|Hiwassee River | Nottely River | Valley River|
1. Are there significant rapids on the rivers, and where are they?
The "Ranger to Rominger" section of the Nottely River has many Class II rapids from "Die Bend" to the lake. It is a quarter mile float on the lake in summer to the take out at Rominger Creek. There is not yet signage, but the landmark is an old railroad trestle crossing the creek. Take care not to miss it. This section is quite difficult to float at low water (when TVA is not discharging from Nottely Dam). There are no take-outs on this 4.4-mile section, so assess the river conditions before committing to this float.
2. What portages or obstacles should I be aware of?
There are no dams on this river.
Other obstacles: Be aware of strainers (any obstacle that water can pass through, but people and boats cannot), which can be quite dangerous to paddlers, especially during high water. Strainers are most often made up of recently fallen trees, or logjams. The section of Hiwassee River from "The Y" to Tusquittee Road is notorious for strainers. Extra caution should be used, particularly at high flow.
3. Where can I get information about river levels and flows?
TVA provides a very limited amount of information about predicted power generation schedules and observed discharge data (from the dams - not river flows) in the Hiwassee River watershed. Data is available for each dam by choosing the dam of interest from the drop-down menu at this site: http://www.tva.com/river/lakeinfo/index.htm. A free mobile app called "TVA Lake Info" is also available for this information. Chatuge and Nottely each only have one generator; however, TVA has the ability to run the Chatuge generator at half capacity resulting in two discharge levels (roughly 740 and 1430 cfs).
Stream flow information is available for the Hiwassee River ABOVE Lake Chatuge in Towns County, GA and the Nottely River ABOVE Lake Nottely in Union County, GA at the following site: http://www.tva.com/lakes/streams.htm.
TVA does not currently adhere to any set schedule for discharges/flow releases from any of its Hiwassee River watershed dams. There are no "recreation releases" and the information found online is sometimes inconsistent with actual practice. Boaters must use caution when planning trips on the Nottely River and on the Clay County reach of the Hiwassee River. On the Hiwassee River in Clay County in particular, the "river rises rapidly without warning" signs are an understatement and when the dam is operating at full generation (1,400 cfs out of the dam), the effects are still very serious at Sweetwater Park nearly 14 miles downstream!
4. I don't have a lot of paddling experience, but would like to take a float trip in the Hiwassee River watershed. Where would be good to go?
Going with a guide is a good way for people without much paddling experience to get to know the rivers of the Hiwassee watershed (See question 5 below).
5. Are there outfitters providing float trips on rivers in the Hiwassee River watershed?
Wood's Outdoor Adventures offers guided canoe trips on the rivers and lakes, as well as fly fishing, hiking, and other outdoor adventures. Wood's Outdoor Adventures currently has private arrangements for put-in and take-out along the Valley River and can offer shorter float trips (and float fishing trips) in the 11-mile midsection where no public access is currently available. There are no large commercial outfitters in the Hiwassee River watershed at the present time.
6. Can I fish, swim, or drink the water?
Swimming in all areas should be done at your own risk.
Avoid drinking river or lake water, as natural waters can contain pathogens and pollutants. Water can be filtered from the river, but it is a better idea to bring extra water. If the river is muddy, it can make filtering water very difficult.
Fishing is excellent on rivers and lakes in the Hiwassee River watershed, but don't forget to get your NC, GA and/or TN fishing license to do so legally.
7. What animals and plants should I be aware of for safety reasons?
The Hiwassee River watershed is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the southeast. There are two species of poisonous snakes in our area, copperheads and timber rattlesnakes. Bears are found throughout Western North Carolina, but it is unlikely that you will see one along the rivers. Poison ivy is widespread in the Hiwassee River watershed; stinging nettle is also a nuisance plant.
Copperheads are tan to brown snakes with darker hourglass-shaped crossbands down the length of the body with large, triangular heads and elliptical pupils (cat eyes). In the mountains, copperheads are most common on dry rocky hillsides and sometimes den communally with timber rattlesnakes on open, south-facing hillsides. Fortunately their venom is not very potent and human deaths from copperhead bites are exceedingly rare. Pets are more susceptible to serious injury and death. Most snake bites occur when someone tries to kill or harass a snake, so the best way to avoid a bite is to leave any snake you find alone.
Timber Rattlesnakes can be found in a variety of habitats including rocky outcrops and deciduous forests. Their venom can be fatal. Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten by a rattlesnake.
Poison Ivy is a plant that causes a skin rash if the plant makes contact with skin. The rash is caused by contact with oil (urushiol). The oil is present in all parts of the plants, including the leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots. Familiarize yourself with this plant and avoid walking through or touching it. Do not burn it - smoke inhalation can also cause an allergic reaction. If you touch poison ivy, wash contacted skin and/or clothing immediately after contact to prevent skin reaction.
Black Bears are widespread and common throughout the Hiwassee River watershed. Please be aware, even though it is unlikely you will see one. If camping, avoid leaving food out overnight and store away from tent.
8. What wildlife might I see while paddling on rivers and lakes in the Hiwassee River watershed?
The rivers of the Hiwassee River basin flow through a great diversity of habitats and ecosystems. Beavers are common and have been known to startle paddlers by slapping their tails on the water. Deer and muskrats are also common, particularly along the Hiwassee River; and river otters can also be seen, especially in Apalachia Lake.
Some of the notable bird species include great blue herons, green herons, kingfishers, Canada geese, wood ducks, mallards, ospreys, hawks and bald eagles.