Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Chattahoochee Trimaran Follows Different Beat

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By Sandy Katz

Mature Life Features

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A stroll along the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, a 12-mile linear park along the river, is a good way to get acquainted with this city and its history.

The Chattahoochee River slips along Georgia’s southwestern edge, separating it from Alabama. Hundreds of stern- and side-wheelers plied these waters between 1828 and 1939 servicing 240 landings between Columbus and Apalachicola, Fla.

The city’s 30-block Historic District houses everything from Civil War artifacts to one-of-a-kind Victorian structures. Heritage Corner, where walking tours begin, includes a cottage occupied by Dr. John Stith Pemberton, the originator of the Coca-Cola formula, and his family in the mid-19th century. Among the exhibits at the Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a Challenger Learning Center, one of several established after the 1986 shuttle disaster.

 A more down-to-earth learning experience awaited us at Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center. A self-guided trail on the former land-fill site led us through an area where animal and plant species that had disappeared have been reintroduced.

The Chattahoochee Indian Heritage Center in nearby Fort Mitchell celebrates the culture of tribes in this river valley from prehistoric times to the 1830s. From, there we headed to the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, a few miles south here that displays a collection of hardware used by Army infantrymen over the past three centuries.  The Port Columbus Civil War Naval Center opened in early 2001 offers a comprehensive look at navies of that conflict.

On a trip down the Chattahoochee aboard the 42-foot trimaran, Dragonfly, we learned the lore of the region from historian/story-teller William “Billy” Winn. We  were told about the  Trail of Tears that followed an 1838  government edict to move more than 15,000 Cherokee and other Native Americans from their ancestral home the eastern states to areas in the West. After being collected in  concentration camps, they were forced to trek nearly 1,000 miles to the Oklahoma Territory during a harsh winter. Thousands died of hunger, dysentery and exposure. The Native American description of the journey, “Nunahi-Duna-Dlo-Hili-I,” translates to “The Trail Where They Died.”

We disembarked at Florence Marine State Park and rode a motorcoach to Westville, near Lumkin, Ga., that’s a living museum. The village bustled with circa 1850s activities, from gingerbread-making to cooking sausage biscuits over a wood stove along with blacksmithing, quilting. and woodworking in the authentically restored buildings.

Then it was on to Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, a series of defiles officially called Providence Canyon with miles of trails amid a kaleidoscope of earth colors and wildflowers, before returning to the Dragonfly and heading to a 600-year-old Indian village the following day. Called the Rood Creek Indian Mounds, it’s a large ceremonial center with nine temple mounds fortified by a pair of moats where its chief/priest lived in a temple atop the highest mound overlooking a ceremonial plaza.

Our downriver ride ended at the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, an 11,160-acre reserve that is a  favorite place for waterfowl and other species of migratory and resident birds. One can take a self-guided drive, stroll an interpretive trail, and climb an observation tower to bring you up close and personal with nature in this area.

Columbus Riverwalk photo courtesy of Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau

Written by Cecil Scaglione

August 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm

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