As one of those who love to kayak but paddle just often enough, to be just good enough, (or bad enough) to get into situations where I frequently think I am about to die, I should stick with saner sports. Every time I jump out into the "Put-In" rapid on the Ocoee, I am sure that before I reach "Power House" rapid I will have to be dragged out of the river by paramedics. Quite possibly before I ever get past "Grumpy Ledge." (I have managed to turn over just above the hole at "Grumpy" - A true test of your roll).
A Few Pictures from the Ocoee River in Tennessee:
Will and me just below "Double Suck" and we are still alive. Of course, "Double Trouble" is a couple of hundred yards below.
The Nantahalla River in North Carolina: Rinning the Falls
The Tallapoosa River in Tallassee Alabama:
We lived in Tallassee 15 years before we started paddling. There are three Alabama Power Dams on the river above and in Tallassee. The first dam is Lake Martin dam, then Yates dam and Thurlow dam in Tallassee. Below Thurlow is about one and one half miles of amazing whitewater. The difficulty varies with the volume of water flowing through the turbines at Thurlow. The flow is always at least 1,200 cfs. With one generator running the flow is about 6,500 cfs, and with two generators, about 13,000 cfs. Although the river is over one-half mile wide in places, at the end it narrows to about 100 yards. Things get exciting down there. The first half-mile is class one and two. The last mile is another story. There is a long stretch of solid class two then you reach Roller Coaster (class two or three) depending on where you run. Tallapoosa Falls is about 100 yards below Roller Coaster. The falls have a drop of about eight feet and cannot safely be run at 1,200. (There is a shoot off to the left called Nantahala Bend that bypasses the falls completely.) At 6,500 cfs the falls can be run at two places, on the far river right and on the far river left. (Class 3 and class 4 respectively.) To the left in one shoot about 5 feet wide that must be hit at the exact spot. That is the class 3. At this point the half mile wide river is constricted down to about 100 yards. When you drop over the edge (shown in the picture below you hit the fastest, most powerful water I ever paddled. I have never run the falls upright!! There are a couple of other spots the falls can be run but they are dangerous with very real risk of pinning. And it has happened several times. On top of that, all the rocks in the falls are undercut. The water below is violent but very deep and safe. At 6500 this is the only safe spot to run the falls. The right side is very tricky and a solid class 4. At 13,000 cfs the falls wash out with no technical features other than some wild waves that challenge anyone to staying upright. At 13,000 there is one VERY DANGEROUS undercut rock located just right of center just below the falls. It cannot be seen form above. Although it looks like a standing wave it is actually a large undercut rock that will pull you and your boat under the water and into it's vortex. On the subject of danger, there are two terminal hydraulics in Roller Coaster. They are easy to avoid but you must know where they are and it is impossible to scout the river from shore. Paddle the first time with someone that know the river.
Will dropping into Tallapoosa Falls at 6,000 cfs.
Me dropping into Tallspoosa Falls and disappearing. You are under for a moment.
Will and Me below the NOC on a great play wave
Me sufring below the NOC. That is about all I can do on theis wave.
Just a couple of pictures form the Ocoee
1. Passing the hole above Nantahalla falls
2. Realizing I am too far left
3. Franticly paddling to reach the tongue.
4. Continuing to try to reach the tongue as I drop over the falls
5. Great place to practice your roll. I have probably run the falls 50 times. Why do you screw up when someone is taking your picture.
Looks like will missed the tongue too, but he wasn't trying to reach it as he went over.