Running Heaven’s Gate at High Water
When the river reaches flood stage, which it did today, Whitewater Express continues to operate, but only at Heaven’s Gate, and I do mean right there. The put the rafts in at the Eagle and Phenix Power Plant, run the rapid, paddle back and do it again. They don’t do the long river run, and they don’t do the more challenging Cut Bait on the Alabama side of the Chattahoochee.
There are a couple of advantages to doing the short run over and over. For one thing, as a guide told me, “You do improve with practice.” I noticed that was the case. The first time the raft I was watching did a couple of about-faces during the run. The second time it went straight through with no wabbling around. But, the next time, the raft flipped. When I commented that getting the swimmers back on the raft took up time, Blake Quinney, Assistant Director of Operations for Whitewater Express said “They are having fun.” Indeed, it did appear they were.
Another advantage is the rafters get to run Heaven’s Gate as many times as they can get in an hour and a half. The long river runs do it twice. A drawback could be that there are more different rapids to run on the long run.
Blake was pleased with the amount of business they have done so far. Four- thousand people have rafted down the Chattahoochee since the end of May, and he expects to have served as many as twenty-thousand rafters by the end of August.