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Hiwassee River
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Booshway
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John Muir was one of America's most prominent early conservationists. At one point in his life he took a long walk from the midwest down to Florida. Along the way he passed beside the Hiwassee River in Tennessee and proclaimed it to be a beautiful stream. Tennessee's John Muir Trail now extends for approximately 16 miles beside this wide trout stream.
The tiny community of Reliance was originally a Cherokee village beside the Hiwassee River. The remains of a rock weir is still visible there today extending at an angle across the river. It funneled fish into the Indian's traps.
Well, July 31st was an anniversary, of sorts, for me. On that day, exactly 20 years ago, I retired. In celebration, I went fishing and ran the mild whitewater of the upper Hiwassee River.
Instead of my special design whitewater canoe, I choose my fishing kayak. It is not made for rough waters, but I figured what the heck? This is summer. The river is cool. If I spill - so what? I tied my tackle box and "dry bag" inside the kayak, and I had an extra paddle in case I dropped my double-bladed one.
My wife ran the shuttle for me. We left her car at the public parking lot and boat ramp beside Hiwassee Outfitters in Reliance. We then drove together further up the river to the launch ramp near the powerhouse where most of the river runners on the Hiwassee put in. There, I unloaded my kayak and gear. Betty took the truck back to the other parking lot and exchanged it for her car. She then went on home. I donned my life jacket and shoved off.
The upper Hiwassee River is an absolutely beautiful stream. It also happens to hold quite a lot of rainbow trout and some brown trout. However, it is fast water and very rocky. Deep pools alternate between rapids. The majority of the rapids are relatively mild Class II, however there is one that is considered Class III. They all require some maneuvering in order to get safely through, and even the Class III is fairly easily navigated if you are in a proper watercraft for it. My fishing kayak is not a proper watercraft for rapids!
I sloshed and bounced through the Class II rapids and took plenty of time to drift while fishing the deep, relatively calm pools. So far my fishing kayak was doing fine.
There were a half dozen or so "drift boats" on the river. These boats are designed for whitewater. They have both a high bow and stern. Some are privately owned, but others are the property of Hiwassee Outfitters and other companies that offer guided fishing trips. The guide sits in the middle and handles the oars. A fisherman can ride in the bow and another in the stern.
I saw one drift boat anchored at the head of a deep pool. I watched as a teenage boy in the bow reeled in a foot long trout. That was the only fish I saw caught today.
As I approached the Class III rapids I back paddled and carefully looked over the cataract as best I could from my low angle on the water above the falls. I could see the edge where the river dropped off, and I could see the frothing white water leaping up from below the drop-off. Between the swift current pulling me toward the rapids and the fact that heavy brush covered the shoreline, there was no place where I could get out and look over the rapids from the land. There was nothing I could do except to try and choose the best place to go over the edge. The current had me, and away I went!
My kayak shot out over the edge and plummeted into the maelstrom below. The bow went under and a wave hit me in the chest. I held the kayak straight to the waves. If it turned sideways I knew it would roll over. The kayak rose up again, crested a wave and plunged into the next trough. The "wave train" of that rapid consisted of five or six big standing waves. Holding my kayak straight I plowed through each one of them.
After that run I had to go ashore and drain the water out of my kayak. But, at least I had not rolled over or fallen out.
No fish, but it was a fun day!


Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
 
Posts: 1262 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Truly a "Hold my beer and watch this!" moment. glad you made it through. Did you tell your wife?


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1939 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Smiler Actually, we have both made the same run down the Hiwassee in big inner tubes. Doing that is popular here with summer vacationers.
I have had plenty of experience running rapids. Its just that now at age 71 I can't do it like I once did.
After I retired in 1999 I spent the next 14 summers working as a part time whitewater raft guide through the Ocoee River Gorge. The Ocoee River runs into the Hiwassee, which in turn runs into the Tennessee River. The Ocoee has plenty of Class III and Class IV rapids. I finally quit river guiding when I turned 65 because I no longer trusted my own abilities and didn't want to be responsible for someone else's safety.
Whitewater is classified I through VI here in the eastern U.S. Class I is flatwater. Class VI is stuff like Niagara Falls. Class VI would kill you. The biggest rapids I've done were Class IV.

Hey; I know this has nothing to do with muzzleloading. I like this forum and I'm just trying to keep it going. It has been too quiet here lately! But, at least I did add a little historical perspective about the Hiwassee River.

Also, historically, there was a big whirlpool on the Tennessee River somewhere below present day Chattanooga. Flatboats were known to get caught in it and go around and around, getting nowhere, until they could finally break loose from the current. But, it has been drowned out by a modern day dam.


Know what you believe in. Fight for your beliefs. Never compromise away your rights.
 
Posts: 1262 | Location: Cherokee Land, Tenasi | Registered: 06 January 2011Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Booshway
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Well I think it might have a collateral relation to the whole primitive, outdoorsy thing, but what do I know?Cool story anyway.


Beer is proof that God loves us,and wants us to be happy-B. Franklin
 
Posts: 1939 | Location: Oreegun Territory | Registered: 24 March 2013Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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