Kayaking the Etowah River

Ann and I kayaked down the Etowah River with a group of friends on Saturday. On Sunday, the front page of the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper displayed a photo of some people on the river in kayaks, accompanying an article about dangers to the water quality of the river (Tourists, developers set off alarms over N. Ga. river ).

This beautiful little river provides drinking water for many thousands of Georgians. The river was running high due to the recent rainfall. One tributary that we passed, a large creek, was red with sediment. Subsequently, the right side of the Etowah was red for several hundred yards below the confluence. Too much sediment!

Etowah Falls, a class 5, ten-foot drop, was roaring with power and turbulence. Everyone portaged around it. Smart.

Thanks to Candace Stoughton for organizing the trip. I know why we don’t see many old guys in kayaks on big whitewater. My back was sore! I hadn’t been in a kayak since a two-day trip down the Klammath River in northern California in 1997. I still have some paddling skills, but the muscles don’t respond or recover like they once did. We rented "sit-on-top" kayaks.

The kayak that served me well on the Ocoee, Chatooga, and Nantahala Rivers in the 1980’s has been retired — it rests in peace in our backyard, home to various insects and small critters. The "sit-on-top" represents a breakthrough in kayak marketing — now anyone can paddle a kayak without learning how to roll (not a trivial process). It handled enough like a whitewater kayak that I had fun, and Ann didn’t feel like she could drown at any moment. Good stuff.