Kayaking – Allatoona Dam

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I’ve enjoyed a couple trips now with the Coosa River Basin Initiative, a conservancy group for the various North Georgia Rivers that form the Coosa River just before it enters Alabama.  Each month, they schedule a group kayaking trip, typically from 10-13 miles.  This trip was on the Etowah River, beginning at the discharge of Allatoona Dam and continuing to Cartersville, GA.

One nice thing about entering the water here is that it is much cleaner than that upstream.  Why?  The dam discharges from the bottom, free of sediment or floating plants or algae.

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Then, of course, you learn that the lack of oxygen in the water forever changes the river and the number of species no longer present.  There were about 50 of us on this trip, and, other than the CRBI leader, no one I recognized as a repeat from my previous trip.  Still, it was an amiable group.  For what promised to be a scorching day, the most pleasant aspect was that when the wind blew, it picked up the coldness of the water, which may as well have been outdoor air-conditioning.  It felt really good.

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Sadly, it’s getting rather mundane to paddle underneath bridges, whether active or forgotten.

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On the other hand, you never know when something will catch your eye.  These pipes were suspended by cables affixed to towers at both sides of the river, with braces to support them.  Cut the cable and… some sort of pollution I guess. 

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Otherwise, it’s a nice, sunny day, with temperatures climbing to the mid-90’s.   The thing about rivers is that you have to pay attention where you’re going.  Tree limbs sticking up, shallow areas with rocks, or… in another 50’ from the below…

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An abrupt and unpleasant ending to the day.  Fortunately, we were forewarned.  So, what do you do to avoid individual destruction or mass casualties?

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You “portage” around the obstacle.  This was much, much safer. That’s a truthful statement, but not as truthful as it should be. There’s a little creek that crosses the narrow loose-stoned path, just for an extra thrill.  Hey guys, help the ladies.  There were several casualties, all favoring the leafy side of the path.

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The river largely is “natural,” meaning that any developments are set back from the river at a distance where they’re never seen.  But then, you come across a good distance flanked by very nice houses.  And, if you should buddy up to the CRBI guide, he’ll inform you how the different choices of each homeowner to prevent erosion actually worsen things downstream for their neighbors and/or cause more erosion on the opposite bank.

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My, that was a nice, vibrant sky.  What’s that thunder in the distance.  It’s just summer.  No threat.  Fast forward five minutes, “Clear the river!” 

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Always, always, pack a rain jacket.  I did.  I still got soaked.  And, I’m not certain that climbing the banks of the river to some scattered trees and Indian mounds are the best spot to hide out from lightning.  Nevertheless, the clouds parted, and may as well explore.

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Actually, a stop at the Etowah Indian Mounds had been planned – a special access privilege from the river, discounted $5 admission, a planned lunch stop.  It lost something in translation.  Still, I learned a bit about the ancient “city,” customs, etc.  So I climbed the main mound, where the leader ruled, raised my arms, and… no one was there to take my picture.  In any case, the depicted dude had no idea his back would one day face a nuclear power plant in the distance.

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In this and the other trip, I paddled over Cherokee fishing weirs, sometimes without ever seeing them depending on the water level.  Weirs are stone funnels/dams laid in the river.  The fish would gather upstream of the rocks due to the current, and then they would be chased to the throat where they would be caught.  Many of these weirs still exist, several hundred years later.  The V wedge below, directly adjacent to the mounds, is clearly visible.  When you’re paddling, it just looks like rocks in the way.  Hint: aim for the middle.

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Later, we stopped for the obligatory biology demonstration, scaring up small fish that stay hidden in the rocks and catching them with a skein.   Some were very interested.

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There.  Genuine Georgia wildlife.

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And, many watched from a distance. 

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All things considered, a great way to spend a day.

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