North Chickamauga Creek via Chickamauga Lake
This was a 9-mile round trip on a Spring day to paddle on one of my favorite creeks, North Chickamauga Creek. It's been getting a little harder to get to it because construction around the mouth of the creek at the Tennessee River. It's a little difficult to cross just below Chickamauga Dam although I have done it. It's also a tough paddle against the current if I put in at the Dupont Recreation area public boat ramp and paddle against the current up to the creek.
This time I was going to try something new, which was to lock through the Chickamauga Dam just like bigger boats and commercial traffic.
I parked at the Chickamauga Lake public boat ramp. Parking is free and there are restrooms here. The lake was smooth with no wind and very little boat traffic, one thing I like about going during the weekdays. It's about 3/4 mile paddle straight across the lake at this point north to the locks.
To approach the lock you observe the red/yellow/green light at the entrance and "ring the door bell" which is a pull chain at the end of the lock, to request passage. At first I didn't see the chain because it was inside a recessed ladder in the side of the lock At first I didn't notice the chain but there are signs on the top giving instructions.
There was about a 15 minute wait for the chamber to be prepared. The doors opened, I got the green light and a toot from the fog horn and I paddled in and roped onto one of the floating cleats that provides moorage while the water is pumped out. Note: you must provide a rope from your kayak to tie off. This might be obvious but don't tie off to a stationary mooring point or you will be left hanging like a picture on a wall!
It took about another 15 minutes for the water to be pumped out to take me to river level. This was a strange feeling, sort of like a big elevator. Once the doors open the lock operator gives an all clear by sounding a loud fog horn (be prepared for this) a green light tells you that it is safe to proceed. The current is a swirly at this point around the big pylons on the river side.
To get to the creek make a hard right and head up the creek. The first few yards are a little disappointing because of the rip rap slopes but another 100 yards or so there will be wooded canopy for the rest of the trip.
The water level is low this spring, evidently one of the driest we have had in a while. There are a lot of exposed trees and strainers but I was able to get through, under and around all of them and paddle as far as I wanted to go for that day.
There are only a few places to take out easily, the easiest being the Hixson Greenway/Spangler Farm access points. There are rest rooms at these places. The Greenway provides a dock for canoes and boats but it is about 3 to 4 feet above creek level at the moment. I tried a seal launch from this dock one time when the water was higher but that's another story about a wet exit!
The honeysuckles were in bloom and provided a great fragrance, while the herons, turtles, and numerous birds made this another good trip.
Lunch was taken at a little amphitheater along the creek bank at the Greenway, nearest Hamill Rd. This could also be a put in point, but may be a little difficult because of the slope. The return trip took about the same amount of time, back through the lock and across the lake to the boat ramp.
To get to the Chickamauga Lake public boat ramp and marina take State Route (?) Hwy 153 and get off at Amnicola Hwy and go towards the lake and follow the signs to the boat ramp.