presented by the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation

North Oconee River Heritage Kayak Tour 2011

with Ben Emanuel and Janet Clark

Sunday, October 23 at 1 pm

Athens is graced with two major rivers that have been vital to its development and are the source of its oldest history, yet they remain an undiscovered resource for many Athenians. In 1783, the Oconee River Basin was the western boundary of the new United States of America and a source of opportunity for those heading west. The North Oconee River was the site of Athens’ first industry—a sawmill and gristmill dating from the late 1700s and run by Daniel Easley, who sold the land across the river upon which the University of Georgia was built. The water power supplied by the rivers beckoned industry, and Clarke County had 19 mills at one point, many of which were located near the waterfront. By 1840, Clarke County was the third largest textile producing area in the country, processing the cotton from adjacent plantations and farms. Communities such as Potterytown sprang up near the river and housed the workers from the adjacent industries. The river also played a role in the Civil War, providing water power to industries which produced Confederate guns and wool and cotton for Confederate uniforms. This unique tour will take you by canoe down the North Oconee River through downtown to learn about the historic sites along this stretch of the river and will allow you to experience the river as few have. This tour will last approximately 3 hours. Please note: This tour requires a certain amount of agility as tour-goers will be climbing in and out of canoes on steep and rough surfaces—your feet will get wet. The tour will be held rain or shine. Canoes are limited; if you have your own canoe or kayak, please let us know. The tour will be limited to 14 registrants.

Your tour guides:

Ben Emanuel is the Oconee River Project Director for Altamaha Riverkeeper, Inc. A canoeist and birdwatcher, he has paddled much of the Oconee River, both in the Athens area and in Georgia’s Coastal Plain. He is a founding member of the Georgia River Survey (, a frequent volunteer with the Upper Oconee Watershed Network and a member of the Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission. A native of Decatur, Emanuel has lived in Athens since 1998 and received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Georgia in 2002. He was City Editor at Flagpole Magazine from 2005 to 2009.

Janet Clark is a tour guide for Classic City Tours, housed in the historic 1820s Church-Waddel-Brumby House. She developed her love for architecture and history as a young girl on walking tours with her father and finds fulfillment in sharing her passion with others. She has taught two of the Charles Rowland Memorial Antique Seminars, focusing on 19th century architecture and decorative arts. Clark has been conducting tours for the Athens Welcome Center since 1997 and has served as its assistant director since 1996.