Floating through history: Paddle tour on Etowah River shows travelers the history of Cherokee
by Ellen Eldridge
July 27, 2014 12:00 AM | 4073 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Paddlers make their way down the Etowah River near Canton. ‘Paddling Through Cherokee County History’ will feature a 7-mile paddle on the Etowah River through portions of the McGraw Ford Wildlife Management Area.
Paddlers make their way down the Etowah River near Canton. ‘Paddling Through Cherokee County History’ will feature a 7-mile paddle on the Etowah River through portions of the McGraw Ford Wildlife Management Area.
The Coosa River Basin Initiative, Upper Etowah River Alliance and the Cherokee County Historical Society are teaming up to take people on a journey through water and time at the organizations’ Paddling Through Cherokee County History event set for Aug. 3 at 1:30 p.m.

“Cherokee County’s story is linked to the Etowah River,” said director of the Cherokee County Historical Society Stefanie Joyner.

Following the seven-mile river tour, participants will enjoy an educational program on the historic Franklin-Creighton Gold Mine, a barbecue dinner catered by Williamson Brothers Barbecue, a kayak raffle and a live auction, Joyner said.

“It’s a chance for people to get on the river and learn history in a fun way,” she said.

Diane Minick, director of the Upper Etowah River Alliance, said she believes the trip is a great opportunity to see the Etowah as the Native American predecessors saw it.

“As educators, we believe the best way to demonstrate the unique qualities of the Etowah is to see it up close and personal,” Minick said.

The event serves as a fundraiser for the three organizations and will support efforts to create the Etowah River Water Trail, a 163-mile canoe, kayak and boating trail that stretches the length of the river from Lumpkin County to Rome.

“One of our goals is to introduce people to the Etowah River and the recreational opportunities it offers,” said David Tucker, CRBI Executive Director and Riverkeeper. “The city of Canton recently constructed a new canoe and kayak launch on the river, and our ultimate goal is to have several more public access points developed along the river in Cherokee County. The river is a portal to the region’s history.”

Participants should register quickly as people had to be turned away last year, said advocacy and communications coordinator for CRBI Joe Cook.

The inaugural year saw a full 75 participants, with about half of the people from Cherokee and half visiting from outside the county.

Cook said he believes trips like the Etowah River paddle tour work to increase interest in Cherokee’s history, attracting tourism dollars as well as inspiring pride in residents.

“There is so much history along the river,” he said. “The Etowah has more fish weirs than all other Georgia rivers combined.”

The trip passes through the McGraw Ford Wildlife Management Area and one of the Native American fishing weirs, which are places along shallow water where Native Americans created V-shaped traps rock dams that come to a point on the downstream side, Cook said.

“A line of people would walk in the shallow water and scoop fish to the point of the V, where the fish swim into a basket,” Cook said. “It’s an ingenious device for catching fish.”

The existence of the stones creates opportunity for a tactile relationship with history.

“When you get to these fish weirs, you can stop and walk on rocks placed 500 to 1,000 years ago by Native Americans,” Cook said, noting the Etowah is unique because of its abundance of weirs and Native American culture.

Part of the culture, Cook said, includes the Battle of Taliwa, which took place near Long Swamp Creek. The creek empties into the Etowah River above Canton.

Cook said people are surprised by the beauty of the river.

“It’s a resource right in our backyards, but limited access to the river prevents locals from getting to explore and enjoy,” Cook said, noting his hope to see more launch sites built in the future.

A new canoe and kayak launch site exists at Brown Industrial Park, but won’t be open to the public until construction for the park is complete, Cook said.

Shuttle service will be provided for paddle trip participants because of the logistical difficulties of accessing the river, Cook said.

Where a decade ago only three developed public boat launches existed across the entire length of the Etowah River, Cook said, “Now we have seven, with two additional launches to be completed before the end of the year.”

“A lot of exciting things are happening on Etowah and this event is a way to highlight the development of the 163-mile long water trail,” Cook said.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.coosa.org/events/paddling-through-cherokee-county-history  or by calling CRBI at (706) 232-2724.

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