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    Robert Fuller, Trail Traveler on a Double Mission of Science and Personal Quest in Alabama

    Robert Fuller’s name came to me in a very scratchy phone call one night when I was on the road. Robert’s wife had signed him up for an ASRT membership and wanted to make sure I received it. It was the next day, upon my return to my office, before I had a chance to follow up and in doing so discover the incredible adventure that Robert was then in the middle of undertaking.

    Robert had the idea to launch his kayak from the headwater spring of the Chattahoochee River in Georgia and paddle to the Appalachicola River in Florida on the Gulf. From there he would hang a right and head for Mobile where he would hang another right and head up the Alabama Scenic River Trail from the bottom! The destination was a big triangular circumnavigation of two states, half of which was in the wrong direction.

    There was that. But there was more. Robert was going to turn his adventure into a scientific experiment in which he would perform water quality tests, inject a fluorescent, water-tracing dye, and then track and test that water as far as Lake Sidney Lanier, where the dye would disperse and no longer be trackable.  That process was to be repeated on each free-flowing segment of the Chattahoochee River and its receiving stream, the Apalachicola River, as long as the dye—it costs $2500 for the ten gallons he would take on the trip—held out. From he would cross Alabama on the Mobile, Alabama and Coosa Rivers, taking the Coosa into Georgia and then the Etowah back to the Etowah’s headwater spring north of Dahlonega.

    The goals of the project were, in no particular order:

    • To test the feasibility of a single person tracking a mass of water down a river system, sampling that mass as it changes over space and time;
    • To collect low flow water quality data on the Chattahoochee River and the Apalachicola River;
    • To locate and document any major sources of pollution to these rivers,
    • To locate and document potentially illegal incursions into the channels of these rivers;
    • To collect enough time-varying tracer dye data at various points on the rivers to determine their ability to disperse and dilute future pollutant spills; and
    • To have a grand adventure.

    When Robert launched his kayak with personal gear and scientific equipment, it is said to have weighed 300 pounds.

    Robert, as of this writing, is on his return trip. He is a real adventurer and one of the most articulate writers to have done the trail (and we’ve had same very good ones!).

    His story is at http://blog.ung.edu/rcfuller/.

    Alabama scenic river trail

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