Posts Tagged ‘Whitewater’

Neal Wickham’s New Dream

October 10, 2013
Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon  by the  Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids.

Neal Wickham at the Rotary Club of Columbus outdoor luncheon by the Chattahoochee River Whitewater Rapids

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks?  WIckham thinks it's a good idea.

How about a zip line from atop the Eagle and Phenix smokestacks? WIckham thinks it’s a good idea.

First, the dream.  Enter Neal Wickham, retired outdoor supplies retailer, environmentalist, and naturalist.  John Turner, the driving force behind developing the whitewater project on the Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City  credited Wickham with the idea of  breaching the cotton mill dams.  Wickham didn’t deny it. He told me he first made the suggestion back in the 1970s when then Ledger-Enquirer Editorial Page Editor Billy Winn wrote an editorial saying Columbus needed an “it” to promote the area.  Wickham said he wrote to Winn that breaching the mill dams would provide that “it. ”  Turns out he was right.

Turner said the whitewater project is succeeding in getting Columbus the kind of attention it needs to attract people from all over the country.  He said now when he tells people he’s from Columbus, Georgia, they say, “Oh, that city with the crazy river running through the downtown area.”  

Well, guess what? Neal Wickham has come up with another dream that could cause a lot of talk all over America.  He told me today that a zip line attached to the Eagle and Phenix Mill smokestacks crossing the  Chattahoochee River would be a huge attraction.  He is probably right.  Wonder if they are stable enough for elevators to take people to the top to hook onto  the the zip-line.  I’m pretty sure it would be easy to get an expert on such things to find out.  Just imagine what it would be like to zip over the Chattahoochee rapids from Columbus to Phenix City.  As someone at today’s Rotary event said, Wickham would be probably the first to do the zipping.  At 83, he was the oldest Rotarian to ride the rapids in a raft today.

Adjusting for High Water

June 19, 2013
Running Heaven's Gate at High Water

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.



14th Street Bridge to Open by September

June 17, 2013

imageAs I peered through the chain link fence that kept me off the 14th Street Bridge,  I was really impressed with the transformation of what was never – at least to me – a handsome structure into something that could actually be called beautiful.  It served its purpose for a long time as a bridge for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, since 1921, but, to me,  its appearance was strictly functional.  And… well… ugly. Now, as a pedestrian bridge designed to be in harmony with the rest of the River Walk, it’s easy on the eyes.

Columbus City Planner Rick Jones says it will open in its new incarnation at either the end of August or in early September.  It was supposed to be open by now, but structural problems with the approach, which include building the tunnel underneath to connect the River Walk on the Georgia side, caused the delay.

Jones said the city also plans to put in a couple of restrooms in the tunnel area.

The Plaza leading into the approach is scheduled to be completed in 2014.  He says that construction won’t prevent the opening of the bridge this year.

Everything Old is New Again on the Chattahoochee

March 26, 2012

“There goes history,” some of the folks said to me as we passed on our strolls down the Phenix City Riverwalk Sunday.  I replied, “It’s change,” and, frankly, I appreciate the creative thinking that gives new life to the old Chattahoochee River in downtown Columbus and Phenix City. Not only will kyaking and rafting bring a lot of tourist money to the area, it will enhance the Riverwalking experience. Still, I was encouraged to know that there are people who understand the importance of history.

In this particular instance, though, you could say history is also being preserved by  returning the river to the state in which it existed probably for thousands of years before the Industrial Revolution came along and society decided to harness nature to manufacture things.

The results of breaching the Eagle-Phenix Dam via dynamite on the Chattahoochee River at Columbus, GA

Historians tell us that Native Americans lived where Columbus and Phenix City are now located for about ten thousand years before European settlers came along and took their land away from them. During that time there were rapids here because Columbus and Phenix City are located on the Fall Line, the drop in elevation that goes back to when to our area was an ocean beach.

This brings up an interesting issue for historic preservation purists who maintain that no old structures should be destroyed.  While being a history buff who buys any new history written by David McCullough or Doris Kearns Goodwin no matter the subject, I’m not one of those purists. I think we should maintain examples of artifacts, but I have no problem in putting some areas to new uses. It seems to me that removing enough of the Eagle-Phenix and City Mill dams to return the whitewater to the river, but leaving remnants of them that symbolize the historical structures is an acceptable solution. Just think, we get something new, retain part of something fairly old, and restore something that is one heck of a lot older.

Showing my Grandsons How History will be Made and Unmade in Columbus Wednesday

March 19, 2012

It was good to have something interesting to show my grandsons and granddaughter-in-law when they came down from Cumming, GA to see me today. The occasion was the pending deployment of my Air Force grandson Benjamin overseas.. He came down with his brother Christopher  and sister-in-law Kristen. After we had lunch at the Cannon Brew Pub, a favorite restaurant of their’s when they were going to Columbus State, I took them to the Riverwalk so they could see the preparations for the breaching of the historic Eagle and Phenix Dam so whitewater enthusiasts can have a blast running the Chattahoochee River rapids in Columbus and Phenix City.

They found it quite  interesting. Too bad they won’t be here Wednesday when they could witness the dynamiting of the dam. I plan to be in the viewing area near the Dillingham Street Bridge at  three when the explosion takes place. It’ll  be interesting to see a piece of Columbus’ industrial history being blown to bits.