Tallapoosa River Trip, May 29-31, 2009
by Curt Cole
The Tallapoosa begins in NW Georgia, N of I-20, and flows SW into Alabama, eventually joining the Coosa to form the Alabama River near Montgomery. Eleven GWS members got together to paddle part of a 44-mile section designated the Loyd Owens Canoe Trail, in Cleburne county, Alabama. The trail has about nine official access points, mostly consisting of steps, but at least two points have concrete boat ramps. Participating were: Basil & Tammie Youman, Terry Neely & Margaret Clay, & Curt & Irene Cole in tandems, & Rob Apsley, Kerry Coburn, Gus Lane, Dave Buchholz, & Marty Dyche soloing.
We all arrived Friday fternoon/evening and camped at Tallapoosa River Outfitters (TRO) on Hwy 46 south of Heflin. This outfitter has a small campground right on the banks of the river, under huge shade trees, and next to a cow pasture and huge green field. About all it lacks is a real shower. With six campers per site, it only cost us $5 each for the whole weekend. The owner seems real nice, and he rents boats and runs shuttles as well. No mosquitoes pestered us and nighttime temperatures in the mid fifties made everybody wish they'd brought a light jacket. Basil waded the river to gather firewood on an island and we sat around the fire till about 10:00 or so.
Most of us ate breakfast together Sat. morning at Marie's BBQ House. We left camp at 10:30 for the put-in, Dryden's Mill, on County Road 448. There are several campsites here, and the remains of the old mill dam. Starting the 14 mile paddle at 11:15, 1st time paddler Margaret was teamed with Terry in a tandem canoe. He kept up the lessons the whole time on the water and Margaret seemed to pick it up easily.
Probably no more than ½ dozen houses were seen on this day. Recent rains kept the river muddier than anticipated, but our amateur naturalists identified blooming plants such as silky dogwood, elderberry, virginia sweetspire, native white azalea, and lots of mountain laurel which were mostly past their peak. Lots of kingfishers were also seen, as well as barn & cliff swallows near camp. Cliffs maybe 10' high were often seen. The river is mostly flatwater with a few gentle shoals. Most of the group tried their hand at surfing the one notable ledge (1'-2' high) on this stretch. Not many sand or gravel bars were found, but we spent an hour for lunch on one. The sky was mostly clear and temps in the eighties. The trip took 5.75 hours, including lunch. Water level was 3.83', 345 cfs on the Heflin gauge. Plenty of water. Take out was at the ramp at camp.
Most of the group headed in to Heflin for supper at Hometown Family Restaurant, where they had decent prices and plenty of food. Fudge, brownies and peanuts were passed around at the campfire.
After Sunday breakfast at camp, we shuttled most vehicles to Co. Rd. 19, which had plenty of parking room, then left Basil's car at CR 84 (Evans Bridge Rd.) since he needed to get home earlier than the rest of us bums. We put in at TRO at 10:35 for this 12 & 7-mile run. More sand/gravel bars were seen on this section, a few more short shoals, and plenty of pretty scenery, again with little development.
One kayaker became a member of the red-faced group most of us belong to—those who have capsized, when the current pushed him onto a rock. A number of old steel truss bridges spanned the river.
The trip ended just under 5 hours from the put-in, including 1 hour for lunch. Gauge reading was 3.66', 305 cfs. Another beautiful day paddling with a good group of people.
Most of us are anxious to paddle the river again, further upriver, and possible further down river. It's an easy beginner paddle.
This was my first time coordinating a paddle trip and I hope it was enjoyable for all. Thanks to all those who participated.