Monthly Archives: October 2017

South East Downriver Race – Nantahala River

The South East DownRiver Race is run by the Georgia Canoe Association on the 8 mile class II+ section of the Lower Nantahala River. It was our 4th downriver race of the season and the longest as well, thanks to the combination of low volume and physical distance.

This is the first race we’ve entered where there was a strong presence of downriver and slalom boats in addition to the regular short and long plastic boats. Downriver boats are fast and tippy – they are super light thanks to their carbonfiber construction, very narrow and don’t actually have a flat bottom.

Hunter opted to paddle a borrowed Jackson Karma UL, which was almost twice as big as him, and his first time in a long boat. I borrowed a Jackson Nirvana, which at 8ft 11 inches just makes the cut to stay as a short boat. They were big boats to wrestle down a shallow river but the length sure helped with our overall times.

The starting line is at the put in eddy at the top of the Lower Nantahala Run. It’s a pretty low key race, with the starter calling out the time and then people releasing at one minute intervals. Short boats went out first, with me in the #1 position, and my only goal for the entire race was to not get passed. SUCCESS on that one… I was the first one across the finish line, with the next boat being one of the long boats showing up about 25 seconds later (he started 6 minutes behind me…).

The race runs through the falls and then finishes at the founders bridge right at the Nantahala Outdoor Centre.

There were medals for every category and some long standing historic trophies for fastest canoe and kayak. It was tough being in the first position as I was not able to do my standard of chasing Hunter down the river. I won gold in K1 Women’s short boat (I was the only one). I was really proud that I came 2nd in K1 short boat overall at 66 minutes. Hunter worked hard, successfully wrestled the long boat, and came in with a time of 63 minutes so he took the family win.

It has been fun racing together this year – it pushes both of us and we have a fun shared experience as well.

 

 

The 9th Annual Ocoee Downriver Race

The Ocoee River Race is a 5 mile race from the #2 Dam down to the end of the powerhouse rapid. It is held in mid-October by the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club as a fundraiser for the Chattanooga chapter of Team River Runner, a national non-profit that supports wounded veterans.

Here is a fun video summary of the event: https://vimeo.com/238676387

Hunter and I entered the short boat class (under 9 ft) and the challenge was on to see who would have the fastest time! Hunter borrowed a friends Nirvana while I paddled my trusty Zen. Turns out the extra 6 inches in length on his boat helped make him extra speedy!

There were 130 paddlers and 190 start times this year (some people paddle in two classes). With starts happening one minute apart there was a fair bit of waiting to get on the river. The organizers did a great job of keeping things structured and moving. They called numbers in blocks of five and sent you down the ramp, where you got yourself organized and into the water to await your turn.

The start eddy fits two boats and you have about a minute to get into your boat and organized before it’s time to go!

The Ocoee River is a mixture of fun rapids, wave trains and really really shallow sections. It is also FULL of rafts, which made this a really interesting race. Most of the raft guides were great and would hold their boat back for a brief second to let you pass through and a few, not so much… they are there to make money and provide their guests with a good experience and they didn’t really care that you were trying to make your way through the maze of rubber.

Overall we had a super fun time and would definitely do it again. The organizers and racers are all really friendly and very supportive. There was a lot of sharing of “race line” info and other tips as you stood above the start ramp.

Hunter finished 6th in the junior short boat category with a time of 36:38 and I finished 4th in the Women’s short boat category with a time of 37:27. Chasing the kid down the river seems to help keep me motivated and him moving!

 

Tellico River – multi lap creek run!

The Tellico River is in Eastern Tennessee, just west of the North Carolina / Tennessee border. It is a class III/IV 2 mile run that people often run multiple laps on. The road runs beside the river so shuttles are super easy.  It is described as a fabulous intro to technical creeking for boaters in the south east.

It is a rain fed creek that can come up pretty quickly but also drop equally quickly. Thanks to Hurricane Nate we had a decent dump of rain and everyone was glued to their devices watching the gauges to see if enough water was going to fall. The gauge is downstream of the actual run so you have to incorporate the lag time into your decision on when to head to the river. Ideal level for your first time is 2.5 feet and it gets too shallow below 1.7 feet. Above 3.5 feet is too high.

The main creeking section of the Tellico is referred to as “the ledges” as it is a series of pool drop ledges with lots of horizon lines.

It is also the home of “Baby Falls” – a 12 foot drop that is a great introduction to waterfalls. You can climb out from the pool at the bottom and go back up and run it again and again and again and again. As there are lots of different lines you can stay amused for hours!

We only got 2 runs in and are hugely thankful to Casey Bryant Jones and Melissa Huckson for leading us down and supporting our first descent of the Tellico – it was super fun, really flowy and we definitely want to run it again.

