In any conservation story, whether it's Yosemite, the Boundary Waters or the Everglades, the first step toward protecting something is to show people what is there.
May 12 at noon
Put In: Beaverdale Launch (Behind the Beaverdale Superette on Highway 2 at the Whitfield-Murray line)
Take Out: Dalton Utilities Canoe Launch (Lower Kings Bridge Road in Dawnville, Ga.)
Distance: 10 miles
Duration: 3.5 to 4 hours
Free to NERA and TVCC members, others need to pay $35 annual dues per family.
Rentals: Canoe and kayak rentals available for $35 and $30 Shuttle provided for $10 donation to a local youth group
For more information email Dan McBee at email@example.com
And if that strategy is good enough for Yosemite, then Dan McBee believes it's good enough for the Conasauga River.
Later this month, McBee, the executive director of the Calhoun, Ga.-based New Echota Rivers Alliance, will lead paddlers on a 10-mile paddle down the Conasauga that the group has dubbed the Biodiversity Dash. The goal is to get more people to realize world-class variety of fish in the North Georgia stream.
"People come for the adventure of the paddle trip," McBee says. "What happens when they get on that river is they're only a foot off the water. A new world opens up and a light bulb goes off."
And once people see the river and its inhabitants, they're hooked.
"They become stakeholders in the river," McBee explains. "They're taking ownership of the river, where before all they did is drive over it on a bridge."
The Conasauga starts as a mountain stream in the Cohutta Mountains of Murray County, Ga. It runs north into Tennessee before broadening and flowing south to form the border between Murray and Whitfield counties, supplying water for the carpet mills in Dalton.
And with each change of scenery comes different species, which is why the Conasauga is home to 75 native species of fish. For comparison's sake, the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest has only 33 species of native fish and the entire Colorado River has only 25.
"When you have diversity of habitats you have diversity of species," says Dr. Anna George, chief research scientist with the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute. "I hope more and more people find out how great the Conasauga River is."