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Hard Labor Creek kayak tours beckon stargazers

Special Photo Georgia State Parks Resource Manager Phil Delestrez leads a kayak tour on Lake Rutledge at Hard Labor Creek State Park.

Special Photo Georgia State Parks Resource Manager Phil Delestrez leads a kayak tour on Lake Rutledge at Hard Labor Creek State Park.

RUTLEDGE -- With its calm, quiet waters, Lake Rutledge at Hard Labor Creek State Park is the perfect place to learn how to kayak, said Georgia State Parks Resource Manager Phil Delestrez, and over the coming months, the public will have ample opportunities to do so.

Delestrez will lead several kayak trips each month through the spring, summer and fall at Hard Labor Creek State Park, located in Rutledge, 20 miles east of Covington.

The schedule for April includes: a daytime tour from 2 to 4 p.m. on April 13; a new moon kayak tour from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 13; a twilight paddle from 6 to 8 p.m. on April 19; and full moon kayak tour from 7 to 9 p.m. on April 27.

Delestrez said kayaking on the lake is even easier than navigating a canoe.

"If you lead a canoe trip, most people don't fret about their experience level, but the kayaks are less tippy than the canoes," Delestrez said. "You don't need any experience. They are sit-on-top flat water kayaks. They don't sink. They are very stable on the water."

The trips are designed for ages 3 and up. If parents have small children, ages 4, 5 or 6, the kayaks are big enough for each parent to ride with one child.

Cost is $15 per person for a two-hour trip around the perimeter of the 275-acre lake. The cost includes use of the kayak and a life jacket. A tour accommodates up to 19 people.

Delestrez said that one of the advantages to Hard Labor Creek State Park is its location.

"Hard Labor is far enough away from Atlanta that there is little light pollution," he said.

During new moon trips, he points out constellations, and in April visitors should be able to see the Big Dipper, Orion the Hunter, Taurus and the Seven Sisters, as well as the planet Jupiter. For the full moon trip, put those flashlights away -- the light of the moon is enough to guide paddlers around.

Evening also brings sounds of wildlife such as spring peeper frogs and Southern chorus frogs, as well as owls.

During daytime tours, Delestrez discusses the history of the park and the lake. The Civilian Conservation Corps, a public work relief program for young men that operated for several years during the Great Depression, built the park and the lake in 1936.

Paddlers will see historic buildings constructed by the CCC, such as the recreation center, which is not in use but could become a museum in the future, Delestrez said.

"It's still standing. That's pretty rare, because usually the CCC would pack those buildings up and ship them to another city," he said.

Delestrez said the CCC created the park to provide a place for children, who lived in the city of Atlanta, to experience the outdoors, a vision that remains 77 years later.

"They say the more things change, the more they stay the same," Delestrez said. "That's exactly what we're trying to do, is to get folks outside and be with the family outdoors and experience things that aren't on an LCD screen; we're such a technologically dependent society. The park, and all of the state parks, haven't changed that mission. We're still here so folks can have that firsthand experience with the outdoors."

To learn more about upcoming kayak trips and other events at Hard Labor Creek State Park, visit www.gastateparks.org/hardlaborcreek.