Piney River and Tributaries Designated Scenic Rivers (TN)
On June 22, 2020, the Piney River, Little Piney River, and Duskin Creek, located near Spring City, became Tennessee's newest Scenic Rivers when the Governor signed a related bill into law. These creeks flow from the Cumberland Plateau down into deep cliff-lined canyons that are traversed by hikers, paddlers, and anglers. The creeks join adjacent Soak Creek as recently designated Scenic Rivers. American Whitewater and other paddling groups actively supported protection of these streams. The move recognizes that Tennessee is home to unique rivers and creeks that are a source of pride and rejuvenation for Tennesseans and should be protected for future generations.
Six rivers added to the Virginia Scenic Rivers System
The Virginia Scenic Rivers Program turns 50 this year, and it just received quite the birthday gift - the addition of six rivers to the state scenic system, including the beloved Maury River! This milestone is further evidence that river designations are a broadly supported tool for communities to protect and celebrate the rivers that offer so much in terms of recreation, ecology, clean water, public health, and economic benefits.
A Close Look at Cheoah River Fatalities
The recent death of Chris Clark at Python Rapid on North Carolina's Cheoah River is the third at this site in the last six years. In each case, the person who died was an expert paddler and their paddling partners did not see exactly what happened. Let's take a close look at the Cheoah below Bear Creek Falls and develop strategies for future runs. The river here is very fast and continuous. After a fast lead-in (Chaos), the river drops over Bear Creek Falls, a 12' drop. Below, most of the flow pushes toward the river right channel (Python). Ferrying over to the easier river left channel (the West Prong) requires careful boat control. Python itself contains several nasty holes and sieves, with a bad hole blocked by a boulder at the bottom. There is a good route through it, but paddlers need to plan their route carefully. Scouting is a good idea for first timers, although catching eddies and getting out is not going to be easy. Groups need to stay together.. The rapid is tough enough that you can't watch your buddy all the time, but you can be ready to help if needed. Click through for links to the accident reports, photos, and comments from expert Cheoah River paddlers. (Photo above by Boyd Ruppelt)
Green River Release Schedule Set for 2020 (NC)
Last year, Northbrook Energy purchased the Tuxedo Hydropower Project from Duke Energy. This hydropower project provides the flows for the Class III+ Upper Green, the Class V Narrows, and the Class II Lower Green - all of which are popular whitewater runs. As the sale was underway, American Whitewater and others advocated for assurances in the contract that recreational releases would continue to follow a predictable pattern and be communicated as a forecast online. The contract contains these guarantees for the public, and earlier today river users got on the phone with the power company for a positive conversation confirming the 2020 schedule.
Southeast Advanced Release Dates for 2020
American Whitewater and our affiliate clubs have spent the past 25 years working to restore flows to incredible Southeastern rivers impacted by dams. A lot of our work has focused on Class II and III rivers like the lower Nantahala, Tuckasegee, Hiwassee, and Catawba, but we also secured releases in some classic steeper reaches previously dewatered by hydroelectric diversions. Each year we meet with power companies and agencies to schedule future releases, review ongoing ecology studies, and discuss any issues with the release programs. In this post we are pleased to share the 2020 dates for the Class IV/V Cheoah, Nantahala Cascades & Upper, West Fork Tuck, and Tallulah rivers.
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, dies
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, died on November 20th, 2019. He was 83. A microbiologist by training, Terry began paddling in the mid-1960's while a professor at Emory University. He took to whitewater readily, and it became an important focus of his life. In 1969 he met veteran paddler Doug Woodward, and in 1971 the two became the technical advisers for the movie "Deliverance." Afterwards, Terry and Woodward purchased the rafts Warner Brothers used in filming and bought 19 acres near the river. This became Southeastern Expeditions, one of the Southeast's first whitewater outposts on the Chattooga. In 1974, Terry took then-Gov. Jimmy Carter on three trips on the Chatooga River, totaling 57 miles. This inspired Carter to get the Chattooga included in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and influenced later decisions protecting rivers across the U.S."Terry adopted me as one of his students," Carter told Outside Online in a 2017 interview. "it opened my eyes to the relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had contemplated before that. When I got to be president I vetoed 16 different dam projects all over the United States." Terry eventually quit his Emory University job and started full time career in environmental advocacy, including founding American Rivers, a principal U.S. conservation group. For the next 30 years he specialized in environmental projects involving rivers and wetlands and later, when he became a board-certified toxicologist, he developed an expertise in hazardous waste cleanups. He was an active paddler until sidelined by Parkinson's Disease. A passionate teacher and advocate, he is sorely missed by all who knew him. Click through for an excellent obituary and a photo of Terry taking Governor Carter over Bull Sluice!
AW Launches Hiwassee Dries (TN/NC) Flow Survey
American Whitewater has long had an interest in restoring flows to the 13-mile long, biologically diverse Hiwassee River Dries. American Whitewater is gathering information on the recreational, hydrological, and ecological attributes of the river in order to create a science-based vision for a restored Hiwassee Dries. We have created an online survey to hone in on the recreational flow preferences of paddlers who have run the river. Ultimately this will help us create proposals for flow restoration that meet ecological and recreational goals in an integrated manner. If you have paddled the Dries, please take just a few minutes and fill out this survey.
