The Tallulah Gorge is truly a sight to see and it becomes even more up close and personal when plunging into the river in a kayak. I will never forget the first time I saw kayakers racing down this river deep in the gorge only to be covered up by the intense rapids and shot out the other side. It is a thrill like no other and a part of me really wanted to climb down there and and jump into a boat just to see if I could handle the rapids. It is deffinitely on the verge of insanity to run this river at full flow.
When the water is being released at it's peak level people from accross the State come to test their skills on this mighty river. On release weekends the flows are typically 500cfs on Saturday and 700cfs on Sunday. When the flows are over 700 this river turns into a class V whitwater section. As many know there are only a few opportunities to run the river at these levels and they include the first two weekends in April as well as the first three weekends in November. Not to mention that it is a long walk just to put your boat in the water; 600 steps to be exact. Paddlers are sure to be relaxing in Georgia cabins after this extreme thrashing in the rapids on the Tallulah River. What always amazed me is how much of the time their boats would flip in the middle of this white water and some how they would find the strength to turn back upright. This is a sport not for the faint of heart.
After the whitewater on this section of the river there is about 1.5 miles of flatwater across the Tugaloo Lake to the takeout at the Tugaloo dam. This is also another steep climb estimated at about 650 vertical feet.
Formation of the Tallulah
During the mid 1990's, Georgia Power decided to create a re-licensing of the Hydroelectric Projects along the Tallulah River. This was put forth by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Part of this process required looking at other uses of the river besides strictly hydroelectric production. This gave many groups including whitewater enthusiasts the opportunity to lobby FERC to ask Georgia Power to change the amount of water released over the Tallulah Dam. Today we now have an increased daily flow of water from 0-15 cubic feet per second to 35-50 cfs., whitewater releases which provides enough water for kayakers to paddle the Gorge, and aesthetic releases that create an incredible sight to see within the already majestic mountains of North Georgia. This is a drast comparison to what is was before the River was dammed in 1912. Even though many would argue that this dam is a positive aspect for the area it has created a much larger opportunity for kayakers to have class IV and V whitewater in close proximity to Helen Ga.
Equipment is Crucial
When deciding to shoot this adventurous section of river it is very important to have all of the right equipment and never paddle this section alone. Although the river seems very predictable with its constant flow this is far from the truth and there are a myriad of ways to find yourself in a dangerous sitiuation. A throw bag is probably one of the most important aspects to saftey on this water as well as a helmet, personal floatation device, and the right clothing. A spray skirt is absolutely essential to this river pursuit as well as a first aid kit. Don't forget the paddle leash as it is not possible to take another paddle onboard in this type of turbulent water.
As I spoke about before one of the most challenging situations while rafting this river is being turned upside down. And many times the paddler must exit the boat for saftey. At this point they either need the support of another person for re-entry or they can use a paddle float. This is a device that creates an outrigger when attached to the blade of the kayak paddle. It works to stabilized the kayak so that the swimmer can slide back into the boat. It must be inflated first which takes time especially in this turbulent environment. Next the it must be slid the other blade of the paddle underneatht the deck bungies behind the cockpit. Now using the floating paddle blade for support, the kayaker can hoist himself onto the deck and slide back into the cockpit. In this situation bilge pumps are also a neccessity as there is always leftover water in the boat.
Take the Plunge
Now that you know what to expect in this beautiful part of North Georgia don't hessitate to go ahead and set up your stay in the North Georgia cabins as I can assure you this will be a long day in the water. And there will be nothing like soaking in a hot tub after an exhilerating day on the Tallulah River. Be sure to consult the river flows before planning your trip as well as the weather. This will undoubtedly be a trip you will never forget. Get ready for the ride of your life!
Are you fully prepared to paddle the Tallulah Gorge?
Image #1 sourced from (theadventurecompany.com)
Image #2 sourced from (gorges-to-visit.com)
Image #3 sourced from (ashvillenow.com)