I
remember reading with pleasure William Reeves’ description of
Warwoman Creek in the May ’94 Eddy Line. The Hawk wouldn’t have
known this, but I published a detailed exploration report on Warwoman
in the June, 1979 GCA newsletter, my first year of 12 as editor, and
that article caused my first controversy over editorial policy. Mark
Warren, a very experienced explorer, questioned the wisdom of
publishing descriptions of small, secret creeks. Many readers
disagreed with him, but his arguments had real merit.

That
’79 issue was a classic, if I do say so myself. The old-timers
gathered at Clayton Hardee’s the morning of March 11 pawed through
the old articles and reminisced. The weather was perfect, and with
the Chattooga over 2.5, we hoped for enough water to run Warwoman
from the bridge on Earls Ford Road, down to the Ford itself and then
surf the Chattooga down to the Georgia side of Sandy Ford.

Along
Warwoman Road, countless streams ran off the mountains and over the
fields, gathering to help Warwoman Creek cut through the ridges to
the Chattooga. It was easy to spot Earl’s Ford Road.; Earl’s old
Model A is still up on blocks at the intersection. We drove to where
the bridge crossed the creek.

During
shuttle, I scouted from the road. We were about 1/3 mile above where
I had put on in ’79, and the run opened with a series of small ledges
and nice surfing waves. There was plenty of water. Then, while Jack
Weems and I were waiting near the boats, a guy rode up on a horse and
asked if we had a phone. Though we said no, he checked our
credentials. Since Jack was a native, he forgave my Yankee status.
He said there were 18 kids down at Earl’s Ford, all different colors,
from Philadelphia, and none over 18. One had broken an ankle, so
he’d volunteered to call their folks in Philadelphia to come get ’em.
That made sense. He left to find a phone. Jack said either the
horse or the rider had booze on his breath.

We
had Gary Latham and Fred Stokes in Mohawk Viper Canoes, Bronwyn
Fowlkes in her Encore Canoe, and Louie Reynolds in his Genesis Canoe.
(Does he do a wet Exodus?) Butt boaters were Jack Weems in his
Response kayak, Jim Cole in a Pyrhana kayak, Duncan Cottrell in a
Pirouette kayak, and me in my porky Corsica kayak. Surfing the early
ledge waves was a great warm-up. With 8 boats, waves were often
crowded, but the opens thought that, with enough rocker, they might
just surf right over the kayaks. It needed work.

Then
we had a flattish section to get re-acquainted. Louie, it turned
out, had run Warwoman once a few weeks before, at a lower water
level. This was a relief to me, because after 15 years, I was foggy
on details. The road disappeared up the ridge. The stream turned
east and started dropping in a series of stiff class 2 ledges with
good surfing waves.

Then
a slight pause before the pie’ce de resistance (French, translating
somewhere between a rock and a hard place), the little Warwoman
Narrows. It opens with the right-to-left, sloping 10 foot drop that
Reeves had called Mattress. We didn’t see a mattress, but there
was plenty of water to cushion the drop. Everyone ran upright and
hit an eddy before running the two squirrely drops just downstream.
It’s funny, I saw the main drop as only half as high 15 years ago
when I ran the creek alone; but then, I had had less water, and
portaged.

The
stream opened out and eased for a bit, but then we came to the
remains of an old wooden dam, followed by a stiff class 2 ledge
series. In ’79, the dam was much higher, with limbs in the run-out,
so I had portaged the dam before running the rapids below. On this
occasion, the broken out dam was easy to run, but it was here or soon
after that Latham’s Viper was badly gouged by one of the bolts used
to pin the dam together.

This
rapid, which I think is the one Hawk called the Hump, may be named
for the very large, water-covered rock at the top lip. For me, it
looked like a steep, close-set series of drops but it probably would
condense into a single slide with more water. The rapid can be
entered right or left of the rock; you can hit the eddy behind it, or
snake right into the twisting, rocky passages below.

Then
we surfed through class 2s until we came to Pinball, a very well
named rapid. The stream jogs left and then right, bifurcated by a
rocky island. With lower water in ’79, I had scouted from the right
bank, seeing that the right passage was too rocky, even without the
killer tree we saw there in ’95. This time we followed Reeves’
advice and scouted from micro eddies at the top, then running down
through twisting waves toward the left elbow, and right over a
sloping drop. Only one paddler, Stokes I believe, managed to avoid
the troll rock at the bottom, but there were no upsets.

Well,
that was the first mile, and most of the action. Hawk may be
surprised to know that not one, but three more miles of Warwoman
remain before the Chattooga. (How time flies when you’re having
fun.) Forested flats largely replaced rocks and cliffs. Rapids eased
down to occasional class 1s and 2s. It was a good chance to talk,
especially about how pleased everyone had been with the first mile.


We
passed under the Chattooga River Trail bridge, and then found a stiff
side-surfing hole where Earls Ford Road forded the creek, almost 3
miles from our put in. Soon after we came to a horizon line and a
big ledge, about 5 feet high, run from the left side going right.
Then, as we neared the Chattooga, rocks and cliffs closed in and
there were more class 2 rapids with surfing waves.

Surfing
was even better on the Chattooga. There were still no rolls, though
perhaps in one case there should have been. The waves were great in
the Rock Gardens, and four different routes were demonstrated at
Dick’s Creek. (The left side drops and the extreme right still
looked harsh and bony at this level.) Below Hounds Tooth, we stayed
left of the island and picked our way down to Sandy Ford. The right
side passage is still jammed with logs. This will be a problem at
lower levels, because the broad ledges on the left get very scrapey.

Everyone
was still high on the trip, and glad to avoid boat toting by taking
out on the Georgia side. The drive out was a bit tricky; the road
hasn’t been graded yet this year and the two stream fords were kind
of deep. Ordinary cars still got through OK. I don’t recommend
using the Georgia side of Sandy Ford for access in the warmer months.
It can get very crowded.

To
run Warwoman at good levels, you must be able to nail small eddies,
boat scout from the brink, and roll promptly. Watch for bolts and
rebar. Senior intermediate, at least. The Chattooga water level is
not closely predictive of water on side creeks. With the Chattooga
at 2.4 in ’79, I had quite a bit less water than we did on this
occasion with the Chattooga at 2.5. I would suggest first driving in
on Earl’s Ford Rd and across the little bridge. Get out and walk
down along the first ledge series. For a good run, the ledges should
not only be covered, but there should be some plausible surfing
waves.

by Gary
DeBacher
From The Eddy Line, May 1996

See Stekoa  Creek
See Georgia Rivers