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the countryside we’re passing through. Seaver Taylor, also a guide, keeps busy scanning the water—he’ll detour for even the smallest riffle, shimmying over with a loud whoop. We pass small islands that look like


they’d make great camping spots for an overnight float trip, but the riverbank is lined with dense stands of ironwood, sumac, and oak: you’d need to scout for a good spot to come ashore. To portage around Crow Hop Dam, we beach our kayaks in a nondescript stand of trees and carry them on our backs along a faint, muddy trail that winds through the woods to the bottom of the dam. I never would have found it without my guides.


“This stretch of the Chattahoochee is


raw,” says Chambliss. “That’s the most basic way of saying it.” And it’s true: the trip is as notable for what we don’t see as for what we do. There are no other boats or people on the water, no roads or cars on the shore. The trees stand silhouetted against an empty blue sky. The silence feels like treasure. It’s part of the river’s appeal.


TO SEE FOR MYSELF whether the blue- way plan might hold water, I need to get out on the river. That’s how I find my- self wedged into the cockpit of a little red kayak, just downstream from the Langdale Mill. I’m staring up at the slick stone face of a dam as water gushes over its edge. It may only be 15 feet high, but from where I sit bobbing in the water, it feels like Niagara Falls.


My guide, Will Chambliss, helps run


a raft and kayak outfitter called White- Water Express. As we paddle, he reels off facts about the river, each rapid, and


But even the most basic signage and trail maintenance would go a long way toward making it more feasible for visitors to experience this side of the Chattahoochee for themselves. Like Ingram and Carter, Chambliss believes there’s value to be found in striking the balance between the river’s wild nature and accessibility: both for communities in need of an economic boost, and for visitors who want a chance to share the region’s beauty.


As we continue downstream, I won- der whether that balance point might be the blueway. Immersed in thought, I almost miss the lone bald eagle hover- ing overhead.


TPL.ORG · 43


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