Spring Tallulah Releases Cancelled, More Releases Sought (GA)
Tallulah Gorge State Park has cancelled whitewater paddling opportunities this spring on the Tallulah River due to Covid-19 concerns. Releases are typically provided the first two weekends in April, and the first three weekends in November to allow paddling in the otherwise largely dewatered gorge, based on a settlement agreement and federal license for the upstream dam. The Park shared that a higher-level Covid-related decision closing all activities at the bottom of the Gorge remains in effect, closing the area to hiking, climbing and paddling. Other areas of the Park remain open, as do paddling activities in other State Parks in Georgia.
In response, American Whitewater and several partners are asking Georgia State Parks for two actions.
First, we are asking that the closure be lifted so that paddling can be allowed this fall, if not this spring, with some standard Covid protocols in place. We are confident that paddlers can responsibly access and enjoy the river while maintaining physical distance, as is the case with other rivers.
Second, with several partner organizations we are proposing that a long overdue shift be made in how aesthetic flows are released by the dam owner. Rather than the current 26 releases at 200cfs, we propose 9 releases at 500-700cfs. This shift would lead to 9 more paddling days on aesthetic releases, and eliminate 17 days when current aesthetic flows prevent gorge-floor hiking and rock climbing under the current permit system. While a long term change, this shift would provide some near term make-up recreational opportunities for those lost due to Covid-19 and related closures.
Making this shift would require approval from Georgia State Parks and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. We look forward to working with Georgia State Parks, Southern Company, and other partners on this improvement to the management of the Tallulah River.