Monday, August 16, 2010

Staying Cool in Georgia's Blue Ridge

Rafting the Toccoa River in Blue Ridge, Ga
Blue Ridge GA
It's mid-August in Blue Ridge and temperatures are beginning to shift downward a little this week.  That being said, folks are still looking for cool ways to stay cool, since Lake Blue Ridge has become somewhat inaccessible due to repairs on the dam.  There are still plenty of ways to stay cool, with miles and miles of chilly mountain water in area rivers and streams.  The coolest way to stay cool, according to our Facebook Poll is tubing the Toccoa River, both above the Lake Blue Ridge dam on Aska Road and below the dam in McCaysville.

Tubing the Toccoa River above the Dam.
Tubing above the dam is a slow and easy ride for those who want to take in the beautiful scenery. Trips can
be booked with Toccoa Valley Campground, 706-838-4317. Famous for its pink tubes, Toccoa Valley will put you in the water at its campground and pick you up at the Shallowford Bridge two to three hours later downstream.

For a shorter (and sometimes faster) trip, try tubing the Toccoa in McCaysville.  One-hour trips are offered by Rolling Thunder River Company, 800-408-7238, and by Toccoa River Adventures.  Both companies also rent funyaks and rafts.

Also don't forget the coolest adventure in Georgia's Blue Ridge, whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River or the Nantahala River in North Carolina.  Professional guides offer trips from March to October, plenty of time to plan a trip.  Find a list of whitewater rafting guides on our website.  Another very cool adventure is playing in the cool pools of water at the Ocoee Whitewater Center (currently on Thursdays and Fridays).  There are lots of great swimming holes, but watch out for slippery rocks.  The Whitewater Center also offers hiking and biking trails, picnic areas and snack bar.

Toccoa River at the Swinging Bridge
But perhaps the coolest thing of all is to find a clear mountain stream and simply enjoy the sound the water makes as it rushes by.  Suggested spots ... Horseshoe Bend Park, Tammen Park or the Swinging Bridge on the Toccoa River, Noontootla or Rock Creek in the Chattahoochee National Forest, Jacks River in the Cohuttas.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lake Blue Ridge Dam Repairs Underway

Blue Ridge, GA
The summer months have been been busier than ever in Georgia's Blue Ridge and school is starting back much too soon. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Valley Authority has started to draw down Lake Blue Ridge for repairs to the penstock and rehabilitation of the dam, a project which will take one year for the lake side and another for the Toccoa River side of the dam.  Old Highway 76 over the dam has been closed for the duration.

When it comes to the Lake Blue Ridge dam rehabilitation, there's bad news and good news. The bad news is we lose our lake for about one year, and access over the dam for two years. Good news is the dam will be safer and once we get the lake back, we won't lose it every five years for deep drawdowns.

The lake drawdown has record numbers of visitors tubing the Toccoa River in the brisk, fast moving waters created as TVA withdraws water from Lake Blue Ridge at record speed. It is expected that the water will continue to be drawn down 24-hours every day until about the middle of August, when withdrawals will be reduced from seven feet per week to three feet per week. Meanwhile, trout fishing is best in areas above the dam in the higher elevations. Lake Blue Ridge is still open for fishing and all of our boat ramps are still accessible at this time.

Although people are still swimming at Morganton Point, every day, as the water recedes, the hike to the water's edge gets longer and longer. As of August 1, Old Highway 76 over the Lake Blue Ridge dam has been closed and will remain so until the repair of the penstock and the dam is complete about two years from now. TVA hopes to complete work on the penstock and dam rehabilitation on the lake side by Spring 2011; the refill will depend on the rain. For current lake elevations and release times, see the TVA website.