An Evening with Miss Sally: Riverkeepers host unique book signing

Published 9:53 am Saturday, September 2, 2023

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Chattahoochee River and West Point Lake fans will soon have an opportunity to attend a unique book signing on the water.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper will host an evening cruise on West Point Lake with author and former Riverkeeper Sally Bethea.

The Cruise will be aboard Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s West Point Lake Floating Classroom appropriately named “Miss Sally” in her honor.

Bethea was one of the first women in America to become a “riverkeeper”—a vocal defender of a specific waterway to hold polluters accountable. 

Sally is the founding director and original riverkeeper of Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. She served as director of the nonprofit advocacy group that works to protect the river and connected waterways for 20 years before retiring in 2014. During her time as riverkeeper, Bethel was crucial in helping restore the neglected waterway and stopping polluters in North Georgia.

On the cruise, Bethel will discuss her book “Keeping the Chattahoochee: Reviving and Defending a Great Southern River,” which was published in July by the University of Georgia Press. The book has been a huge success garnering a second printing in less than two months.

Bethel said people have long said she put down some of the memories from her two decades as riverkeeper, but she never thought she would have the time or interest in writing a book. That changed four years ago when she read the book “The Forest Unseen” by David George Haskell, which she said inspired her.

“I began to walk every week on the same trail down at the Chattahoochee here in metro Atlanta, in the National Park and I started keeping a journal of what I was seeing. Then every time I took one of these walks, it would trigger sort of a memory of a story that kind of emerged from the fog of the past about my riverkeeping career,” Bethel said.

Bethel said she started doing a bit of writing and began to think that at least her sons might want to read about what she had been up to as riverkeeper. Then, the pandemic hit and she suddenly had more time on her hands, so she got serious about the book.

Sally said each chapter of the book tells a short story of what it takes to help save a river. Along the way, she describes her walks around the Chattahoochee waterways and the memories from decades of advocacy for the river.

“My purpose is, hopefully, to inspire others to get involved in environmental advocacy and to also find a place where you can find solace in nature. To get all the day-to-day busyness out of our heads and pay attention. Be astonished by the small things in nature that surround us that we rush past and maybe see but don’t really see every day,” Bethel said.

Bethel said the book is also an opportunity to thank the people who helped support the river throughout her riverkeeper career.

“A lot of the great people along the way helped us with some of our victories and certainly quite a few of those were from [LaGrange],” Bethel said.

The West Point Lake cruise and book signing with Sally Bethea will be held Thursday, Sept. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. starting at Pyne Road Park on Roanoke Rd. in LaGrange.

For more information or tickets for the event, visit