Etowah River Odyssey: Biography of Land

July 9-17, 2016: Etowah River in Northwest, GA

Carniverous plant bog

Every square foot of land has a story. The little patch of ground under your feet in this moment has been part of many different landmasses, has probably spent some time under the ocean. It has been home to thousands of animal and plant species you wouldn’t recognize, and has been home to people whose faces and names you’ll never know. That land has probably been the subject of treaties, has had maps made of it by men who would never walk it. The land you stand on now has changed somebody’s fortune, and somebody’s fortune has changed that land.Etowah River Odyssey will explore the changes in the land over time, looking for clues to the geological, ecological and and human history that are every where we go. We will learn the tools to look for them in the foothills of the Appalachians in northwest Georgia (a range of mountains whose formation 480 million years ago plunged the Earth into an ice age so severe that two-thirds of animal species went extinct), and down the Etowah River (the birthplace of stockcar racing, whose waters were once used to cool a nuclear reactor at a facility to build a nuclear powered plane) using orienteering skills, scientific data collection methods, art, writing, and interviews with people who know about everything from ancient Mississippian cultures to the experience of freed slaves after the Civil War.

Course Description:

Over the course of eight days, you’ll get to know the majestic Etowah — and your instructors and fellow adventurers — as we paddle, trek, and camp our way through one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the world. Along the way, experts in stream ecology, hydrology, ornithology, and natural history (to name just a few) will lead interactive classes on the plants, animals, and fish that call the Etowah home. Complementing our experience of these natural wonders will be hands-on activities in art, archery, writing, orienteering, cultural geography and other disciplines that deepen our understanding of the environment and our place, as people, within broader ecological systems. We’ll also explore the many fascinating cultural roles the Etowah has played in Georgia history, exploring ancient Native American sites and finding out how the Etowah became the site of our nation’s first gold rush!

Relaxing on the river

Relaxing on the river

During each day of the Etowah Odyssey, as we use the landscape as our classroom, you will also practice a wide range of basic outdoor skills — from canoeing and orienteering to fire building and cooking for a crowd. (There’s nothing quite like stirring a giant pot of oatmeal for your friends at sunrise next to a sparkling river!) By the end of the course, you will have challenged yourself to be learn, work, and play as part of a one-of-a-kind community.

As part of the Etowah River Odyssey adventure, you will:

  • Paddle and camp alongside the lush, beautiful Etowah River.
  • Get up close and personal with some of the Etowah’s famous fauna.
  • Learn drawing skills that will give you another tool with which to examine the natural world.
  • Investigate centuries-old fish weirs and Indian mounds that prove we aren’t the first civilization to build an empire in the Southeast.
  • Learn about the unique environmental challenges facing the Etowah–and some that are shared by many Georgia rivers.
  • Become competent in wilderness camping, paddling, and navigation.
  • Challenge yourself, both intellectually and personally, through hands-on group experiences, study, and reflection.
  • Experience the natural world without the distractions of daily life.

More from the Course Archive: