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Archive for August, 2009

Let the Scouting Begin

Large boulders create a playground at in one of the Broad's bends en route to Clarks Hill Lake and its confluence with the Savannah.

Large boulders create a playground at in one of the Broad's bends en route to Clarks Hill Lake and its confluence with the Savannah.

It’s late summer and that means it’s time to begin scouting for Paddle Georgia 2010. One of the great perks of organizing Paddle Georgia is being “forced” to explore different Georgia rivers each year. In 2010, we’ll battle the Broad and slide down the Savannah…assuming we are blessed with enough water.

The trip down the Broad and Savannah will not be without its logistical challenges. There is one massive lake to get around (Clarks Hill) that will require a portage of nearly 70 miles (don’t worry you won’t have to carry your boat). All told there are three dams to manuver around–plus a portage from the Augusta canal back to the main channel of the Savannah. How are we going to do it all? Don’t ask me now; that’s why we scout it.

Earlier this month April Ingle and I had the pleasure of exploring the Broad from Ga. 72 to Ga. 79…one thing about the Broad River is that it is traversed by far too many highways including the number 7 in the name. This 29-mile section is characterized by flat water interrupted by occasional gravel bars with riffles and a couple of shoals. The highlight is Anthony Shoals–a garden of rocks and water that stretches a quarter mile from one river bank to the other just before the Broad loses itself in Clarks Hill Lake at Ga. 79.

Anthony Shoals from its base, looking upriver. They say a channel was cut here to move barges upriver during the early days of settlement...talk about undaunted courage.

Anthony Shoals from its base, looking upriver. They say a channel (middle of photo) was cut here to move barges upriver during the early days of settlement...talk about undaunted courage.

To say that this set of shoals is impressive is an understatement. To give you and idea of the expansiveness of this fall line feature, Anthony Shoals is more than double the width of the largest fall line shoals on the Flint and Ocmulgee. When you stand atop the rocks at the base of Anthony Shoals and look upstream at the maze of water and rocks, you understand that something very dramatic happened here geologically. 

April body surfs through one of Anthony's maze-like shoals.

April body surfs through one of Anthony's maze-like shoals.

What Anthony Shoals has in width, it lacks in depth and fall. At the below normal 220 cfs flow that we paddled, picking through the rock islands and shoals was a tedious process with only marginal whitewater rewards near the end of the run. Anthony Shoals is not the Flint’s Yellow Jacket Shoals (Class III); even in normal flows it can’t rival Lamar Mill Rapid on the Ocmulgee (Class II-III).  In high flows Anthony approaches Class II status.

But, it is a beautiful sight, and if we are lucky during Paddle Georgia 2010 we will be able to catch some late blooming shoals lilies that find a home at Anthony.

A snapping turtle scoots to the safety of deeper water.

A snapping turtle scoots to the safety of deeper water.

Upstream, the river is remote and shallow with abundant sand bars…and wildlife. We came face-to-face with five otters in two separate parties during our journey. They surfaced and snorted at us as they took cover in their den behind a ball of roots in the river bank–peering out occasionally to check out their intruders. A snapping turtle bowed up at us when we shot its photo; osprey hunted before us; we caught a beaver off guard during daylight hours and a bald eagle took flight as we slipped beneath its perch. Egrets and herons (blue and green) were plentiful and the fish were active. In two days of travel, we saw all of six people on the river. I’m certain the otters outnumbered us–at least on this weekend.

We camped on a sandbar, getting caught in an afternoon thundershower that seemed to stall over the Broad. Though it forced us to huddle for an hour or more beneath a plastic tarp with our firewood, we were grateful for it. The Broad, undammed from its headwaters, needs all the help it can get when it comes to flows.

We inspect a Broad River helgamite, soon to be a dobson fly, or a meal for a fish.

We inspect a Broad River helgamite, soon to be a dobson fly, or a meal for a fish.

The journey downriver was decidely dicey, requiring a discerning paddle to find the best route across the river’s shifting sands. Be forewarned, we were forced out of our canoe on more than one occasion…OK, perhaps a dozen occasions, but it wasn’t as bad as it was in 2008 when a similar trip convinced us that the Oostanaula would be a better choice for 2009 on the heels of a two year drought.

Our hope is that the weather patterns will dump adeqaute rain on the Broad’s northeast Georgia watershed and come June 19, 2010 there will be enough water to float us.

Check back soon for more news from the Broad.

Joe Cook

Aug. 29, 2009

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