Saturday, August 30, 2008

Babcock Trestle on Tellico

14. That's how many concrete pillars there are to the Babcock RR Trestle on Tellico Lake. To see this historical site stay on Hwy 129 just past the Harrison Branch boat ramp. Look to your right and you will see it. By canoe or kayak put in at the boat ramp and paddle up stream about a 1/2 mile. Can't miss it. The train came down to the Little T and was held above the water by these 14 pillars. The following story tells you just how important and profitable logging was at the turn of the century. In 1905 the Babcock Lumber and Boom Company of Davis, West Virginia began a new venture in Monroe County. They partnered with the Tellico River Lumber Company to bring out timber from areas such as Jeffries Hell in the upper Tellico area. In 1907 Babcock formed the Babcock Lumber and Land Company in Alcoa because they knew that Maryville would be the closet town to handle the mass of lumber coming out of the mountains. By 1916 Babcock purchased 350 acres of land in Alcoa (at East Edison and North Wright Road...where the city of Alcoa is building their new Operations Center). In fact their website says that the Alcoa lumber mill was the most modern in the world and lumber workers came from all over the world to see it. During the same time they built a railroad system to connect the lumber yard in Alcoa to the work site in Tellico. So, in 1918 the "siding" was completed thus the rail bridge over the Little Tennessee River was in use. By 1934 their work was completed and the project and facilities were sold to another lumber company.
Just upstream from the trestle, and a few yards above the Tallassee boat ramp, are two interesting items. One, is this cart that seems to be hanging from a cable and steel supports. Next to it is the photo below of the apparent gauging station. I do not know any history regarding these two structures but I hope someone can tell me.
Phillip and I paddled right up to the flood gates of the Chilhowee Dam.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Infamous Calderwood Tunnel

This is Charlie Wimmer in the bow near the north end of the tunnel. We had to lay on our backs and pull our way through the tunnel. Too bad we could not go all the way through!

Here we are at the south end (upper end). Notice the "light at the end of the tunnel". That is as far as the tunnel goes. This was built in 1914 to allow a Southern Railway train to operate along the river bank of the Little Tennessee River to the Santeelah and Cheoah dam construction sites. If I am not mistaken this would be the same train that ran along side the river bank and across Babcock Trestle and into Maryville. wonder if it was the same one which carried loads of slate from the Panther Creek slate quarry "1886 Abrams Creek Roofing Slate Company)?
The lake itself is about 541 acres, 6.5 miles long and the dam is 232' high making this lake about 273' higher than Tellico lake! That's a lot of water being held back! The crews built the dam but left a passageway at the base of the dam for the train to operate throughout construction. The tunnel through the dam was between floodgate 7 and 8. I believe the dam was finished in 1930 so that means the river, railroad and this tunnel has all been covered for 78 years. Now here is the cool part...rumor has it that there are some flat cars still on the tracks inside the tunnel. One day I will SCUBA this tunnel and post more picts of what lies beneath!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Chilhowee Lake to be lowered? Fact or Fiction?

Mike Wood paddling Chilhowee
Chilhowee Reservoir has been pulled down a total of 26 ' as of today (9-22-08). Normal pool is 874' is is at 848'. Several vehicles have already been located at two ramps and divers indicate several more are seen and will be recovered later. The advertised lowest pool level will be +/- 855-850' (20-25') lower than normal through next summer.

ITS A FACT! Here are three articles..

From the Associated Press:

"MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The level of Chilhowee Lake will be lowered so the dam that impounds it can be repaired. ALCOA Inc., which owns the dam in Blount County and uses it to generate electricity for its aluminum plant, expects repairs to cost up to $8 million.
if The Daily Times reported that a depression was found in the dam in 2000 and has been monitored by Alcoa Power Generating Inc., which determined the hole didn't threaten the immediate integrity of the dam. Beginning Sept. 2, the water level will be drawn down about two feet per day until it is reduced by 20 to 25 feet.The repairs should be completed by early next year.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)"


