By Eugene Buchanan
Not too many sports put you in as direct of contact with Mother Earth as paddling. Whatever your discipline, be it whitewater, lake canoeing, sea kayaking and even surf kayaking, the sport's medium is water, the most important ingredient for life on Mother Earth. What better way to help celebrate and protect it than by heading out for a paddle on Earth Day, April 22?
If you want to join a group supporting the cause, we've made it easier by compiling a list of a few spots around the country where you can link up with like-minded paddlers for an Earth Day paddle celebration.
Earth Day Paddles
Coosa River Basin Initiative's Earth Day Paddle, Etowah River
This 10-mile jaunt from Euharlee to U.S. Hwy. 411 traverses a scenic stretch of the Etowah River in Bartow County, taking paddlers past bald eagles, otters, Native American fish weirs, rock gardens and the Island Ford island complex. The guided trip runs from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., putting in on the Etowah near Euharlee. Canoe and kayak rentals are available. To register call (706) 237-0917 or visit http://www.coosa.org/earth-day-paddle-on-the-etowah
Windy City Paddlers' 4th Annual Earth Day Paddle, Illinois River
The Windy City Paddlers of Illinois are submitting this event for Earth Day's Billion Acts of Green initiative that will travel to the United Nations conference in Brazil in June. As part of the trip the group will be packing out litter. To join in, meet in Morris, Ill., at William G Stratton Park, where you'll put-in on the Illinois River and paddle downstream to Sugar Island to claim a geocache or two, and then make a small portage to the I & M Canal and paddle back to town. The trip is 7 miles and is expected to take 3-4 hours. Cost is $35 per person in a single kayak or canoe; $30 each for tandem paddlers. Info: http://www.meetup.com/kayak-canoe-camping-chicago-illinois/events/108332192/
Kentucky Waterways Alliance's Earth Day Paddle, Harrods Creek
Even the mayor of Louisville has showed up to participate in the annual Harrods Creek Paddle, put on by the Kentucky Waterways Alliance in celebration of Earth Day. And this year's paddle, celebrating Earth Day as well as the group's 20th anniversary, is expected to be bigger than ever. "It started when board members of Kentucky Waterways Alliance decided to put together a casual float on an under-appreciated body of water close to downtown Louisville," says KWA's Will Willis. "They wanted it to be an educational experience, with stops along the way to discuss features of the creek and its scenery, which includes a Great Blue Heron rookery." The paddle is a fundraiser for KWA, which receives half of the trip's rental fees for boats. The formula worked, drawing more than 100 people to the first event. The paddle, which costs $30 for adults and $20 for kids, goes from noon to 4 p.m., and includes interpreters from environmental organizations as well as a dinner reception afterward at Cunningham's Creekside. It heads upstream from River City Canoe & Kayak at 6313 River Road. Info: http://kwalliance.org/harrods-creek/
Empire Kayaks' Earth Day Paddle, Garrett LeaD/Middle Bay
At Island Parks, N.Y., paddlers band together every year for an annual Earth Day Paddle under the motto, "Clean the Planet, Paddle for Free." The annual event is put on by retailer and outfitter Empire Kayaks, which lets participants paddle for free out in Middle Bay in honor of clean waterways everywhere. Its only caveat is that participants have to pick up some litter while on the water--a small price to pay for paddling and supporting the environment. Info: (516) 889-8300, http://www.empirekayaks.com/events.html.
River City Challenge, Jacksonville FL
The annual paddle sports race and eco-festival returns to Friendship Fountain this April 27, 2013. Two races--a 3-mile and an 8-mile--kick off the day on the Southbank of the St. Johns River followed by an Outdoors Expo where manufacturers can showcase their product lines. Festivities also include family-friendly entertainment, national recording artists and vendor markets, an Eco-Village and lots of great food and beer. Money raised goes to the North Florida Land Trust, an organization dedicated to conserving and protecting lands in North Florida.
For more info, go http://www.rivercitychallenge.org/
You can also show your support in helping this year's The Face of Climate Change campaign by simply posting a photo and story of how climate change is affecting you and your community on the Earth Day website, Instagram or Twitter (official hashtag: #faceofclimatechange); or by emailing Earthday2013@earthday.org. You can also visit the site to find out where to join in on programs in your community, including the expected gathering of more than 35,000 people in Santa Barbara, Calif., for an event featuring performers, a green car show, Kid's Education Corner and Live Green station showing how to reduce carbon footprints. Other Earth Day events are taking place all around the world, including 22 cities where citizens are spelling out CO2 with their routes marked by GPS technology, a campaign to plant a billion trees to grow the earth's canopy and an effort to record a whopping 2 Billion Acts of Green.