04-Jul-2008 -- In search of the 00’s in the middle of the Coosa River… We awoke before sunrise on American Independence Day in Gadsden’s Hampton Inn, less than a third of a mile from the day’s target, and certainly the closest I’ve ever slept to an actual confluence point! The previous afternoon we loaded our borrowed canoe on a borrowed truck, tied a borrowed red flag on the back, and drove 165 miles from our home to the west bank of the Coosa River. As all four previous visits to 34N 86W had been land-based and limited to the east bank, no one had yet been close enough to post the elusive 10 zeroes. “All zeroes” thus became our only criteria for a successful trip. We wanted calm winds to help stabilize our craft during the water version of the confluence dance, so we planned our start for the crack of dawn. Also, this time of year, the later in the day, we knew the better chance of an isolated thunderstorm. Based on reading the first two visit reports, made a week apart during a period of extremely low water, we expected to encounter shallow conditions. Therefore, we brought along a telescoping 16-foot pole to serve as both an anchor and maneuvering stick.
The closest boat launch ramp is a short 0.15 mile drive down River Road from the hotel, just under the Highway 759 bridge. A number of powerboats were also out early, with fishermen wanting the first chance to stake out a perfect spot, and we found the river to be only intermittently quiet. As we paddled across the Coosa and north along its eastern shore, we encountered a good bit of wildlife, including several Great Blue Hurons, an egret, and a beaver that quickly out-swam us and dived before I came anywhere close to snapping a picture. There was some trash on the shoreline, but less than expected for a river through the heart of a city.
In the vicinity of the cp, as predicted, the canoe would come close and then overshoot the target. After two or three more such passes, Cynthia pulled out our secret weapon, quickly stopping our craft by sticking our telescoping pole in the river’s shallow muddy bottom. However, as we slowly worked our way to within 25 meters of the cp, we passed into the main channel, and our 16’ pole from then on proved entirely useless. Relying on great patience, with no current and hardly a breeze, we used short paddle strokes to inch our way to the site. At 6:47am we were rewarded with ten zeroes at 13.5’ accuracy.
After completing our primary mission, we took advantage of the cool morning temperatures and paddled north to the old Broad Street Bridge, about a half mile past the cp. At several places along the shore, ripe blackberries hung just an arm’s length from the canoe, and we ate our fill. The swallows nesting underneath the bridge were another treat we would have missed seeing from above. Likewise, a large building southwest of the cp has large metal sculptures of reptiles on the riverside brick walls only visible from the river. Gadsden is doing a great job of reclaiming its waterfront, and on the west bank we saw several places where new docks and walkways are currently under construction. Thirty minutes later we were back at the ramp, and loading the canoe back on the truck. Before leaving town we did some sightseeing, including a visit to the Emma Sansom monument, located at the foot of Broad Street, and a walk out on the tall bridge where we had a excellent aerial view of our earlier canoe route. We encountered rain showers on the way back home so we were glad to have gotten the early start to the day. Gadsden has one small outfitter store, but we could find no one close to rent us a canoe. Now here’s a great business opportunity for someone who wants to offer tours to a very pleasant confluence point…