Section:
New Bridge to Chattahoochee at Mud Creek
Scenery:
Excellent (includes a functional top-over waterwheel)
Appropriate
for: Advanced
Miles
on River: ~3 on Mossy; 3+ (feels like 5) on the Hooch to Mud Creek
Months
Runnable: October-June or after rain
Difficulty:
III-IV (V)
AWA
Point Scale: 21 at sane levels

Gradient:
108 ft/mile (classic drop and pool)

Gauge:
Upper Chattahoochee at 1,700 CFS probably absolute minimum, 2,000 to
3,000 CFS probably optimal; around 10′ do the Hooch. Footing on river
left bridge piling must be underwater. If it looks low it is. If
there is a hydraulic you wouldn’t want to be in under the bridge,
consider options.

Hazards: Long steep rapids, hydraulics, boulder
sieves,undercuts, and strainers
Scouting:
Possible from bank or boat at all drops
Rescue
Index: Good on upper Mossy more difficult as you near the
Chattahoochee
Portages:
Possible, but long, for all drops
Distance
from Atlanta: 60 miles

The
first time Will, Clint Rinehart, Clay, and the Hawk ran Mossy was
back in ’94 as plan B following what had become a fiasco on the
Upper-Upper-Chattahoochee. It may or may not have been a first
descent but nobody we knew had ever done it or knew of anyone who
had. Since my first Eddy Line description, Mossy’s become
increasingly popular with creekers because it’s close to Atlanta and
is truly stupendous. Mossy hasn’t been running for some time because
of the drought and has drifted back into legend. We were finally able
to do it again in early February as plan B for another aborted first
descent, which I’ll tell y’all about when we do it.

It
was snowing lightly, had rained like stink the preceding two days,
the Upper Chattahoochee was running around 1,700 cfs, and the
footings at the put-in bridge were submerged. Clay and I paddled the
Stinger accompanied by Will in a Eurokayak C-1 potato boat, Kevin
Miller in a Rodeo OC-1, Ruben, and three other butt boaters. Only
Will, Clay, and the Hawk had run it before, and to guarantee maximum
amusement we kept Mossy’s surprises secret from the newbies.

The
Stinger slid down the put-in trail surprisingly easy, almost
frictionless. This should have been a warning, but we were just happy
at the lack of effort needed. The put-in provided the day’s first
amusement because people had just started to realize how butt-cold it
really was, and because Clay and I were sliding all over on the
Stinger’s tubes like freshly caught trout on mossy rocks. We missed
the trip’s first three basic lessons; never underestimate the
lubricating properties of Armor All on hypalon, there is no such
thing as too much Sex Wax, and if your boat’s slicker ‘n snot at the
put-in, it’s gonna be worse in the rapids.

The
first half-mile or so did little to focus us on the lessons, because
there’s minimal gradient. But, soon enough we came upon What Rapids?,
an easy, small riverwide ledge, so-named during a now legendary high
water run in which Will and company portaged everything else.

What
Rapids? can be run anywhere, but if you’re wearing what has suddenly
become an apparently Teflon coated dry suit and are sitting on a
recently waxed rubber raft, even class II eddy turns acquire epic
proportions. Neither of us actually came out of the boat and we
readily negotiated Infinity, the next little S-turn rapid.

Infinity
is followed by more flat water. Presumably, everyone learns in White
Water 101 that flat water on steep creeks presages a big drop. But no
one on our trip seemed to recall their beginner course and there was
universal amazement when the group rounded a corner and the river was
gone. Mossy completely disappeared from sight and all that was
visible way way way below was a picturesque meadow and water wheel. I
shouted, “Don’t scout, real men just gofer it.”

Our
first surprise for the newbies, this horizon line is an illusion. The
first rapid (Waterwheel) is class IV+, drops 40′ or so, and includes
four slides, each ending in a small recovery eddy and each bigger and
tougher than the previous. The first ledge is usually run on the
right but scouted (by the faint of heart) from the left. The next
three ledges are best run on the left, primarily because there’s a
mess of rebar on the right from the sluice that feeds the mill. At
high levels, Waterwheel becomes one massive slide feeding a
light-sucking, river-wide hole. If you unass here at flood, your boat
will be gone for good. But if you get out of the hole, it’s an easy
walk out up the driveway.

There
is a nice pool next to the mill. Apparently, adrenalin had erased the
preceding White Water 101 refresher lesson from our newbies minds
because they seemed surprised by an even more awesome horizon line
marking class IV+ Ratchet Rapid. The AWA web page has named this The
Ledge (in disregard for us first-descender and first-published elder
boaters). AWA also renamed other rapids, but I’m a traditionalist and
will stick to our original names.