Cheoah River Survey Responses Needed (NC) (Update - Results)
American Whitewater was a lead negotiator of the releases on the Cheoah River back in the early 2000's and we now collaboratively review and schedule the releases each year. Paddler attendance at releases in 2019 was significantly lower than in prior years, and we'd like to better understand and share with our partners why that was the case. If you paddled the Cheoah River in the past 2-3 years please take this quick 3-5 minute survey to help ensure we are doing everything we can do to make the Cheoah an awesome resource.
Russell Fork Release Study Open For Comment (VA/KY)
The Army Corps of Engineers has shared their Environmental Assessment that considered four potential changes to the fall whitewater release program aimed at enhancing whitewater paddling opportunities. The Corps is planning on providing two additional Friday releases this fall as a result of the analysis. The EA is refreshingly succinct, and we encourage paddlers to give it a read and submit a comment if you are inspired to do so.
Russell Fork Releases Expanded (KY/VA)
The fall release schedule for the Russell Fork River was recently announced, and it includes two new Friday releases that will offer 3-day weekends of releases. While announced without explanation, the added released are presumably a result of a public process convened by the Army Corp of Engineers last spring to explore the possibility of an expanded release schedule. American Whitewater and many regional paddlers advocated for additional recreational releases throughout the public process. We conducted and shared a survey that indicated significant support for Friday releases. The new releases are listed as "tentative and subject to change," and hopefully if they go well additional releases will be scheduled in future years. Enjoy these new paddling opportunities!
Southeast Advanced Release Schedule Set for 2019!
It is looking like another great year to be a paddler in the Southeast! Over the past two decades American Whitewater has worked with affiliate clubs and partners to negotiate an awesome array of scheduled releases on river reaches previously dewatered by hydropower dams. Each year we help schedule these releases in an integrated manner that aims to maximize their recreational value. Read on to see the great line up for 2019!
Gauley Fest - September 13-16, 2018 - Summersville, WV
Get your groove on baby! This year Gauley Fest is a 60's themed event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. To memorialize that historic event we are flashing back to another era for a 60's throwdown. Started in 1983 to celebrate the derailment of a hydro-electric project that would have disrupted the flows on the Gauley River, Gauley Fest has grown to become the largest paddling festival in the world.
2018 Letter To Gauley Boaters From The NPS (WV)
American Whitewater received the following open letter to boaters from the rangers and staff of the Gauley River National Recreation Area. This letter will keep you up to date on important management actions of the National Park Service on the Gauley River. Enjoy your paddling season on this classic whitewater river. As in past years, American Whitewater has leased the field above Masons Branch, also known as the Legg field, for overflow parking.
Johnnies Creek Access Update (Summer 2018)
AW has been in touch with True Adventure Sports, who have acquired access rights at the Mill Hole put in for Johnnies Creek. We are pleased to share an update the we worked with TAS to share with the paddling community.
Dam on North Carolina's Green River to be Sold
Earlier today Duke Energy announced the pending sale of five hydropower dams in western North and South Carolina to Northbrook Energy. The pending sale includes the Tuxedo Hydropower Project, which regulates flows in the popular Green River below Lake Summit. Recreational releases and flow information will be continued under new ownership through a non-regulatory approach based on collaboration with American Whitewater and other leaders in the paddling community.
Ocoee Decision Signed - Releases to Continue! (TN)
Earlier today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) released their decision and accompanying final analysis regarding the future of dam releases on the wildly popular Ocoee River. TVA decided to provide a flow schedule nearly identical to the current schedule on both the Middle and Upper Ocoee. Doing so will foster the robust recreation-based economy that relies on the river, and will protect existing ecological and recreational values.
AW Secures Grant for NC Forest Planning Collaborative
American Whitewater is pleased to share that we were recently awarded a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina to support professional facilitation for the Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Partnership. The Partnership is made up of a diverse range of regional interest groups working together to create a shared vision for the future management of the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests.
Catawba River Access Enhancements to Begin (NC/SC)
Federal regulators recently gave Duke Energy the green light to move forward on the Catawba-Wateree recreation management plan. The plan includes public recreation requirements and agreements included in the new 40-year license FERC issued in 2015 for the Catawba-Wateree’s Hydroelectric Project. The project encompasses nearly 1,800 miles of shoreline along 11 reservoirs and multiple river reaches in nine counties in North Carolina and five in South Carolina. Projects include new picnic facilities, fishing piers, swim beaches, campgrounds, expanded parking, restrooms and additional boating access areas.
2018 Advanced Southeast Release Schedule Set!
It is looking like another great year to be a paddler in the Southeast! Over the past two decades American Whitewater has worked with affiliate clubs and partners to negotiate an awesome array of scheduled releases on river reaches previously dewatered by hydropower dams. Each year we are part of a process to schedule these releases in an integrated manner that aims to maximize their recreational value. Check out the outstanding line up for 2018.
Good News on the Ocoee + a Public Meeting
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has released their Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA) for the future of the Ocoee River. The news is generally good. They support the continuation of the historic flow schedule on both the Middle and Upper Ocoee River, minus 5 September weekdays on the Middle. The DEA finds that the releases benefit the local economy and at least one rare plant living on rocks in the riverbed. File a comment or join TVA at a meeting next Monday if you would like to share your thoughts.