Canoeing Across Urban America: Coming to a City Near You

Michael Williams
U.S. Forest Service, Southern Regional Office
June 21st, 2017 at 4:45PM

Students rowing on a canoe down a river
Nearly 400 Atlanta students enjoyed a day of recreation and outdoor education at the Chattahoochee Nature Center (Photo Credit: Michael Williams)

Millions of people across the country set out each year to find the perfect spot to partake in their favorite outdoor activity, often traveling to remote places far from the bustle of city life. And many folks know that forests and grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service are home to some of the most picturesque scenery and spectacular recreation in the country.

Yet, for millions of Americans in urban areas, access to remote public land may not be a possibility, and recreating in urban or nontraditional areas might be their only option. For others, the concept of getting outdoors within the concrete jungle of a major metropolis is something many people have never considered.

Dennis Krusac from the USDA Forest Service works with the land based partners at the Chattahoochee Nature Center to teach students about bats and their role in the ecosystem (Photo Credit: Michael Williams)

So how do you give people without access to remote public lands the opportunity to recreate outdoors? Simple. You bring the outdoor recreation to them.

For the second year in a row, Wilderness Inquiry’s Canoe Mobile program brought six of their 24-foot Voyageur Canoes from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Atlanta as part of their 30-city national tour. Striving to provide outdoor experiences to people of all physical, cultural, or socio-economic backgrounds, Wilderness Inquiry is a nonprofit organization specifically outreaching their programs to urban youth and people with disabilities.

With the help of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, several local schools were identified and transportation was provided to students to attend the Canoe Mobile event.

The only thing missing was a place to host these canoes. Having recently celebrated its 40-year anniversary, the Chattahoochee Nature Center and its 127-acres of woodland trails, river boardwalks, and discovery center showcasing the beauty of Georgia was a perfect destination to host the Canoe Mobile. So in early November, the US Forest Service teamed up with these partners to bring 362 children from the Atlanta Metro Area to the muddy banks of the Chattahoochee River for a quality outdoor recreation experience, and land based education centering on the ecology of the natural world. The 24-foot canoes were waiting for the children’s arrival.

The Chattahoochee Nature Center discusses water quality with a group of students. The Chattahoochee River is the primary source of drinking water for the Atlanta metro area. (Photo Credit: Michael Williams)

The kids in attendance had a great time on the river, but they left with important messages to bring back to their family and friends. “Quality water not only for recreation, but for drinking purposes impacts all of us, so educating our youth will help foster a culture of conservation they will carry with them throughout their lives,” said Dennis Krusac Wildlife Biologist for the USDA Forest Service. “The children now know their drinking water comes from the Chattahoochee National Forest.”

Finding activities that are both exciting and educational can be challenging. But the children who attended the Canoe Mobile event were treated to a day of learning and excitement that many had never experienced before, thanks to the dedicated efforts of so many people to promote the great outdoors in our metropolitan areas.