"ALCOA to repair Chilhowee Dam; reservoir drawdown starts Sept. 2
From Staff Reports
On Sept. 2, ALCOA Inc. will begin lowering the water level of Chilhowee Lake so repairs can be made to the dam. A depression or sinkhole-like area -- called by the company a settlement or subsidence -- was discovered in 2000 on the south embankment of the dam. It is generally in the shape of an upside down ice cream cone 5 or 6 feet in diameter at its top and extends down about 20 feet to bedrock.Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI), Tapoco Division, has been monitoring the depression and reported no "safety or integrity" issues were identified.The reservoir will be lowered one to two feet per day until the water level reaches a maximum drawdown of about 20-25 feet in mid- to late-September. The repairs should be complete by late 2008 or early 2009, according to APGI. Cost is estimated at $6 million to $8 million. Tapoco will be able generate electricity at the dam during the project at a reduced capacity.The work will consist of repairing the subsidence and stabilizing the shoreline to prevent erosion. APGI will also take advantage of the drawdown to install artificial fish attractors to improve aquatic habitat. Ray Barham, Tapoco Technical Manager for APGI, said the area to be repaired will be excavated down to the bedrock. The bedrock will be regrouted and the clay core will be built back up. As the core is rebuilt, the lake level will be gradually raised.Barham said the condition of the dam could have resulted from construction techniques used at the time it was built in 1957. The depression is still settling and the company has done what it can with nondestructive techniques to deal with the problem, according to Barham, so APGI has decided to fix it now rather than wait and make more expensive repairs later. "It continues to settle. Long-term it could result in more extensive settlement that could result in a safety issue," he said. Multi-agency involvement APGI worked with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to develop the corrective action plan and solicited help from several agencies in an effort to lessen the impact of the planned repair and reservoir drawdown. Together, these agencies and APGI have implemented plans to avoid or minimize adverse effects to historic properties, fish and wildlife, infrastructure and the residents of neighboring communities, the company said in a statement."We appreciate the valuable input and collaboration received from the Tennessee Historical Commission, the U.S. Forest Service, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and we look forward to continuing to work with them throughout the duration of this project," Barham said. Some access to close during the drawdown and construction period, some public access areas boat ramps and roads will be closed. These closures include: The Chilhowee Reservoir public access area; Boat ramps at Pear Tree, Calderwood Village, Tabcat Creek, Gravel Pile and Happy Valley; Mt. Pleasant Road at Chilhowee Dam (closed starting Aug. 29). Other recreational facilities will remain open, including Highway 129 day use areas, Chigger Beach and Pear Tree facilities for camping or picnicking. Recreational areas at Tapoco's other reservoirs -- Calderwood, Cheoah and Santeetlah -- will remain open. "We apologize, in advance, for any inconvenience this may cause residents or recreationalists," said Barham. "Our goal is to safely repair the embankment and then bring reservoir back to normal water level as quickly as possible."In the interest of safety and resource protection, officers with APGI, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the National Park Service and the Blount County and Monroe County Sheriff's offices will be patrolling and monitoring Chilhowee Reservoir frequently during the drawdown.The main section of Chilhowee Dam is concrete. It stands 65 feet high and forms the 1,734-acre reservoir.On each side of the concrete dam are embankment dams made of clay, sand, dirt and rock. The embankment dams connect the concrete structure to the shoreline and hold back water on both sides of the dam.Chilhowee Lake is located within Blount and Monroe counties along Calderwood Highway (U.S. 129). The reservoir is maintained by APGI. Tapoco is a division of APGI, a wholly owned subsidiary of ALCOA Inc. The Tapoco Division of APGI supplies electric power to the aluminum smelting and rolling mill at Alcoa's Tennessee Operations.Throughout the repair project, updates will be provided at
Originally published: August 22. 2008 3:01AMLast modified: August 22. 2008 1:17PM "
"The Tapoco Division of Alcoa Power Generating Inc. (APGI) owns and operates the Tapoco Project. The Tapoco Project is a four-development hydroelectric project located in the western portion of the Little Tennessee Watershed on the Little Tennessee and Cheoah Rivers in Graham, Swain, Blount, and Monroe Counties in North Carolina and Tennessee. The Tapoco Project is licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as Project No. 2169. The Tapoco Division operates the Project to provide power for Alcoa’s aluminum smelting and rolling operations in Alcoa, TN. The Tapoco Project includes four reservoirs —Santeetlah, Cheoah, Calderwood, and Chilhowee— that offer a variety of recreation opportunities and provide important habitat for plants, fish and wildlife. This website provides information about the Project’s developments, news, regulatory issues, shoreline management, and other environmental information. "

Hazel Creek with Brandon (summer '08)

We set up a shelter at campsite 86 at the mouth of Hazel Creek in case we had to eat in the rain or wait a storm out to cross back over. Guess what? No rain and no fish! Ha ha ha. So, we ate crackers and paddled fast so we could eat at Fontana Village deli.

