29-Nov-2001 -- After reading about the Degree Confluence Project on this website, I decided that locating a confluence would be an excellent opportunity for students enrolled in the Environmental Geography program at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, to put their geographic knowledge to work. Since one of the courses that I teach is a small, relatively informal class which addresses the various tools used in environmental geography, I decided that I would take my class members on an excursion to locate the nearest confluence. After looking at the confluence sites within the state of Georgia, I was surprised to find that a nearby intersection had not yet been visited, which was also pointed out by one of the other geography faculty members within the department.
On the morning of the 29th, I printed portions of several topographic maps, as well as a street map of the region around the confluence, and gathered the 3 students who had actually shown up for class on time (the rest of you know who you are and what you missed). I had the students locate the confluence on the map and decide the best route to the site. So, with maps, students, camera, and 3 Garmin 12XL GPS units, we left Valdosta at approximately 10:10am to locate the confluence.
After traveling east along U.S. Hwy 84 for approximately 20 minutes, we turned north on U.S. Hwy 129, just west of Stockton, Georgia. Our road map indicated that East Davis Rd. would be the closest to the confluence site, and within 10 minutes we had located it, a sandy road winding through a recently timbered forest. After the GPS units had acquired enough satellites to be reasonably accurate, the students directed our travel to a point on the road just south of the confluence, where we parked the car and trekked across an open clearcut, led by the 3 students and their GPS units. After walking approximatley one-quarter of a mile through the area, which was generally open, but also had large piles of stumps and other debris leftover from the clearcut, the students were able to agree on a location for the confluence. The 3 Garmin units each agreed on the intersection within an approximate 2 meter circle, which suggested that whatever errors associated with the measurement were at least consistent errors across the individual units. After taking a series of photographs in the area, the 4 of us trekked back to our vehicle and returned to Valdosta.
The students seemed to enjoy the project, and it allowed them to utilize their map reading skills as well as use the GPS units to locate a predetermined location. I feel certain that future students in this program will get the opportunity to repeat this experience at this and other confluences, and we may possibly return to this confluence site with a more accurate GPS unit and locate the intersection within a meter or less.