It
wouldn’t hurt to scout Ratchet because it isn’t a simple slide, but
rather begins with a 7 or 8′ vertical, which is followed by a 25′ or
so drop over a series of ledges, each with its own hydraulic. It
would not be amusing to do Ratchet inverted and would be even less
fun to swim it. We usually run far right, boof into the eddy,
traverse river left across the face, and drop into the remaining
ledges where ever.

If
you’re going to boof, keep in mind that if you miss the eddy and
plant into the hole you may have an unscheduled and prolonged visit
with the resident river god. Alternatively, paddle like mad to get up
enough speed to avoid pitoning, run just to the left of the hole, and
continue straight on down. Ratchet can also be run down a staircase
starting far left at the top and repositioning in the first ledge.
Ratchet ends in a large pool.

The
next half-mile or so following Ratchet includes smaller falls and
shoals. Then comes the BIG DROP……. Broken Butt Falls. It will be
obvious and you should seriously consider scouting. Screw it. This
advice is superfluous. The horizon line is truly monstrous and
scouting comes naturally.

Broken
Butt Falls drops at least 50′, at slightly less of an angle than
Oceana. There is a multi-boat hidden eddy behind the big rock on the
river right bank. First-timers should catch this eddy, do a nearly
vertical drop into a small but not terribly technical eddy, then
traverse left in the sluice, and complete the run down the middle.
This is of course not mandatory, and two launching ramps make the far
left line through Broken Butt Falls even more interesting.

A
half mile of so after Broken Butt Falls you’ll come around a tight
bend and encounter Big Snake and Confederate Flag two class III+
twisting slides, each with multiple routes. It appears as if all the
action is over; you’re almost at the Chattahoochee and the
interminable paddle to the take-out. However, Boulder Garden, Mossy’s
most dangerous rapid (in terms of dying rather than a simple
orthopedic injury), lurks just around the next bend. The entire river
narrows considerably, snakes through a maze of boulders, and funnels
by an undercut rock in which the river gods have chosen to store a
strainer log. There are a bunch of must-hit eddies and it is
imperative to make your lines, because if you mess up you have a
better than even probability of drowning.

How
does the Hawk know this? Well one of our butt boaters missed the
line, broached on the log, and rolled under it. He was gone! By gone,
I mean both he and his boat were invisible for at least 20 seconds
before he flushed out (sans boat). For those of us who have done it,
20 seconds defines the social limits of conversation with the river
gods. Anyways, if you make it past this without practicing rescue and
resuscitation, you’ve got 30 to 45 minutes of cruising on a
relatively flat Chattahoochee (two fun little rapids) before reaching
Muddy Creek.

You’ll
know you’re at the take-out when, on river left, you see a 200′ high
vertical mud cliff scarred by chutes, which were gouged by boaters
sliding back down it. This rampart is guarded by a mile-wide beach of
neck-deep quick sand (actually quick muck and slime). Ok, so the Hawk
has exaggerated slightly but extraction resembles mud wrestling. If
you’re an elder boater like me, let the kids play here, paddle up Mud
Creek, and take out just above the bridge.

To
get to Mossy Creek, take I-85 north to I-985. Continue on I-985
through Gainesville where it becomes Hwy 23/441 to Tallulah and
Clayton. Engage cruise control and talk to your friends until you
reach the first stoplight. Then, stop talking, start concentrating,
and continue on. Pass a hill covered with old school buses on road
left, and pass the Habersham Winery tasting room. At the next light,
turn left onto Hwy 384 (AKA Duncan Bridge Road) and continue through
two intersections. After crossing the Chattahoochee (Wildwood
Outpost, on the right), take the second left onto New Bridge Rd.
Continue 3.7 miles to the bridge over Mossy Creek (it is the SECOND
bridge).

To
run shuttle, continue on New Bridge Rd another 0.9 miles until it
ends at Skitts Mill. Turn left onto Skitts Mill and continue 1.7
miles to Forester Road. Turn left onto Forester, which after 1.4
miles merges into Belton Bridge Road. Turn left onto Belton Bridge
road and go 3.5 miles to Pea Ridge Road. Before reaching Pea Ridge,
you will cross the Chattahoochee at Belton Bridge and there are
several large take-outs just past the bridge. However, to save a mile
or so of flat water paddling, go all the way to Pea Ridge Road. Turn
left on Pea Ridge and go 0.5 miles to the bridge at Mud Creek. The
take-out is on the left just over the bridge.

There
is a very appealing take-out just before the bridge, but looks are
deceiving. As an aside, if you continue on Pea Ridge you will hit
384, turn left and you’re back at the Wildwood Shop. If you go the
opposite way on Pea Ridge, it hits the freeway just past the
stoplight (Belton Bridge exit). There are legends of an alternate
take-out where Mossy intersects the Chattahoochee, but I haven’t
found it yet.

William
C. Reeves (The Hawk)
From The Eddy Line, April 2004