Can you believe this crayfish claw?!!!! Its about 4" long! Makes me want to think twice about sticking my toes in the water!

Portaging back to the lake from #86

Sumer view of Hazel Creek at the area of where the bridge is located. Now look at the next picture...

In the winter draw-down (November 2006). Brandon and I were paddling at the top of the waterline. Now that's a lot of water that is drawn out every year! Hard to believe we are in a drought huh!

Friday, August 22, 2008

TVA Campsites on Tellico (8-22-08)

What a day! I began at Smoky Branch and paddled across the main channel to the south shore and then paddled up to Little Toqua Creek. Now that little cove is great! I will scan my map to show exactly where but there is a nice campsite in this cove that has a grassy put-in. It is not trashed either. Once I paddled back out to the main channel I floated past the TRDA and TWRA boat ramps. Just past there is a sandy shore that begins the Tellico Wildlife Management Area. At this spot is THE best view of the mountains at the widest spot on Tellico. It was amazing. I will be going back there...since I left my camera at home. I paddled to the day marker on that shore, crossed the main channel and proceeded back up the river along the opposite shore. Up just about a mile there are two smaller and one larger. The west one goes up into the cove for about 300 yards and ends where a creek flows into the lake. On your left going in look for the neatly arranged sticks and logs where a beaver has built a lodge. I have only seen about 4 or 5 of these on Tellico. This one is small but neat. The second cove goes back about a mile (?) or so and dead ends like the more western cove does. You have to visit this one for sure. It has two TVA campsites with tent pads and lantern poles. picnic tables. One is on the point at the main channel and the other is about 200 yards or so in on the left. Go back farther and see a nicely built tower/platform which provides you with a rope to swing out over the lake. Go a bit farther and there is another campsite on the right (not an official TVA site) and go back a little farther and there is another campsite on the right (not TVA). Go farther and you ride through a tunnel of trees to the back where it is about 2' deep. The two TVA sites are really nice. I will post a pic when I go back. By the way this loop I did today went over the Cherokee towns of Toqua and Tomotley. Also you will float over a Mississippian era Indian Mound that is now covered with about 20' of water (or maybe less). Good day.. Plenty of herons, geese, ducks, mayfly's, small birds, kingfishers and a few osprey.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mid Tellico Lake

Today, Tellico was full of these mayflys. One paddled with me about the whole day.

I paddled near a bush to get out of the sun for a while and when I backed up look what jumped on board. Click to make the image larger. This guy also rode with me for a while. He would march back and forth from the tip of the bow to about midships then back...over and over. He finally abandoned ship.

I was not aware of this! What are the "contaminants?

Anyway today I paddled the section from Smoky Branch to the Virginian Fort and back. I stayed to the far bank all the way up and the near bank all the way back. I saw two Bald Eagles, several black ducks, 1 goose, several kingfishers and a few osprey. I was able to watch an osprey dive straight into the water, completley submerge and come back up with a fish in its talons. So cool!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chota Memorial on Tellico Lake

Chota Memorial off the Bow

A Bald Eagle over area betweeen Chota and Tanasi

The Chota Memorial
The Tanasi Memorial
Guess where he is buried? Not where you think!

Surreal. That's how I describe a visit to the Chota and Tanasi Memorials on Tellico Lake. When I visited I walked out onto this paddle-shaped man-made body of earth and stood in reverence. I stood in the middle of the Chota Memorial and knew that below my feet, perhaps 20' (?) down is where the actual village of Chota once stood. One of the several "capitals" of the Cherokee Nation was under my feet. Because of the flooding of the Little T, the village is now forever under water. Stand at the gravestone of Oconastota, and know that he is not buried 6 feet under but at the same level of the flooded village. All was quiet and still that day. I peered over the silver flaked waves of the lake wondering what it must have looked like 200 years ago. Lt. Henry Timberlake paddled a canoe up the Little T here to be a peace maker in the early 1800's. Read his account in Timberlake's Journal. I then visited Tanasi. The place where we Tennesseans got our under water. In the picture above you can see the memorial in the foreground and the marker sticking out of the water in the distance. Another Cherokee town separated from Chota by a small creek. Surreal. I appreciated TVA and the Cherokees preserving this area to remember a people with such a connection to the land. You gotta go. There is a nice area to pull your canoe on to the peninsula easily. Surreal. While I was paddling between the two villages I saw two Bald Eagle flying over me. Now that is COOL!

