we come to a fairly old cut that the river’s made - the trees have grown up in its old bed almost to match the surrounding forest. Just before coming into the new part of the river, though, we pass right through the middle of a perfectly straight line of snags and old stumps perpendicular to the flow of the water. The stumps stand just where they once grew, which used to be the bank of the river. The river has since moved tons of dirt out of its way; it’s cut itself a new channel, but it hasn’t moved these stumps of old stubborn trees.

June 20

Morning. On the sole of my left foot I’m constantly repairing a puncture wound, and on my right I’m now wrapping my sandal in duct tape to try and keep it alive for the rest of the week. Not sure which is worse. The sandal, I guess, has just had enough of this life of hot sun and river water. The puncture wound I received in my excitement upon arriving at the beautiful sandbar where we camped a couple of nights ago. I was the last to arrive, having paddled alone all day, and when I got there someone was calling it “a Bartramish paradise” or something like that. I got out of my boat in the shallows along the bar and noticed how cold the water was on my bare feet, but hadn’t put that fact together with the claim of paradise. “Paradise?” I asked. The others were still exploring the far end of the bar, where a half-dozen tiny springs of cold, clear water burst up through the sand and ran in rivulets across the bar to meet the river. Somebody went swimming and discovered more springs in the bed of the river itself. (I’d parked my boat near one of those, it turned out.) In my excitement to see these wonderful little fountains, I hustled across the bar barefoot and stumbled on a driftwood limb. At least the wound has given me something additional to remember that magical camp by - after a week on the river, all the sandbars start to run together.

June 21

We’re finally getting into some floodplain forests that are a little bit nicer, a little more mature than what we’ve been seeing for most of the trip. Way back on day two, we met a young kayaker from Sandersville who told us about the logging of the whole Ball’s Ferry Swamp above Toomsboro a generation ago. He said he’d met some of the old-timers who did the cutting. Said it had been a huge old-growth forest - “probably an incredible place” - until then.

It was along that part of the river that one morning Rick and I battled our way to a survey point in an unending thicket of river cane, monster vines and small, 20-foot tall Chinaberry trees. It was really a bizarre place, and not a true forest at all - one outcome, it seemed, of the regeneration that follows clear-cutting. (I did see a large ash stump in there, with a few young trunks sprouting out of it.) That was the worst example we came across, but much of week one was that way: little in the way of recent logging, but a landscape giving us the general feeling that acres upon acres of old-growth had been thoroughly gone over, leaving a range of young forests and downright thickets in their place.

Wednesday afternoon. Five of us set out to trek up the highway to Glenwood, the last town anywhere near the river for the rest of the week. It’s ridiculously hot, walking along the shoulder of the highway. Passion flowers are in bloom. A pecan grove provides brief, welcome shade. We haul our trash with us so we can throw it out somewhere; we could fill the bag 10 times again with all the litter on this roadside: beer cans, coke bottles, a desiccated dog carcass, the liner notes from the Pussycat Dolls CD. Scott finds a new, white Corona visor - a giveaway someone didn’t want. (Later, he washes it in the river, which only makes it dirtier.) We make it to the little town at last, and visit all three stores it has to offer: a gas station, a small grocery and J & C’s restaurant, where one can find a serviceable Cuban sandwich and greasy-good fried plantains. Marie-Line asks James (the J of the name) what in the world he’s doing serving Cubans in Glenwood, GA. “Moved up here from Miami in ‘88,” he answers. “Where y’all from?” Marie-Line, who grew up in rural Quebec with French as her first language, and in her English has the accent to prove it, gives him the short answer: Athens.

Paddling down to camp from the bridge, we notice that the water has turned clear again. It was clear at the start of the trip, coming out of the dam, but in Dublin the wastewater effluent from some kind of factory clouded it up. Whatever it was, it smelled like a pulp mill, and it came out of a pipe under the water’s surface in the middle of the river. A great brown boil surged and bubbled there, and its silty look changed the river downstream. It’s stayed that way until today, and the change back to clarity seems like it must have been abrupt, though we didn’t quite notice it when it happened. Odd.

June 22

Jesslyn Shields

A pair of young White Ibis in the morning fog.

Late last night, the heat finally broke into a thunderstorm. This morning, a cool mist lays on the water off our sandbar, where a small flock of immature ibis wade, foraging.

By midday, it’s hot again, and Bryan has discovered a mess of mussels living in a tiny pool of water near the top end of our bar. The pool is deep, but it’s disconnected from the river: sooner or later this summer, barring a miracle in which Georgia Power lets some more water out of the dam, the pool is going to dry up. While the rest of us eat lunch and pack the boats for the day, Bryan spends an hour solemnly pulling every mussel he can find out of the pool, and putting them in the river where they can survive the summer.

June 23

Late in the afternoon, we have a pleasant surprise where a county road (the last bridge on the Oconee) crosses the river. There’s a store here with all the essentials: ice, cold beer, potato chips, chocolate bars. Even better, Three Rivers Bait and Tackle is only about 50 yards from the river. A nice, new set of wooden steps even helps us get up the high bank. The man inside explains that he just put them in this year; the old steel steps washed out last year when the river ran high for seven or eight months. But this year, he says, the river’s been as low as it is now since the spring, when the power company started holding water at the dam and the river dropped fast. The man’s elderly mother chimes in: “Like pullin’ the plug out of a bathtub.”

June 24

Our last day on the river is quiet and uneventful. We paddle only a mile or so from camp and come to a place some of us have been before: the confluence known to many as The Forks, where the Oconee and the Ocmulgee form the Altamaha. Two years ago, four of us arrived here from the other direction, having come down the Ocmulgee from Lake Jackson. The two rivers meet here in a head-on collision, and even at such low water, a swimmer can feel strange currents where they mingle and swirl.

From there, it’s only a mile or two more to the US 221 bridge, where we take out. We use an old boat ramp, which the river has abandoned at low water, and have to trudge through mud to unload all our gear. Far off downstream, towering thunderheads are piled up on the horizon. They almost look like they’re coming in off the coast, hitting the barrier islands. Happy as I am to be heading home, I’m sad we’re not paddling that far on this trip.

When our ride arrives, we pack up and head to Hazlehurst for lunch, then hit the road to get home by nightfall. Driving north on 441, we take our downstream journey in reverse on the uplands west of the river. On the north side of Milledgeville, we cross over the arm of Lake Sinclair that used to be the Little River. To our surprise, the lake is completely full. Floating docks sit an inch or two above their moorings. Shouting over the wind in the car, I make a terrible joke: “Oh - that’s where all the water is!” My companions are true friends, and they each grant me a chuckle.

Ben Emanuel

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