ROLLING ON THE RIVER: Local man rides rivers 338 miles to the ocean (2023)

Mail carrier Eldon Lundin has seen a side of Georgia that very few have.

No, not on his routes up and down North Columbia Street or through Carrington Woods. It’s Lundin’s recreational hobby that has allowed him to take in remote areas of the Peach State largely untouched by society.

From late September into October, Lundin paddled his 17 and 1/2 foot aluminum Grumman canoe 338 miles from Macon to the Atlantic Ocean, camping each night along the way. The now 60-year-old (59 at the time of his trip) had completed stages of the journey separately over the years, but never all in one go as he did last month.

Some know Lundin, who currently lives on Lake Sinclair just over the Baldwin-Putnam county line, as Cowboy because of the signature hat he’s often seen wearing. To others, he’s Mr. Lundin due to his time spent as an educator. Lundin became the Baldwin High School band director in 1990 before eventually moving over to Jones County. There he retired from education in 2011 and later joined the postal service in 2015. Some of his current coworkers are former students, if not their spouses or siblings, so he’ll always be Mr. Lundin to them.

(Video) Alligator Chases Swimmer, Bites His Arm In Horrifying Footage

A native of Summerville, South Carolina near Charleston, Lundin remembers at 10 years old when a family friend first introduced his father to paddling.

“My dad loved it so much he bought his first canoe, and then we built four kayaks in our basement.”

The Lundin family’s brand of fun was paddling and camping along the Ashley and Edisto rivers in South Carolina.

“The paddling stuck with me,” said Lundin. “Sometimes if I've got no commitments on a weekend, I might just drop my canoe in and go by myself. You get away from traffic, the phone, the TV, and the computer. You’re out there all by yourself and see all kinds of wildlife. It’s a recharge. It has become my favorite thing to do.”

As fate would have it, life brought the water-loving Lundin to this area where the Oconee River is a great resource for recreation. Over the last 36 years he’s gotten to know the waterway as well as its various put-in and take-out points. The experienced paddler recommends the overnight, 36-mile trek from the Oconee River Greenway to Balls Ferry State Park just off Highway 57 east of Toomsboro.

“I think I’ve probably slept on every sandbar between here and Balls Ferry over the course of 36 years,” he said with a laugh.

(Video) 11 Days Solo Camping in the YUKON Wilderness - Special Episode

Comfort in a hobby often breeds the search for new challenges, and it was no different for Lundin. Overnight camping paddles gave way to two- and three-day excursions with just him, his canoe, and his gear. He eventually got to where he wanted to travel all the way from Central Georgia to the ocean by river alone. In 2018, Lundin put in at the local Greenway and 10 days later made it down to Darien at the coast.

Still the call to paddle further remained, so Lundin planned this most recent trip using the Ocmulgee, with the goal in mind of winding up on the F.J. Torras Causeway that runs from Brunswick to St. Simons Island. Eighteen days were set aside for the 338-mile venture, leaving little room for error. Google Earth can be a paddler’s best friend in selecting a route. Lundin prints out maps and puts them inside plastic covers in a notebook so he can see his route and mark his location as he makes his way. Pace is important too. Low water levels mean more paddling, which means more physical exertion. Towards the end there’s also the ocean tides to worry about. High tide brings water inland and forces a paddler to fight the current. Wildlife is also a factor. Name an animal you would expect to see on a Georgia river and Lundin probably saw it this fall. Alligators, wild hogs, ospreys, turtles, a bald eagle, red-tail hawks, and kingfishers were just some examples of what Lundin encountered along the way. There were no snakes on this trip, but he’s seen them before. Lundin does keep a sidearm in case he needs it, but sometimes it’s not the wildlife he has to worry about. Abandoned fishing hooks hanging from trees are another hazard. Anglers get them caught and cut their lines, leaving the hooks dangling dangerously.

With all of that in mind and much more, Lundin, with the help of his girlfriend Kim Dann, put his father’s nearly 50-year-old, 67-pound aluminum canoe into the Ocmulgee River near Spring Street in Macon on Sept. 23 and set out for much larger waters. Some other equipment brought along included two coolers stocked with food and drinks, a solar notebook for charging his devices, a collapsible table, a hammock for sleeping, a stand for said hammock because finding two perfectly-spaced trees isn’t always easy, and a canvas that goes over top of the hammock for shelter. Lundin opts for the hammock-canvas combo on long trips due to time. A traditional tent takes too long to set up and take down each day, he says. Food on the front end of the trip was more perishable, so the dinner menu the first few nights included delicacies like steak and salmon on the camp stove. A lot of the breakfast — biscuits, sausage, and bacon — was pre-cooked to ease things along. Other food items included a loaf of bread, tuna, hot dogs, and peanut butter. Water bottles were frozen to serve dual purposes as both cooling agent and refreshment. Lundin doesn’t do much fishing from his canoe. Too much steering, paddling, and avoiding hazards has to be done to take the time to put a pole in the water while traveling.

While out on the water, Lundin saw and photographed a lot of the aforementioned wildlife throughout his first week. The gators seemed to get bigger the further south he traveled, but they thankfully kept to themselves along the Ocmulgee banks.

While the wildlife never really presented an obstacle, the river’s winding path near Abbeville did.

