In addition to advertising the “Tunnel of Terror” trip on the GCA website and in The Eddy Line, this trip was cross posted on a “Meetup” group in order to introduce the GCA to other canoe and kayakers. We met at the McDonalds in Dawsonville. Cars loaded with canoes and kayaks began arriving from Atlanta. The forecast was for 70 degrees and sunny. For October 30th, you couldn’t ask for a nicer day. This month has been beyond dry, but heavy rains Wednesday caused a really nice spike in the river level. Cars loaded with canoes and kayaks continued to arrive.
Knowing that parking was limited, Vincent Payne took on the roll of Shuttle Coordinator, and consolidated number of vehicles going to the put in down to a level that had a chance of working. Waivers were signed, the plan was laid out on how shuttle would work, and wave one left the parking lot. Cars with canoes and kayaks continued to arrive. At 10:45, the much smaller “group two” left for the put in. Shuttle went off surprisingly smoothly.
During the safety meeting, I counted 40 people, but there may have been more. There were sea kayaks, rec kayaks, tandem canoes, whitewater solo canoes, tandem kayaks, and whitewater kayaks. It took a little while to get that many boats in the water, but everyone knew that part of the drill and it happened smoothly.
Lower water levels (80 CFS on USGS Gauge 02388900) started causing problems at the first rapid. Boats were getting stuck and struggling to get through. While the rapid is a nice class I, it was still causing lots of concern among the new paddlers. The river was punctuated but long stretched of wet hiking. It seemed like we were never going to get to the tunnel. This river level is totally unacceptable. Even the American Whitewater recommendation of 100 CFS seems like it might be really low for this section.
At the tunnel, Vincent spaced the boats at 2 minute increments to prevent a traffic jam in case of a flip. Echos of plastic kayaks banging into the wall along with an occasional scream emanated from the darkness. Several canoes and kayaks chose to paddle around the mountain after seeing the darker option. We had no swimmers inside the tunnel.
After the tunnel, there were fewer problems with rocks, but there were several strainers. They all were in slow water with moderately easy routes through and no portaging required.
Even with 40 paddlers, we managed to get off the river at 5:00! After all the boats were loaded several of us headed to the nearest Mexican restaurant to finish off a good day.
By William Gatling
October 31, 2010