Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Update 2: the Coosawattee Watershed, North Georgia

One sunnier, windier winter day I revisited the Coosawattee ("little Coosa") River area in Northwest Georgia, from Ellijay westward down to the I-75 valley around Calhoun. There are no state parks in this region; the central feature is Carter's Lake, the consequence of a colossal earthen dam project in the 1960's at the fall of the river (and currently under control of the US Army Corps of Engineers). For us in Atlanta, Carter's Lake is largely forgotten in favor of closer lakes like Allatoona and Lanier.
The prettiest views are commonly to the west. The town of Ellijay (on GA-515) is overlooked by residential Talona Mountain, which locals know as the mountain with the huge cross on top which is spotlit at night.
the view to the east...smoke in the sunset

the Coosawattee North Bank at Carter's Dam. Imagine how it looked before the dam was built! The river once had rapids here, and was the site of Mississippian and then Cherokee towns, and inspired James Dickey to write "Deliverance" after a trip down it just before the dam. Now the lake is the deepest east of the Mississippi (450 feet at the deepest point! ...the same as the elevation drop - 1250 to 800 feet) and has several park areas around it.
Further on, the Coosawattee joins the southbound Conasauga River to make the Ustanuli, near New Echota Cherokee Capital (which, due to current state park budget cuts ;(,,, is only open Thursdays through Saturdays).

More about Carter's Lake:

For rafting and tubing on the Coosawattee:

Spring come soon!
--Arianna R.F.

Winter Update 1: Occoneechi Mountain State Natural Area, NC

While passing through central North Carolina (my home state) I wanted to stop and visit one of the newer state natural areas, one that had been designated since I lived there. Occoneechi "Mountain" on the headwaters of the Eno River, once a Saponi settlement and only 867 feet in altitude - but still the highest point along the I-85 corridor and eastward to the coast - is easy to find, tranquil, and beautiful on a cloudy winter afternoon.

Near the summit is a circle of stones, the best spot to view the northward valley when the trees are leafless. I met an interesting woman there. It was so peaceful and the almost-melted snow spotted across the whole monadnock. If you walk up the main summit trail, look to your right just before the old firetower!
Occoneechi Mountain is located just off of I-85 at the S. Churton St. exit, near Hillsborough, NC. For more information....visit