Cruising the Coosa
Paddling the Coosa is one of my favorite outdoor activities. Thousands of people from all around the Southeast have come to enjoy the fun and excitement the Coosa offers. On the Coosa River, you may be rubbing elbows with the server at a local Montgomery eatery or the CEO of a multimillion dollar company; you never know who you may run into. Whether it’s a canoe cruise with the kiddos, a big float trip with friends or soloing through some of the river’s white water rapids, the Coosa has something for everyone no matter your skill level.
I am especially excited about this year’s Coosa River Whitewater festival hosted by the Coosa Rive Paddling Club. For thirty-one years, the Festival has been introducing Central Alabamians to whitewater canoeing and kayaking on the Coosa River in Wetumpka, Ala. The Festival is being held June 9-11 this year and is a weekend full of fun, entertainment and competition. Many people camp out at the Coosa Outdoor Center for the whole weekend to enjoy the evening bands and fellowship with other paddlers. The competitions are open to all levels of paddlers and playboaters. Boaters and spectators come from all over the United States to watch the skillful artistry of playboating at the famous Moccasin Gap rapid. The CRPC uses monies raised from the festival each year for various projects and donations, which benefit and enhance the Coosa River for the people and wildlife who enjoy its waters. For more information on the Festival, contact Lonnie Carden at 334.202.3050 or Karen at 334.202.1059.
Residents of the River Region are a bit spoiled by the fact that we live just a short drive away from both the beach and the lake. Nevertheless, we need to remember that it is the River Region and that we live even closer to one of Alabama’s gems: the Coosa River. The scenery on the Coosa is outstanding. One often has the opportunity to see osprey, eagles and blue herons and chase several species of game fish. The Coosa is also the home of the magnificent Tulotoma snail, which is an endangered species. The Coosa is perfect for an afternoon or day-long adventure.
Two businesses primarily operate livery services on the Coosa; The Coosa Outdoor Center and Coosa River Adventures. They lease both canoes and sit-on-top kayaks. They also provide life jackets. These businesses will transport you to the put-in on the river just below the Lake Jordan Dam.
The first mile of the Coosa is a wide expanse of flat water that allows you to become accustomed to your boat. Along the way, there are several rocks to jump from as well as a rope swing.
River Falls, the first mild rapids on the Coosa, consists of several rapids interspaced with flat water scattered around several islands. This allows you to choose your route as the river splits around these islands. This area is abundant with wildlife, Cahaba lilies and 100-year-old Cyprus trees. It also has some excellent fishing on the eastern branches.
River Falls is followed by another area of flat water with dozens of large rocks that are ideal stops for swimming or picnicking. As you paddle through this area, you begin to hear the roar of water from the Coosa’s most notable feature, Moccasin Gap. The river right of “the Gap” is a set of Class III rapids. The river left of the Gap is a Class II. For the inexperienced, you can simply portage over the rocks or paddle far to the left to avoid the larger rapids.
The Gap is a great kayaking spot and is frequented by all of the Coosa’s serious kayakers. It is also a well-known location for witnessing some of Central Alabama’s most epically bad tattoo decisions. The River Center Rock at Moccasin Gap is a great place to swim, get some sun and picnic with your family. There is also a nice swimming hole on the south side of the island! This is a great spot to watch both the serious kayakers surf their boats in the Gap and the fools go swimming after they flip their boats. There are few funnier sights than an old fashioned Coosa “yard sale.”
Just a few tips for the Gap. It is best not paddle the Gap backwards— intentionally or otherwise. It is not at all advisable to stand up and surf your canoe through the center of the Class III side of the Gap. And finally, it is an absolutely terrible idea to leave your boat and swim through the center of the Gap “commando” in your personal flotation device. Unfortunately, I can personally attest to the inadvisability of each of these acts.
There are numerous rapids following Moccasin Gap, with the last rapid being Corn Creek Rapid. Corn Creek has numerous channels with varying levels of difficulty. You can pick a line and test your paddling ability or look for calmer waters and simply enjoy the scenery. If you are paddling with Coosa Outdoor Center, your take-out is to the left after this last major series of rapids. If you are paddling with Coosa River Adventures, you will continue paddling through the flat water stretch until the river starts moving again as it nears historic downtown Wetumpka.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced paddler, young or more mature, you’ll have a great time “cruising” the Coosa. Get out there and experience one of our area’s natural wonders.
For more information on paddling the Coosa, visit coosariverwhitewaterfestival.com.