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Posted: July 20, 2013 9:00 p.m.

High water & river recreation

Newton County has had a few high-profile instances of a swelled Alcovy River leading to trouble in 2013, but swollen rivers, though faster, don’t have to be more dangerous, said William Gatling, president of the volunteer-based Georgia Canoeing Association.

Gatling said his association and American Whitewater both have listings of Georgia rivers and the levels at which they can be safely paddled. He also recommended going in a group whenever possible.

“One (paddler) is a victim, two is a witness, three is a rescue,” Gatling said in an email.

On the one hand, higher levels make some stretches of river navigable, when they may be too rocky at lower levels, and more water can also reduce sometimes dangerous hydraulic effects caused by some rock formations, Gatling said.

However, there are some other hazards that can be increased with high levels.

“As rocks get covered by water, the number of spots to recover go away. Getting to the shore is the first thing most people want to do when they find themselves swimming. Trees that fall into the river create a deadly hazard called a strainer. Strainers allow water through, but trap swimmers and push them under water. A log in the river looks like a great place to stop, but they are very dangerous,” Gatling said.

The portion of the Alcovy River from Newton Factory Bridge Road to Jackson Lake begins to develop some of the most intense whitewater rapids possible, but the stretch is fairly short, said Nolan. There also are some rapids that develop on the South River, but public access to that river is limited, so kayakers would have to get permission from a landowner to put in and take out of the river, he said.

Nolan echoed the wisdom of kayaking in groups and said kayakers should let people know where they’re going and when they expect to be back and make sure the people have their cell phone numbers in case anything happens. With that information, emergency officials are much more likely to find kayakers or others in trouble.

The Yellow River can be paddled whether the level is low or high, said Kimberly Brown, who runs the Porterdale Yak Club, which rents kayaks and canoes. However, Brown said a calmer river is generally a better option for first-timers.

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