I
was a little disappointed about the response for this trip. I had
heard non-white water paddlers express frustration about the lack of
opportunities for touring trips, so I thought a late spring trip on a
mountain lake would be popular. Wrong. Only 4 people called about
the trip, and only one person, new member Brian Portwood, showed up
to join Corrin and me. But hey, I had intended to go by myself
anyway, and just put the trip in The Eddy Line to be polite. (Meg
was on call, unfortunately, and Evan thinks that flat water is
beneath the notice of slalom racers.)

Calderwood
Reservoir is an impoundment of the Tennessee River two dams
downstream from Fontana. It is rather a long hike from Atlanta,
being 34 curving miles north of the Nantahala Gorge on US 129. The
river valley is very deep and steep in that section, so the banks
rise almost vertically from each side of an 8 mile long by 1000 feet
or so wide lake. Most of the vegetation is mixed forest, with large
pines, maples, poplars, and oaks. In early June, the mountain laurel
and rhododendron are in purple and white bloom along the water. In
several places, the lakeshore is solid rock, with occasional 30 foot
cliffs and overhangs or huge boulders.

This
would be a great place for canoe camping, except for one thing: the
banks are too steep to pitch a tent. There are about 4 improved
sites in the whole 8 miles, and they aren’t very flat. You do have
solitude, at least this time of year. There were no other boats on
the lower 6 miles of the lake.

We
paddled about 7 miles in, stopping several times to explore creeks
coming into the lake. We would paddle up a hundred yards or so until
the creek got too vertical. I got in one brief surf at the last drop
on Slickrock Creek, which isn’t easy in a 17 foot touring kayak.

On
the long paddle back out, I was concerned that Corrin, who doesn’t kayak much, might wear out and get frustrated. Not to worry. She
got a rhythm going and ran off from Brian and me, arriving at the
take-out several minutes before we did. Brian also did an admirable
job of cranking along at a good pace paddling a Wilderness Systems
Rascal, one of those little pumpkin-seed kayaks.

If
you’re going up there, take US 129 and follow it north through
Robbinsville, NC, to Tapoco at the Tennessee line. The put-in is not
obvious, and it is not at the bridge, as I had been led to believe.
Cross the bridge into Tennessee and immediately turn left on a small
paved road. There is a small day use area and boat ramp about half a
mile in.

by Steve
Cramer
From The Eddy Line, July 1996