I suspect I’ve told you before that I love the great outdoors. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that when it comes to a choice between the mountains and the beach, odds are I’ll choose the mountains nine times out of 10.
One of the great things about our little corner of the world is that we’re relatively close to both. Rome and Floyd County sit near the southern terminus of the Appalachian Mountain chain and are about five hours, unless you drive like a bat out of you know where, from either the Atlantic or Gulf beaches.
If you’re a 9-year-old sitting in the back seat of a car, I suspect five hours seems like forever. As one matures, a five hour drive is not bad. It’s certainly better than nine or 10 hours.
Mountains and beaches probably have a lot more things in common than I can imagine, but one thing that comes to mind right away are rivers.
Rivers have carved valleys through the mountains ever since the Creator spoke them into existence. They have emptied into the oceans for equally as long.
My life’s journey seems to have been defined by three rivers, both at the outset and again now.
When I grew up, it was the Potomac, Shenandoah and Rappahannock. Now of course it’s the Etowah, Oostanaula and Coosa.
For those who don’t know, the Shenandoah and Potomac have a confluence at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It’s the home of the Appalachian Trail headquarters and is considered pretty close to the midway point of the famous trail.
The Rappahannock starts near my grandparents’ home in Flint Hill, Virginia, and meanders southeast into the Chesapeake Bay.
I can remember actually driving through the Shenandoah as a teenager. You read that correctly, “driving through” the river at Front Royal. There used to be a low water bridge across the river such that, when the flow was low enough during the summer, you could actually drive across the river.
I haven’t been to Front Royal in close to 30 years so I don’t know if that bridge still exists. For modern day insurance purposes, I seriously doubt it.
I used wade into the Rappahannock River to go crabbing at a friend’s home near Piankatank, where the Rappahannock empties into the Chesapeake Bay. It was an awful lot of fun until you stepped on a big ol’ crab and he took offense to that with his pinchers.
As far as the Potomac goes, it was river you had to cross to get into Washington, D.C. Suffice to say I much preferred the Harpers Ferry area to the seat of our country’s now completely discombobulated government.
Fast forward close to 40 years and now I’m privileged to call the Oostanaula, Etowah and Coosa my home base.
I’m really now just wanting to spend more time on the rivers. A new kayak is on the top of my Christmas list this year. I can actually fit into a kayak now and my center of gravity is considerably less perilous as it relates to enjoying the serenity and beauty of a paddle on any of the rivers.
Up to now, my paddling has been limited to lakes but I believe I am ready for the rivers. We’re not talking whitewater here. The Etowah and Oostanaula will never be confused for the Ocoee or Nantahala.
Use of our rivers has grown exponentially over the last decade. A pretty weekend between and April and October draws scores, if not hundreds, of people to the rivers with their kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and inner tubes.
I love driving across either the Second Avenue or Fifth Avenue bridges and seeing folks out on the river.
I haven’t tried paddleboarding yet. Mike and Connie Sams don’t sell enough beer at the River Dog Outpost to get me up on one of the things.
The one thing about paddling on the Oostanaula during the July through October period is the fact that, unless we’ve just had a big rain, the channel of the river from Ridge Ferry Park to the confluence of the rivers is generally less than 4 feet.
The one thing that is problematic is all of the debris in the river. I’m convinced the banks of the Oostanaula north of State Mutual Stadium can’t have many trees left on them. So many have washed down the river over the years!
I’m so proud of the Georgia DOT for cleaning up the debris that had piled up on the columns under the bridge at the stadium. If Norfolk Southern will only clean up the piles of trees that act as garbage catchers on the trestle supports under the span that bisects Ridge Ferry Park!
I’d love to see more events on the rivers, particularly the Coosa. I think some sort of Mayo’s Bar (Lock & Dam) to Montgomery Landing (Brushy Branch) float or fishing tournament could be an awesome event. It would showcase two of our recreational facilities that are underutilized.
Finally, I’m hopeful that engineers in Chattanooga can come up with a design for improvements to Unity Point at the confluence. That’s a 2013 SPLOST project that hasn’t happened yet. While the key to that project is protecting the point from future erosion, it is expected to include a canoe/kayak launch and take-out area as well.
Here’s hoping the consultants are able to come up with a beautiful and efficient project that fits the $1.8 million SPLOST budget.