Basics for your day at the river
Tourists and locals alike can be found enjoying Gilmer County’s rivers.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day at a swimming hole, navigating a kayak through rapids or just out for a lazy daylong excursion in a tube, there is something for everyone.
If these activities pique your interest, you will likely find yourself in the Ellijay, Coosawattee or Cartecay rivers, or possibly one of their larger tributaries. When in natural waterways, precautions need to be made to ensure everyone’s day ends as happily as it began.
The most seasoned rivergoers can find themselves in precarious situations, no matter the level of planning. It is best to travel with a group, so in the event something goes awry, help is nearby. Make sure someone outside the group knows where you are going, the activities planned and when you will return.
If you are unfamiliar with some of the people in your group, get to know them and their abilities. Whether swimming or paddling, everyone must be taken into account. What may appear as calm rapids to some, could be quite daunting for those unprepared for white water.
Life jackets are strongly encouraged when canoeing or kayaking. The American Canoe Association (ACA) found that in 85 percent of canoe deaths, life jackets were not worn, compared to 45 percent for kayaks. It also discovered experienced paddlers are four times as likely to wear a life jacket.
Cold water should be taken into consideration. Waters “as warm as 50 to 60 degrees can cause cold water shock, which forces the body to reflexly gasp for air, followed by increased heart rate, blood pressure and disorientation and can even lead to cardiac arrest,” according to the ACA.
Avoid entering the water barefoot like a 4-year-old in a Piggly Wiggly. A pair of aquatic shoes with a firm grip will not only help protect your feet from sharp rocks or discarded glass, but ease your traversing of the river’s slick bed.
Swimmers should be mindful of their surroundings. Do not aimlessly jump into waters you are unfamiliar with. Swim around, mindfully explore and get comfortable with the area. Never dive into waters of unknown depth, and even then, serious injury can occur.
Keep an eye out for snakes and other critters. Be cautious when venturing into heavily shaded riverbanks. A cornered and frightened animal will protect its habitat even if you are just there searching for a worm to bait your hook.
Be mindful of the day’s weather. Heavy rains can alter not only a river’s depth, but its temperature and speed. Even currents below the knee can be strong enough to whisk you off your feet and send you tumbling into the water.
Your trip to the river will more than likely lead to interactions with other groups participating in the same activities. Be kind, respectful and share the water.
As of June 2016, imbibing is no longer permitted on Gilmer waterways, and remember, this is not your personal river, regardless of what your favorite bro-country artist says. Careening your canoe or kayak into another’s could lead to a good old-fashioned donnybrook.
Aside from the necessities related to your activity, a personal flotation device, first-aid kit, rope and helmet can help avoid potential dangers and assist if emergencies occur.
Noodle at your own risk.
And always, if you hear banjo music, paddle faster.