The northwestern corner of Georgia is largely uncharted GCA territory. Since I joined the GCA in 1991 there have been, to my knowledge, only three scheduled trips in the section of Georgia lying north of Atlanta and west of I-75: this trip, one on Big Cedar Creek in June, 1996, and one on Armuchee Creek several years ago.
Undoubtedly the lack of white water in this area is the cause of this disregard. Although there are a few rapids (if one knows where to look), the real attraction to paddling the smooth water creeks and rivers of northwestern Georgia is that they are especially suited to beginners, families, and to those who in winter would prefer a laid back trip over one on a frigid white water river.
To my knowledge, this was the first GCA trip on West Chickamauga Creek. This creek originates in McLemore’s Cover in Walker County and flows north for thirty miles or so until it joins with Chickamauga Creek north of Ringgold. We floated an eleven mile section from historic Lee and Gordon’s Mill near Chickamauga to Reed’s Bridge. This section had no rapids to speak of.
Although the water level was far below the gauge at Alexander Bridge, it was sufficient for our purposes. The only hazard was dead falls, of which there were enough to register Class II on the nuisance scale. At water levels high enough to reach the gauge, however, strainers would be a significant hazard.
At several places the canoers in our group had to pull the kayakers (our more fragile brethren) over partially submerged logs so that the kayakers could avoid the inconvenience of popping their spray skirts and portaging. As we rounded one curve and encountered a sizable jumble of logs, Ray Channell thought it might be quicker to portage than to wait for those ahead to clear the obstacle.
Ray made a dry exit, climbed a steep, muddy bank, and carried his boat through Class III briars and brambles. The rest of us had long since returned to the water, all the while monitoring Ray’s progress by the movement of bushes and trees, when he finally completed his expedition and rejoined us.
We were fortunate to obtain permission from Frank Pierce of Chickamauga to use his property — Lee and Gordon’s Mill — to put in. Remarkably, this ante bellum mill looks much as it does in a famous photograph taken in 1864. The mill and surrounding area were the scene of several skirmishes during the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863. Mr. Pierce purchased the mill in 1993 and he has nearly completed its restoration.
Ray Channell, Inge Webb, Brian Portwood, Alan Reaid (all kayaks) and Ronnie Floyd (Canoe) joined me (Canoe) for a nice trip on this historic creek. This was Alan’s first GCA trip — welcome to the club, Alan!
by Dan Roper
From The Eddy Line, January 1997