Bunny Johns became a paddler mostly by accident.
As a college freshman in the early 1960s, she’d lined up a summer job in her hometown outside of Atlanta but returned to discover the position had fallen through. Then a friend of hers called to say she’d been offered a job teaching swimming at Camp Merrie-Woode in Sapphire but didn’t want to go — maybe Johns, who had been a competitive swimmer in high school, would want to take her place?
Adam Clawson of Bryson City spent some of his best days on the water. At 8 years old, he tied a rope around the middle of an old inner tube to fashion a canoe, and with a borrowed paddle, learned to maneuver the rapids of the Nantahala River.
“I’m gonna mark the spot with an X, right here,” says Tim Petrea, program supervisor for the Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department, tracing his kayak paddle through the water. “That’s a good spot.”
Katie Durbin, 8, maneuvers her stand up paddleboard over to the place Petrea’s indicated.
It wasn’t until Brad McMillan got his canoe on the water that the moment hit him. He’d been preparing for this for a long time, both mentally and physically, and he’d just watched his three friends in kayaks descend the falls before him. But once in the water, he struggled to keep the calm of that preparation. Nothing makes the idea of running a 70-foot-high waterfall more concrete than, well, pushing off to run a 70-foot-high waterfall.
Shane Williams knows exactly when he’s reached the essence of a river.
“For me, it’s all about the glide,” he said. “If you’ve ever been on a raft, boat, canoe, kayak or paddleboard, when you come across that current and hit the glide, it’s pretty magical.”
Paddlers are salivating over the first-ever whitewater releases offered on the west fork of the Tuckasegee from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 13 and 14.
Whitewater fanatics wait in line for their chance to do tricks, flips, spins and somersaults with their play boats on the Tuckasegee River near last Saturday for annual Kayak Demo Day. The day was unseasonably sunny and warm. It featured a full lineup of freestyle practice sessions, kayak instruction and top-of-the-line equipment for anyone to use.
The range of skill sets was also apparent, from first-time freestyle kayakers struggling to stay upright to seasoned experts honing their skills. But the common denominator is connecting with the river, and reveling over the latest boats, said Jenna White, a graduate student at nearby Western Carolina University and one of the event’s organizers.
A conflict between river outfittters and a developer in the Nantahala Gorge has resurfaced, this time over a footbridge the developer hopes to build over part of the river to a private island.
By Bruce Hare • Guest Columnist
I would like to respond to Mr. James Costa’s letter (March 14, The Smoky Mountain News) expressing his concern about kayaking and canoeing on the headwaters of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.
By James Costa • Guest Columnist
There has been much discussion in recent weeks regarding the notion of opening the upper Chattooga River to boating. As a biologist and as a longtime resident of the Southern Appalachian region, I have studied the issue for the past several months in order to take an informed position on the potential impact that boating might have on the river and surrounding national forest.