“I began to hear a roar up ahead in the distance,” Lundin recalled. “As I kept getting closer to it I was expecting to hear the source. I was disappointed turn after turn after turn. I couldn’t see anything, but the roar just kept getting louder and louder. I finally made a turn and saw the river had split three ways. There were several miles of riverbed cut off from what used to be the main channel and the drop to get there was severe and narrow. The waves created were about 3-foot and I had to paddle to the shore to keep from being swept into it. I got out of the canoe, tied it off, climbed the bank, and walked down the side of the river to study how I was going to get through this.”

(Video) Orca Action Month Kick-off Event, June 6, 2021

A paddler has a couple of options when hit with such a situation. Unload and carry everything downstream around the hazard, which can take a very long time, or read the river like the golfer reads a green and aim for the safest route. Lundin opted for the latter.

“I had to paddle back upstream to line the shot up,” he said. As I went through the channel, water came over the top of my bow four times, but my canvas shed that water so I was able to scoot right through. The whole thing lasted only about 12 seconds, but it was probably the most thrilling part of the paddle.”

Hurricane Ian also caused a bit of a stir about a week in. Rain wound up not being much of a issue, but the wind sure was.

“You’re trying to negotiate hazards in the river while fighting the wind,” Lundin said. “Trees will fall over from the bank and create what we call strainers. They catch debris, and a lot of the limbs will be just a few inches under the water. You don’t want to run into those because you might flip.”

Twice Lundin’s canoe blew into hazards he had to extricate from. After reaching his next campsite, he opted for a two-day stay to let the storm pass rather than risk forging ahead. That wound up being a great decision. He met many of the locals as word spread around the nearby community of his voyage, and some even brought supplies like fat lighter and rope. Lundin also keeps a small paddle for new friends met along the way to sign. Next to their signature goes the mile mark of the trip so he knows at what point they met.

“That paddle with those signatures becomes a memento to hang on the wall of my house,” Lundin said.

(Video) Rowing the Erie Canal - Windows to the Wild

On day nine at a boat ramp near Jacksonville, Ga., Lundin met up with his girlfriend Dann and members of his family, who all came not only to share a meal but also to resupply Lundin’s stores so he could make the last half with no problems. Included in that company were the paddler’s parents who helped foster his love of the hobby all those years ago.

The trip continued on to where the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers meet, forming the beginning of the Altamaha between Uvalda and Hazlehurst. Stops after that confluence included Grays Landing where Benton Lee’s Steakhouse owners Tripp and Vickey Wammock restocked Lundin’s cooler with ice and brought him a fried chicken dinner since their restaurant was closed that day. Further down the river at Carter’s Bight boat landing he met Tattnall County Commissioner Bill Kicklighter who offered a hot shower. Next up was Adamsons’ Fish Camp south of Glennville where operator Christi Adamson had Lundin’s traditional campsite and a spaghetti dinner waiting.

Thirty-three miles of the Altamaha and intercoastal Mackay rivers awaited on the 16th and final day. Most of it was big open water as river flora and fauna gave way to that of the sea. Dolphins even greeted Lundin as he made his way to the end. While the sea life was friendly, the current wasn’t. The tide was working against Lundin and his canoe much of that last day. Just the smallest break in paddling would set him back minutes, which could quickly add up to hours if he wasn’t careful. Darkness fell and a full moon rose as Lundin approached the Torras Causeway finish line. Equipped with marine navigation lights and the knowledge that that the end goal was in sight, he made it to the boat ramp where Dann’s son-in-law Mackie Hudson was waiting to pick him up. The night of Saturday, Oct. 8, day 16 of the expedition, Lundin planted his feet firmly on the F.J. Torras Causeway boat ramp near St. Simons Island, signaling the end of his trip.

“I was pretty exhausted when I finished,” Lundin said. “I got out of the canoe and got on my knees to kiss the ground. I was so happy to finally make it.”

Sixteen days and 338 miles in the books, Lundin now has new memories, friends, and photos to hold on to. The vacation, as he calls it, cost him under $200 since he already owned most of what he needed.

“It’s been easy to shop for me over the years for Father’s Day and birthdays,” he said. “I have gathered just about every piece of camping and paddling equipment I could possibly ever use.”

(Video) Survival Experts Take On The Jungles Of Laos With Just Three Items | Dual Survival FULL Episode

As for the future, Lundin says it will be at least a couple of years before he attempts another trip the scale of the one he just completed. He has looked into traveling down the Mississippi River, which would be over 2,000 miles and around 100 days. Industry has taken away a lot of the scenery on that waterway though, making the route a little less desirable.

Future plans can wait. Lundin will for now rest his paddle and go with the flow of life — wherever it may take him.


1. Conflicts In A River - Wildlife Documentary
(Best Documentary)
2. Fishing Tips And Techniques from The Fred Hall Show 2020 (Long Beach)
(Roman Castro)
3. Mountain Men: Wrangling a Raging One-Ton Bull (S9, E15) | Full Episode
4. The 33 strategies of war by Robert Greene
(House of Knowledge)
5. Making Friends and Dodging Storms in Iowa and Minnesota - Summer 2020 Episode 14
(Traveling Robert)
6. The Columbia River Gorge - Lewis and Clark Episode 21
(Traveling Robert)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duncan Muller

Last Updated: 03/24/2023

Views: 5531

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duncan Muller

Birthday: 1997-01-13

Address: Apt. 505 914 Phillip Crossroad, O'Konborough, NV 62411

Phone: +8555305800947

Job: Construction Agent

Hobby: Shopping, Table tennis, Snowboarding, Rafting, Motor sports, Homebrewing, Taxidermy

Introduction: My name is Duncan Muller, I am a enchanting, good, gentle, modern, tasty, nice, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.