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Tallulah Gorge Releases Return! (GA)

Posted: 10/15/2021
By: Kevin Colburn
Tallulah Gorege releases are back! Following over a year in which releases were cancelled because of dam safety issues that required repairs to water release gates and because of Covid, releases will kick off again on the first three weekends in November. American Whitewater negotiated these releases back in the mid-nineties and they quickly became a centerpiece of Southeastern paddling. We are happy to share some updates on Tallulah Gorge releases, and advice on how to visit the river responsibly. First some news. 
 
Georgia Power, which owns the series of dams on the Tallulah, has requested regulatory permission to upgrade the generators in the Tugalo Dam powerhouse at the takeout for the Tallulah, starting next year. This massive project will require the closing of the recreation facilities near Tugalo Dam for approximately five years, starting sometime this winter after the fall releases. Thankfully, Georgia Power offered to provide free Tallulah Gorge shuttles during releases to the top of the hill during this timeframe but oddly requested that they not be required to do so by federal regulators. American Whitewater requested that shuttles be required, the regulators agreed, and now shuttles are guarenteed. This does not effect releases this fall. 
 
The paddling and climbing community have been seeking a change in the aesthetic flow schedule for Tallulah Gorge since March that would provide fewer but higher flow aesthetic releases that are boatable. This action would provide more days on which climbers and hikers are allowed in the Gorge, roughly double the available paddling days, would result in more dramatic aesthetic flows, and is is allowed under the license for the dam. In fact, there is a trigger in the license to add more paddling releases that has never been implemented, which this proposal would remedy. Making this change would require the support of Tallulah Gorge State Park, and we hope to continue discussions with the Park this fall.
 
Now for the 2021 Release Information: 
 
  • As these are "Covid Times" we need to be responsible and safeguard our fellow boaters and other Park visitors. If you are feeling under the weather or may have been exposed please consider waiting for the next release. 
  • We are expecting high numbers of visitors for these releases as we have missed so many. The water is turned on at 8am and is typically stabilized by 9:30-10am at which point you can head down the stairs. The longest wait times on the stairs are between 11:45am and 1:30pm so try to rally outside that time frame. The early birds often catch the empty river.
  • Anyone interested in volunteering to contact Laura@TeamRiverRunner.org. We need volunteers!
  • There is a $5 Parking Pass (Cash Only) that covers both the Put In and Take Out parking. Don't forget cash. 
  • Parking at the Take Out is limited so please leave as few cars as possible down there.
  • The gate at the Take Out is locked at 5:30pm
  • Do not walk across the highway at the put in. This is prohibited. Use the underpass by the dam. 
  • Commercial trips are not allowed on Tallulah.
  • Maximum raft length is 12', 2 thwarts and a max of 3 rafters. Last rafts must be on the stairs by 1:45pm and last hard boats by 2:45pm. This is important so the sweep team can ensure no one gets stranded when the water is shut off.
  • Dogs must be kept on a leash and under control.
  • The speed limit down to the Take Out is a very strictly enforced 25mph (obviously no open containers)
 
Thank the volunteers and enjoy the river!
 
 

Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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Tallulah Gorge (GA)

The dams on Tallulah Gorge were among the first rivers in the Southeast to be relicensed and wow what a classic whitewater river it has become.

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