Noteworthy Paddle in TAG: East Fork of the Little River, Alabama
Activities: Paddling, swimming, fishing, wildlife observation, camping
Rating: Moderate to Difficult
Little River, which is said to be one of the cleanest and wildest waterways in the south, flows for its almost entire length dropping over 1,250 feet down the middle of Lookout Mountain. The river forms an extensive canyon and gorge system that is up to 600 feet deep from the top of sandstone cliffs to the canyon floor. Its headwaters begin in nearby Georgia and it carves its way through one of the Southeast’s deepest canyons as it winds its way down thru Alabama. The main stem of the river is formed by the confluence of the 17-mile long East Fork and the 25-mile long West Fork. The river then flows another 23 miles before it eventually empties into the Coosa River at the Weiss Lake impoundment near Leesburg, Alabama.
On Sunday March 17th a group of us decided to float the East Fork section of the Little River. With recent rain falls we knew we would have enough water to run the river as about 900CFS is required for a good run. We had planned on an 11 mile float but were unable to access our original take out so instead had to opt for taking out near the bridge at Hwy 35. This gave us a 16 mile float from the put in near Mentone, AL just below the scenic dam at Lake Lahusage.
History of the Dam at Lake Lahusage: In 1925 J.B. Pounds, who was a Florida banker, along with other investors began plans to build a 200 room hotel in this area. They started with the dam with road across the top. The dam would create the lake and would provide the best access to the site where the hotel was going to be built. Just a few months after the dam was built heavy rainfalls washed it out. It was then rebuilt and construction on the hotel began a year later. Unfortunately, the builders fell into economic hardship and the hotel was never opened. While it did have some residents, it eventually fell into despair and later burned down completely.
Access to put in just below the dam is off of CR 106, near CR 632. Just before you reach the dam, CR 106 will go towards the right. Head straight onto the gravel road CR 632 and you will immediately see the dam down to your left. Look closely, just past the dam and you will see a small trail leading down to the river. There is parking for a few cars at the intersection of CR 106 & CR632, just make sure you do not block the road.
Shortly after you put in, you will come to your first rapid. The first 5 to 6 miles of the river will actually be full of fun little rapids ranging from Class I to Class II. After one mile after you put in, you will come to a low head dam that you will need to portage around to the right. Also, about 5 miles in you will need to portage to the right around a Class III rapid that has a huge strainer across it. The rapids calm down and you will eventually reach a part of the river with long pools. They pick back up again as you get closer to the take out at 35.
There are other put ins/take outs on this river but you would need to do some research on them.
Where the West Fork comes into the East Fork
The Low Head Dam about a mile from the put in at Lake Lahusage