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I put in under the Highway 280 bridge at 11 in the morning with sunny skies and 52 degrees. According to the USGS data, the flow was 1,850 cfps and the gauge height was just over 6 feet. This was exciting run. Imagine class 2 rapids around every bend with 1 to 2 minutes of easy paddling in between. It was just enough time for me to enjoy the view.
Most of the rocks that I have had to avoid in the past were all under water. About 6 miles down, I saw many trees blown down by the earlier storm. Only one small section of shoals had trees in the stream and it was possible to maneuver through. This higher water level and flow made it easy to keep a fast pace down stream. I was averaging over 5 mile per hour when I needed to go swimming.
At mile 9, I turned a bend to the left and found a section of narrow and swift water with one boulder in the way on the right. It would have been possible to avoid this trap if I hadnít been sightseeing. The current took me right up against the rock and tipped me over. Over and in and under water, now that will get your attention. Everything was tied down but my straw hat. As I skipped across the rocks in 5 feet of water, I wrestled the 13 Kayak toward the left bank. My layers kept me protected and the adrenaline rush helped give me the boost I needed to drag everything over. I just stood there and watched my hat sink and flow away. There was no way I was going back in that cold water. I did, however, have to go back in to retrieve my paddles that were tied to my boat but wedged under a rock some 6 feet from shore and under 4 feet of water. After changing into my dry clothes, I continued for the next 4 miles paddling through numerous class 2 rapids.
This 12.9-mile run took only 3 hours, even with the 20-minute recovery from my refreshing swim. I followed a blue heron and also saw a wild turkey fly by. Overall, this was an exciting trip. I will definitely do it again.
Take-out: Hwy 231 south of Sylacauga @ Hatchet Creek bridge
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