The
plan was for a clear bright day, warm Fall river water, fall leaves
that were almost at full color and a perfect 70 degree high for the
day. That didn’t happen.


Arriving
at the Hiwassee it was obvious that the water was way up. We stopped
at Webb’s and the river was a full foot higher than normal flow. I knew the Hiwasse could have high water, but I had never seen
it like this. On the ride up, we scouted the rapids we could see.
Some were washed out and some did not look bad from a quarter mile
away. Arriving at the put in, we met up with the rest of the group.


We
debated the risks. Everyone was well dressed for “Plan A”, but
that wasn’t the situation. Everyone wanted to paddle the Hiwassee to
see how it would change with an extra 12” of water, but the
temperature was 42 degrees and there was a strong possibility of
light showers. The combination of water, risk of a long swim. and
temperature forced us to look for “Plan B”.

After
listing every river between Tennessee and Atlanta, we decided to
paddle the Coosawatee from Ellijay to the Ridgeway boat ramp. By the
time we ran shuttle it was a 2:15 start and the air temperature was
47degrees. We knew that it was going to be a late day, but there were
options to take out before the lake if required. They weren’t good
options, but there were options. For future reference the river level
was 650 CFS.


We
had 3 canoes and 3 kayaks. Paddlers were: Kelly Harbac, Frank
Homiller, Henry Homiller, Sandy Smith, Terry Irrgang, Tom Keller,
Brannen Proctor, and William Gatling.


Starting
out with a lazy flat water section, everyone had a chance to settle
in and warm up. The flatwater eventually gave way to ripples, and the
ripples grew into rapids. Kelly had the most recent river knowledge
from when she volunteered of Paddle Georgia safety. Most of the
rapids were pretty straight forward with multiple possible channels.


A
Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to Georgia” rates the scenry as a
“-B” rating. I must respectfully disagree with this rating
because of the number of houses along the river and the waste wate
treatment plant. While most of the houses were gorgeous, They did
detract from any sort of wilderness feel of the river.


As
we were getting near the lake, Frank and Henry had a brief out of
boat experience caused by a sharp turn to the right and a rock on the
left. The rock caused a gentle slow motion ejection of the paddlers.
No harm from the swim, the water was warm, but the air temperature
was cold!


The
leaves were approaching full color and the hills of Carters Lake
looked like a Fall postcard.


After
a few more smaller rapids, the river ran silent and the lake paddle
began. We were loosing light, but we had plenty of time for a 2 mile
lake paddle before it got dark. Unfortunately, the lake paddle was 3
miles. That was an unacceptable end to an otherwise great day.
Getting off the water in the dark was an unnecessary risk that should
not have happened.


Everyone
was hungry, cold and tired, but otherwise it was a good day.

By William Gatling
October 17, 2000

For more information about this river see:
Coosawatee- Ellijay to Carters Lake