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Cheoah River Tree Removal and AW Dinner

Posted: 05/15/2007
by Ben Van Camp

Reclaiming the Cheoah

The USDA Forest Service is working with American Whitewater to organize a volunteer work day on the Cheoah River on May 18th, 2007.  The effort will be focused on the removal of live woody vegetation from within the stream bed.  Paddlers interested in volunteering should rsvp to, and should meet at Joanne's Store along the Cheoah River at 9am on the morning of the 18th.  Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes and other appropriate clothing for rough work in a brushy and boulder-filled river channel at baseflow.  Volunteers should bring handtools if at all possible, including saws, shears, and clippers, and should also bring lunch and drinking water.  USDA Forest Service personnel will assist volunteers and assure that natural resources are protected as the tree removal is carried out.  

The trees growing in the Cheaoh River's channel took root and grew during previous decades when the river was totally dewatered by the Santeetlah Dam.  This is a common impact of dams and diversions that dewater or decrease flows in rivers.  The base flows and high flows restored to the Cheoah in the fall of 2005 have not restored the channel by killing and removing the trees and shrubs which have encroached into the channel.  It is likely that these flows will not be able to eliminate the trees growing in the channel because the restored flows are still significantly lower than natural flows, and because the trees and shrubs are adapted to regular scour and inundation.  Removal of the trees growing in the Cheoah River's bed will restore the river to a more natural state, and will significantly improve safety and recreational enjoyment of the river. 

It is important to note that logs and other downed woody debris is a natural component of stream ecosystems in the southeastern united states.  Removing logs and other downed wood from streams is strongly discouraged.  The Cheoah effort is aimed at removing live trees from within the bed of a high gradient mountain stream, which are not a natural component of the ecosystem.  Volunteers should remove only standing trees and shrubs growing in the actual riverbed, based on direction provided by the USDA Forest Service.  It may also be appropriate to dislodge or remove downed wood that is trapped upstream of standing trees and shrubs in the channel, since these pieces of wood would have otherwise been transported downstream.  Decisions on what to remove and leave will be made by USFS resource experts.     

The tree removal effort is part of the ongoing restoration work on the Cheoah, which has included several organized tree removal efforts over the past several years.  Sadly, this effort follows a drowning on the Cheoah River which appears to have been related to the in-channel vegetation.      


American Whitewater Cheoah Dinner on May 19th

American Whitewater is hosting a celebration of our southeastern rivers at 6:30 pm on May 19th at the Tapoco Lodge on the banks of the Cheoah River.  Join event hosts Sutton Bacon, Chris Bell, and Brian Jacobson for an enjoyable evening with guest speaker Doug Woodward author of Wherever the Water Flows.  Woodward will talk about his exploration of southeastern rivers in the 60’s and 70’s along with his role in the filming of Deliverance.

The dinner at the Cheoah River will raise money for American Whitewater’s Little Tennessee restoration initiative.  For a brief PDF of American Whitewater’s efforts in the southeast click here!

Tickets for this dinner are $75 and can be purchased through American Whitewater’s website or by calling Carla at 866-BOAT-4AW. 

To learn more about Doug Woodward and his book Wherever the Water flows visit his website.

Ben VanCamp
49 Johnston Blvd
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-713-5825