Ocoee River Secret Week

The Ocoee River is located in eastern Tennessee just over the border from North Carolina. It is a dam release river that runs most of the summer and then weekends during the fall. There is one full week in October that there is a release every day so you can get 9 days of paddling in a row – the locals call this secret week.

This is another river that is fairly straight forward to run and to shuttle. Thanks to the Parks Service, there are nice parking areas at both the put in and take out – paved parking, bathrooms and easy access. The road runs along the entire river so you can scout everything and hitch-hiking for shuttles are pretty easy to do.

There are 20 rapids on this class III+ river (missing from the above list is SECRET rapid). Some are actual full rapids and others are shallow rocky areas that you have to work your way through. On the weekends (and I’m sure during the summer) Raft traffic is the biggest obstacle to worry about. You need to time your run down each rapid in between the never ending raft traffic. Secret week was almost raft free, which make it extra special!

The Ocoee River is a fabulous multi-dimensional river. You can take easy lines for advanced beginners or harder lines to spice things up and make it feel more like a class IV run. With warm water and great weather, you can spend a good 3-4 hours on the river with just one run or you can get in 2-3 laps thanks to the easy shuttle.

We chose to paddle the river in play boats as there are small to large play features all the way down the river. Lots of others paddled it in river runners or creek boats. The Jackson Antix is another great boat for this river as it allows you to mix things up and hit all of the long boat and play boat features.

About half way down the river there is a really fun lunch/rest-stop at Go Forth Creek. It seems a bit odd the first time as you pull your boats off the river and into a HUGE square cement drainage culvert below a bridge. You walk through the culvert and end up at this sunny section of rocks that is perfect to lay out and warm up, grab some food and have the kids play in the creek to stay amused.

The rapids finish just below the powerhouse that is on the side of the river. From there you have about a ten to fifteen minute slow moving/flat water paddle to the public takeout (you will pass by the commercial take out just after the flat water starts). It’s a great “feet out to the takeout” kind of paddle and low key way to finish the day.

We definitely recommend the Ocoee as a place to paddle as a family! Big thanks to “Team Unsafe” for adopting “The Canadians” for the week…

You can also find a shorter version of this writeup at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2017/10/13/secret-week-on-the-ocoee-river/

Nantahala Outdoor Centre – Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF)

Guest Appreciation Festival (aka GAF) at the Nantahala Outdoor Centre is a huge tradition here in the South East.  People come from all around to catch the scheduled release of the Cascades & Upper Nantahala River as well as grab some amazing end of season deals on gear. There is ALOT going on…

We were definitely overwhelmed when we arrived at the river on Saturday morning. It was a beautiful sunny day and there were cars and boaters as far as you could see spread across parking lots and fields. NOC very generously provides free shuttles for the Cascades and Upper all weekend. As fast as they can load a rafting bus with people and a truck with boats, then they are off to the put-in. That means that you have 50 people arriving at the put-in at the same time. This is not a big put in, nor a big river so it gets a little crazy…

The Cascades is a class IV/V section that is above the Upper section. It is a short section of 4-5 rapids that people do laps on as you can walk back up the side of the road. We scouted a few of the rapids but decided that this wasn’t the year to run it without an expert local to show us the lines…

The Upper section is rated as class III+/IV and is a mix between river running and creeking. There are definitely rocks that you need to be aware of but not really boulder gardens that you need to maneuver around. The hardest part was actually dealing with all of the people on a very narrow river (less than 50 feet wide), many of them using this release as a chance to stretch their skills after running the Lower section many times. Lots of swimmers, lots of boats without paddlers and a number of people getting off the river after the first stretch of rapids and walking back up to the put-in to catch the bus down to the take-out (which is also the put-in for the Lower section).

We managed to get two laps in on Saturday and three laps on Sunday (an earlier start now that we understood how things worked) and it was definitely a fun river to experience. Our suggestion would be to aim to catch the first shuttle in the morning as that gives you at least one run with very few people on the river. Catching one of the last shuttles does the same thing. This leaves 1-2 runs during the middle of the day that you just have to elbow your way through the throngs of people.

NOC itself is about 10 minutes down the road from the Upper take out/ Lower put in. It is quite the facility, with something for everyone. The river runs right through it and this is where the rafting companies and kayakers that have run the Lower section take out. During GAF the parking lots are very full so getting there early helps guarantee a spot to park, as well as access to the best deals. There are sliding discounts at the Outfitters store throughout the weekend (Friday = 30% off, Saturday = 40% off, Sunday = 50% off) so it’s a juggle between how much you want something vs how much you will wait for the discount and risk it being gone. There are definitely great deals on demo kayaks, with most of them being sold by the end of the weekend.

More to come on paddling the lower section for fun and freestyle training at the hole.