Citico Creek off upper Tellico Lake

My two boys on CiticoA happy dad on Citico...really...i need to smile more
If you have been in Citico from Harrison Branch ramp you know all about this
That would be my daughter
Isn't she adorable?!

Citico Creek is a gem! If you live in Blount or Monroe County and have a canoe or kayak you have no excuse but to go! From the Harrison Branch ram (off Hwy 129) leave the ramp and paddle straight across the main channel to the southeast. You will see several islands and lots of tree stumps. I have been over there dozens of times. I have seen varieties of ducks, migratory waterfowl, geese, osprey, hawks, bald eagles, deer, beaver, muskrat and many types of fish. In the winter you can get a real sense of the original creek and river bank by going in the dead of winter. The Cherokee village of Citico is here to the left and right of the creek bank once you cross the imaginary line of the former Little Tennessee River. Continue through the maze of islands, inlets and bays and you will come to a really neat area where the creek is only about 20' or so across. Continue paddling on up through an area where some trees fell across the creek about 5 or 6 years ago. There just pull your boats over and keep paddling until you have to pull your boats over a shallow area. Here you will find a large swim area called Citico Beach. Paddle past it until you have to get out and pull again and then you will approach the bridge going over the creek. My friend Charlie and I paddled on up about another 3/4 mile until there was not enough water to float. On the way out notice the river cane, the slow flow water in the "tunnel" area, find the beaver lodge on river left just before the area where the creek widens into the lake. Take a detour to the left and come back out among the other reed beds. You will wish you brought your fly rod and bass poppers. Again, my kids love this place and three years ago when Erin was 8, she knew how to paddle to Citico and the reed beds. Its a place like this where you can build memories that will last a lifetime.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tabcat Creek with Brandon and Phillip

Tabcat shoots off Chilhowee Lake at the very beginning of the famed Dragon on Highway 129. Just a small creek but one to explore nonetheless. You can't go very far without your canoe dragging but it is a really cool area. If you are in a kayak you will have some trouble simply because you have to get in and out of the boat so much as the approaching end of the creek (or is it the beginning?) does not contain much water. I really enjoyed the rock formations near the end. According to the Bible God says if we do not praise him the rocks will cry out. He he he. That would be wierd to hear. What would they say? "I am stuck between a rock and a hard place"? I do know that taking these boys out is creating a FOUNDATION for them. I think it was Jesus who said "Those who listen to my words and do them are like a man who built his house on a rock. The storms came, the wind blew and rain beat upon the house but it did not fall because it was built upon a rock." Humm...maybe it is wise to get our kiddos outside and demonstrate the need for a foundation in Christ.

Abrams Creek with Phillip

Abrams Creek is a feeder stream for Chilhowee Lake located near the intersection of Highway 129 and Happy Valley Road. The most convenient place to park is at the bridge where Abrams Creek enters Chilhowee. On this particular trip I took my son, Phillip on a paddle to the head of where the creek actually flows into the lake proper. We snorkeled of course and had a great day. I encorage all dads to get outside with their kids and see what God has created. In Romans 1:20 the Bible says that "God's nvisible qualities...have been clearly seen, being understood from what has BEEN MADE, so that men are without excuse" Dads, when you engage your son or daughter with water, a trail, a canoe outing, a sunset, the Persaid meteror shower in August, etc. you are setting up an opportunity not merely for recreation but for their DNA to come alive as they se their creator more clearly. In fact Phillip knows about this so much that he will not paddle past a floating bottle "polluting the earth". Now where did that come from? By the way, what is that wierd looking floating brain in the picture above?

