Tuesday, April 11, 2006

River Road

When we first moved to this area when I was 10, my parents would load us up in the car and we would explore this new area. One very memorable drive was down the River Road. Through Copperhill and Ducktown, then down into the gorge beside a rocky river bed, the narrow road followed along the river for several miles. The road signs instead of showing curves showed right turns. The river was not that special, just a lot of rocks. There was certainly no one rafting or kayaking, and there was no place to pull off and see the river, the road was the memorable part.

All that changed with the beginning of the whitewater sport. Whitewater events starting being held on the Ocoee River in 1977.

But the road was still narrow and treacherous and access was limited, until the 1996 Olympics came to town. The road is now wider and the area where the Olympics was held is a great park now, with lots of parking, pathways on both sides of the river, two bridges across, a visitor center, picnic tables, 30 miles of hiking trails, all for a $3 parking fee since it is in the national forest.

The TVA manages the river for hydroelectric power and for public recreation. They schedule water releases at different parts of the river for whitewater events and on weekends. At the Olympic site, usually Saturdays are very busy, with the water running high and fast, with brightly colored rafts and kayaks, lots of spectators on the sides, the whooping and hollering of the rafters, the occasional ambulance adminstering to the injured. Sundays are tamer, the water is flowing low and slow, families with small children can get out and play in the water and rock-hop, have picnics on the river bank.

We went up there this past Sunday to do some hiking and geocaching, and it was pretty quiet, since the water was low there were no rafters at this section, and since the weather was cool, no kids playing in the water. We drove on down to the next dam, though, and there were all the rafters and kayakers! It is never too cold for those die-hard whitewater folks.

The water release schedule is posted on the website. There is not much evidence that the Olympic games were ever here, other than the sign. The grandstands are gone. There is the occasional manhole cover that says 'communications'. The only building is the visitor center, now used by the forest service. It is built out of native rock and wood, fitting into the landscape nicely.

The first two pictures were taken this past Sunday, when the river was tame. The one with the raft was found online, but is of the same stretch of river when the water is high.

The River Road area is now a great (inexpensive) way to spend a day, whether you want the excitement of whitewater or a lazy river, participation or spectator, hiking, mountain biking, getting your feet wet, or just sitting in the sun.


doubleknot said...

I would be a spectater for sure with the whitewater but getting my feet wet in slow water sounds nice. You have seen the changes and I am glad you are happy with them.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

Your pictures are great.

I have just posted another update on Motherkitty on my site. Kitten yarn is still at the hospital with her and is unable to post.

Finn said...

What a great way to spend an afternoon..*VBS* very beautiful area Susan, thanks for sharing!