Fall Follies on the Coosa River
October 30, 2011
A group of us decided to paddle the Coosa last Sunday, and since this is one of my favorite rivers I thought it would be cool to post it on both the GCA list serve as well as the BCC. The Coosa River, located
just north of Montgomery, AL is an ideal trained beginner/novice river with playboating options to entertain the advanced boater as well. There is NO raft traffic and the water is much warmer this time of year than it is up in the mountains. Robert & Scott Harris(OC2), and Stephen McKinnon(K1) made the trip over from Georgia. Other
paddlers from the BCC were Judy Ranelli(K1), Julie Levinson-Gabis (K1), Debby Mc Rae(K1), Hayward Warren(K1), Chris McConnell(K1), and my guest, Linda Browning (SOT). The Georgia folks had never paddled the Coosa before so it was a pleasure to show them one of my favorite rivers. We met at the Coosa Outdoor Center at 1130 CST so that we could catch the noon shuttle up to the put in. The normal put-in is Jordan Dam, but our trusty proprietor, Lonnie Carden, offered to let us put in at his beautiful property downstream of the dam to eliminate
some of the flat water portion of the trip. The scheduled release was 8000 cfs, and this was the last scheduled 8000 release for the season. The shuttle bus was filled with hard-care play boaters that were anxious to get to the featured play spot of the Coosa known as Moccasin Gap.
As I mentioned before, the Coosa River is a beautiful class I/II run with one class III rapid. The river is wide and lined with trees dripping with Spanish Moss. I’d say it’s about as wide as the Hiwassee, but the water is much warmer and there is more flat water between the rapids. It was a gorgeous Fall day with a forecasted high
of 68 degrees as we set off down the river. One of the guys on the bus told us about a “short cut” that would take us directly to one of our favorite play spots, Maytag. We also heard that there was a wave on the way that we might want to check out. So, even after paddling this river for 12 years, I am still learning new routes…like I said it’s a wide river. Anyway, none of us were ready to take on the first wave so we followed the flagging tape in the trees through what was almost like swamp till we arrived at an opening in the trees that was just across the current from Maytag. Judy and I wanted to play at Maytag before heading down so we advised those not wanting to ferry across the current to wait for us in the eddy until we were ready to head down. Judy, Stephen, and I ferried across to explore Maytag. Hayward and Chris paddled to the bottom of the rapid. Judy got a few spins in
the Maytag hole while Stephen was exploring another feature to the left…kind of a baby spin spot. I checked Stephen’s spot out real quick and then went back over to Maytag with Judy. I jumped right in to take a whirl and got a decent 360 and was going around for my second when the left side of the hole decided I needed to work on my side surfing/ hole exiting skills. Guess I didn’t have the right solution ’cause the next thing I knew I was upside down! No problem. Set up & roll…uh oh…didn’t work…directional roll to the other side…uh oh…back to the other side…one more try on the right hand side…nope…and a quick bang and a knock on top……no one there SO… now the trusty trip leader was swimming. Ah yes…what a way to instill confidence in your new friends as you are showing them the way down the river! Well at least they got to see a well executed rescue (thank you Chris & Hayward!) while they were safely in the eddy. Once back in my boat I gave the others waiting upstream the signal to come on down. Oops, I had forgotten to discuss signals. Luckily, Judy was able to attain back to the eddy to lead them down the class 2 rapid below Maytag. Everyone made it through with flying colors and I was even able to take pictures of them!
We all gathered back together at the bottom of the rapid in the eddy on river left. From there we paddled out of the bottom of the eddy angling back towards the right of the river. We headed directly to Baby Gap which is, as its name implies, a smaller version of the Gap wave at Moccasin Gap. Baby Gap is on the right side of an island and
is a good rest stop as well as play spot. Judy, Hayward, and Chris all got good surfs and I even managed to get back out there. Debby headed on downstream and surfed another wave while we played. It’s just that kind of river…little play spots everywhere!
After continuing on downstream through ten minutes of flat water we could see a large island in the middle of the river. The rapid to the right of this island is called Moccasin Gap. Linda, Judy, Robert, and Scott decided to scout the rapid from here so they landed their boats on the back side of the island. We waited a bit so they could watch
our line. Chris led the way, followed by Hayward, myself, Julie, and Debby. This was Julie’s third time to run the Gap and she was in a new boat. Way to go Julie! Moccasin Gap is a great place to have lunch in the summer. It was a bit chilly today so I added some layers while Judy took a few rides on the wave. Next thing ya know our open boaters were running the Gap! They made it all the way to the bottom before they capsized. Good thing I put on more clothes because I decided to hop on the wave myself as we exited and BOY, I was getting a good surf
before, BOOM I was over, and attempting to roll again. Right side, left side, right side…no air left for knocking, so ugh, I was SWIMMING. Good thing Hayward decided to paddle with us today. Thank you Hayward!
After this, I decided that my roll was officially on hiatus and that I had to hold back on the play boating for the rest of the day. We paddled through Pipeline and then angled left towards Corn Creek Park. It was shortly after that that our open boaters capsized coming through another little rapid. While the Coosa’s rapids are class I/II
the water is high volume and many of the rapids have weird currents, boils, and all sorts of “paddle snakes” that will flip the unwary boater. Luckily, we had just caught up with Lonnie (our trusty proprietor from the Coosa Outdoor Center) who with Stephen’s help got the canoe emptied out and flipped back over while we were in the
middle of the river. Once we got the boat back over the real fun started. Now we had to get Robert and Scott back in the boat. It was quite a struggle so we finally decided to have Linda get in the canoe from her SOT kayak and let her paddle it to shore. That way at least one of the OC2 guys could get on her SOT and she could paddle the canoe the 300 or so yards to the take out.
And so, our day was over. We’d had a delightful day on (and IN) the river and it was October 30th! How lucky were we? We finished off the day with a couple of hours of fierce and frenzied shopping at the Coosa Outdoor Center store. They were having another one of their killer sales on ski apparel and the prices were just too irresistible to ignore. Yes, it was another banner day on the Coosa!