I jumped over the River North bridge in a 14-foot aluminum johnboat during the flood of 1994.
My wife and oldest son, Jacob, were out of the country, visiting friends in Macon, France. I was in charge of our youngest son, Joseph, who was 10 years old at the time.
We went to Tobler’s Creek at Highway 87 in Monroe County to help some friends move their belongings upstairs in their home before the creek rose too high. After that, it seemed the thing to do was to go explore the flooded river and nearby woods.
We went to Bolingbroke, where we lived at the time, to get the boat and brought it back. I launched it in the middle of the highway. We went through the woods and out into the river just a short way. There were too many people and too small of a boat -- and a very flooded, fast moving river.
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Back to the highway we went. My friends wisely got out of the boat. I announced that my son, Joseph, and I were going down the river exploring. My sister, who was there also, thought about that for a moment and then snatched Joseph from the boat and said, “You go. He will be with me.” She later told my wife, Valerie, that she knew Valerie would never let him go!
I went south along the flooded railroad tracks, through the flooded woods and into the river. Homes were flooded in the River Trace subdivision. Both me and my boat were almost level with the roofs of most of the homes. It was surreal. I continued south down river toward the River North bridge. The bridge was almost completely underwater. The guard rail was slightly exposed, and debris and power lines were snagged and causing a logjam.
I decided that I could pull a “Bo and Luke Duke move” and take my 14-foot aluminum johnboat with its 20-horsepower motor and jump that bridge.
There were people on both shorelines in River North just hanging out. (I later found out that someone actually videotaped me from their vantage point!) I got up some speed and went over the bridge. In the process, something tore a hole in the bottom of the boat and busted one of the ears off the propeller.
My shirt plugged the hole, and two ears are better than none on a propeller. There was a Georgia State Patrol helicopter flying over me in the river, trying to get my attention to tell me to get off the river. I kept going downstream. Years later, when I was able to get a copy of the video that was shot, it showed the power lines popping on the water, right after I did this crazy stunt. It was not the smartest thing I have ever done, especially in a metal boat!
I went through the brickyard lakes, Walker Swamp and Bond Swamp and decided I better turn around and go back up river, before I ran out of fuel. There were people at the high water line in the cemetery. This is where I headed. I tied up my boat to the Confederate Monument. One of the people there was my friend, Margaret Snow. She gave me a ride back to get my boat trailer so I could get the boat before it sank.
Lucky for me, it turned out OK. I would not recommend this for anyone’s bucket list! I am sure some people may think this story is somewhat fabricated or untrue. It really happened! No exaggeration.
-- Guy Sidney Fried