Fontana Campsite #90 Eagle Creek with Ron Wilson

Eagle Creek is one of the Smoky's greatest lores. Rich in history, great trout fishing and a superb campsite right on the lake makes this spot a hot destination for paddlers. The only backpackers you will see there either came over from Cades Cove, are hiking the Lakeshore Trail or have just hikes about 5 miles from Fontana Dam. I have camped here multiple times and rarely see anyone. Although more popular with trout anglers this campsite may see its occasional boater. As you paddle up Eagle Creek from the main channel, you will be enticed to think you have arrived at the campsite once you see a small trail sign and a path leading to the north off the lake. However, continue paddling a bit farther and you will unmistakably run into campsite 90. The above photos are of a trip Ron Wilson and I did when I was trying to complete all the Smoky's trails. Once we arrived at Fontana Marina, a group of touring boats were coming off the water. They complained that once they left the protected cove the wind blew them all over the lake so they returned. Ron and I both thought "You sissies". We put our canoe on the water, paddled to the edge of the cove and BAM! Just as the nose of our boat rounded the corner the wind about blew us to the Atlantic Ocean. In fact we ferried all the way over to the mouth of Eagle Creek it was that bad. We left our boat at the campsite, hiked over to Hazel Creek and back allowing me to mark that part of Lakshore Trail off my map. We had a great cheeseburger at the Grill in Fontana Village.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mid-Chilhowee Area with Joy

My wife, Joy and I paddled one afternoon around the mid-area of Chilhowee last summer and saw a few interesting things. One was this rock outcropping on the south side of the lake. It was about 10' above the lake but easy enough to get into. Another was a small cove that we paddled to the back of. On the way out we turned a corner and saw a bass boat with a man peeing off one side and a woman on the other. They both pulled up their pants being very apologetic and embarrassed. We called the cove "PeePee Cove."

Chilhowee Lake with the "CCC" Day Camp

20 of us having lunch on the smooth limestone above the powerhouse

9 boats...8 canoes and a kayak

This is where the water flows into Chilhowee Lake from below the dam. This area had smooth rocks, pocks and holes which have been created from the ancient flow of the Little T. Now all that flows here is a trickle. Water is now diverted through huge tunnels which begin at Calderwood Dam and flow through the mountain to the powerhouse.

Our group paddling near the old Calderwood community.

My friend Charlie and I led a three day camp for kids this summer called CCC Camp (Cave, Canoe and Cache). we took them caving in Vonore, canoeing here on Chilhowee and geo-caching in Cades Cove. This lake is long and narrow begining at the powerhouse and ending several miles downstream at Chilhowee Dam. This post is just one of many about Chilhowee.

Calderwood Lake overnight

If you desire to get away from it all but stay close to home, load your canoe and drive to Cheoah Dam. Below the dam is small campground and put-in along a gravel road downstream from the dam. I took my friends Charlie, Peter and Carrie on an overnight trip on July 4 two years ago. We only saw one fishing boat on the two day trip. We were also blessed to see two Bald Eagles, Opsrey and many Kingfishers. Be sure and see the tunnel on river right after you pass under the power lines. Here is a pic of Charlie at the edge of the tunnel as we were taking shelter from the rain. The tunnel is passable when TVA is not generating electricity and the water is not up. Plan your trip accordingly so you can paddle through it. Also look up Parsons Branch...also on river right. This area has a super swim area, waterfall and cascade.

Cheoah Lake Day Trip

Bald Eagle on Cheoah Lake

Looking downstream on Cheoah

Peering over the flood gate of Cheoah Dam ...isn't that cool!

Jumping off a rock at Twentymile

The above photo was in the Maryville Daily Times. It shows a barge with a steam powered log crane. The Kitchen Logging Company set up an operation at the mouth of Twentymile Creek. I know from research that they used these flat barges with steam powered cranes to lift logs. While canoeing with Jeff Meyer a couple of years ago I found a submerged structure near Clat Branch. It looks similar in dimensions to this barge. There are also some logging debris such as cables and a hook in two separate locations. There with the submerged structure and upstream between Laural and Fishtrap Branch .

Now this is a great lake. The water is always cold since it comes out of the bottom of Fontana Lake. In fact most mornings if you drive alongside the lake you will enjoy a several foot thick coat of fog. I have paddled this lake when it was hard to see ahead of the canoe because of the fog. This lake only has three at the Fontana Campground, one at the powerhouse and the other at Twentymile Ranger Station. The lake is 10 miles long, is at 1276' high (463' higher than Tellico) and was created in 1919 (89 years old...think it will still hold water at its centennial?). This is the oldest dam on the Little T. Another cool thing about this dam is its the one in "The Fugitive" with Harrison Ford.