Friday, July 13, 2007

Paddling the Oostanaula

As that river rolls along
I'll be steppin out tonight
On the cool flow,
Floatin down
Down below
The bridge to the waters edge
From the ridge to the ledge
From the hills to the sea
I'll become a memory

I think I may have a new addiction.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I took Monday off work in order to participate in a preliminary paddle trip down the Oostanaula River. We started at the 225 bridge and went through Resaca and all the way back down to the 136 bridge. It took us about 6 hours, but the day went by SOOOO quickly.

I went with a fellow member of the NERA board (David "Bumper"), and the executive director of CRBI (Joe) who kind of helps NERA out from time to time. The purpose for this preliminary run was to make sure the river didn't have any obstructions along the route, to see how deep (or shallow) the water is, and to get together a map of the route that pinpoints points of interest and problem areas. But really, it was just an excuse for us to get out on the river.

Bumper and I took a canoe and Joe took a kayak. Bumper, being the gentleman he is, did most of the paddling, but I did enough to get my arms properly sore. I absolutely loved it.

The water was pretty shallow, but we didn't have to get out and carry the canoe at any point which is a good thing since I'm a wuss and it would have sucked. At the start point, we put in right before the confluence of the the Coosawattee and the Connasauga rivers. These two rivers come together to form the Oostanaula.

The Conasauga to the left and the Coosawattee to the right.

We paddled a good ways, and I just felt like the Lady of Shallot, man: only much less formally and more sloppily dressed - and much less mournful and dead.

We kept on a paddling and having a good old time. I had no idea our river was so pretty. Granted, it's nothing spectacular, but it's ours and you see the county a lot differently from the river than you do the road. And it's so relaxing and just...nice. You know, a really beautiful step out of the ordinary.

The next feature we came across was an old fish wier. For those who don't know, a fish wier is basically a trap that helped the Indians catch more fish quicker. The one we saw may have been put there by early settlers, but it's more than likely a Cherokee structure. They're really simple but brilliant in design. They're usually like a very small dam that doesn't extend above the surface of the water, made of logs and rocks. Most of the time they're built in a sort of "V" shape that kind of chanels the fish to a mid-point. But the one on the Oostanaula was actually diagonal across the entire width of the river. I assume this made it easier for them to fish from the banks or a shallower side of the river.
Joe's Kayak on the Fish Wier

After the wier, we came across a couple of bridges and even a few rapids! Well, I doubt anyone would really call them rapids, but it was fun going through some of those little shoals. There were a couple of areas that were pretty slow and without a whole lot of places of interest, but I enjoyed those areas as much as any. It was really peaceful and it was nice to just paddle and smile and contemplate for a while.

As we came closer to the 41 bridge and the interstate, we came across one of the coolest areas of the river. It's also the deepest, and features a really nice, big rock formation. The water there is about 20 or 30 feet, which is really deep for the Oostanaula. With this combination of factors in Joe's brain, he decided he'd venture a jump from the rocks. Bumper and I were a little concerned about a bit of a shelf area that Joe could have hit if he hadn't jumped out far enough, but he missed it by a long shot and was all smiles after he surfaced. He suggested that we try it. I said, "Not no, but hell no." I think Bumper would have tried it if he hadn't had me in the canoe. Again, being the gentleman he is, I think he would have considered it abandoning his ship and putting his passenger in peril.

Joe jumping off the rocks into the deep water.

Peeking from inside a bit of a little cave.

From this point forward, I had begun to get a little tired and the wind was blowing directly into our faces, so I devloped a little bit of a headache. But that really didn't diminish my good time. For a couple of miles, we kept coming across features in the river we thought might just be natural shoals, but there were too many of them and they were too similar. They were basically piles of rocks coming from either bank, leaving a bit of a chanel in the middle. At first we thought they might be fish wiers that had been partially washed away, because they had the basic beginning of that tell-tale "V" shape. But after Joe thought about it and saw how many there were (at least four to my recollection), he concluded that they might be navigational structures used to keep the cotton barges from getting too close to the shallow banks. Made sense to me, so that's what they'll be in my head until it's proven otherwise.

After the series of navigational doohickies, we again came into some slow water, but at the time, it was pretty much what I needed. The sun had come out and I was getting rather warm. I also used this time to perfect my paddling technique until Bumper basically told me to give it up. Oh well. I'm sure I'll have it down by the time I go with Corey in August.

Toward the end of the 14-15 mile stretch, we came across the old landfill. There's still so much crap in the water, it's not even funny. I hope we'll be able to do a large-scale clean-up over there at some point, because it's ridiculous how much old shit there is messing up our waterway. Sigh. In any case, right after the landfill, we came to the old pump at the water treatment plant where Calhoun used to pump all its water. Now, as I'm told, they get our water from the Coosawattee, which did not experience the massive amount of carpet dye pollution in the 80s that the Oostanaula did. Back then, the water would turn colors and you could cut down a tree and see several multi-colored rings in the cross section. Why are people so stupid?

The last bit of the journey passed by the new river park, which has been sadly overlooked and half-assed by the city government. We're working on that too.

After several native mussel shells, a sunburn on my knees and the top of my hand (don't ask me how), and a pair of sore arms, we arrived at the Hwy 136 bridge, where we got out. It was funny, because my mom works right across the river from the boat ramp and she called saying she saw me. It was cute. My mom is awesome (most of the time).

I'm really looking forward to the official trip in August. It'll be SO MUCH FUN with Corey, and I'm pretty sure we'll both be asking for canoes this Christmas.

Here's some Old Crow Medicine Show doing "James River Blues" - they rule.


  1. Wow. Having never been on the Oostanaula, I would have thought it was a moderately "deep" river about 12'-20' in most places. I had no idea that for the most part, it was shallow. hrm.

    I'm also surprised that the fish-waters haven't been completely removed on this section of river. I guess they're more of a use than a hindrance to the good 'ole boys, after all.

    You might be interested in this information, if you don't know about it already:

  2. Yeah, Bumper generally keeps up with the discharge. We had those couple days with a lot of rain right after we took our float. I'm kind of glad we went we did, or we wouldn't have been able to see the fish wier or the Navigational structures.

    You and Sarah should come, man. It'll be a blast. :^)


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