Blue Hole Summer 2013 Roadtrip Diary

Here's a final update for my 2013 journeys up to Tennessee and to Blue Hole! It was a very wet year, and due to floods and lousy weather there were fewer chances to enjoy the river.

Dates Plans Comments
June 11th and 12th Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made On Tuesday I went to the Whitewater Center to pick up my Cherokee National Forest pass, but the water was running too high to swim there (1,860 cubic ft. per second according to TVA's website) so I just went to the lake and beach at Chilhowee after getting a few pics. On Wednesday they said the water was still high and the flow was about the same at 1,860 cfs, so I went to explore the Jack's River/Conasauga "snorkeling hole" for the first time. It is quite remote and doesn't compare to Blue Hole, but it was good to finally go there and see it. After that I went back to Chilhowee again.
Parksville Lake was extremely low -- despite all the extra rainwater flowing into it -- because TVA was keeping the level low to make repairs to Ocoee Dam #1, and Mac Point and Parksville Beaches were both affected. Repairs were completed and the lake re-filled -- quickly -- as of June 26th.
June 25th and 26th Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made Went up with my friend Ripper and his new 7-month old husky/wolf hybrid Fenrir. On Tuesday the river was flowing fairly swiftly through the tunnel area but not as high as I'd expected, and lower than sometimes seen in pics from previous years. The water was cloudier than normal and a bit chillier, but still do-able.
On Wednesday TVA released water through the rivercourse from Ocoee #3 dam -- we estimated about 400 cubic ft./sec -- and technically swimming was not allowed. We took Ripper's dog for a good walk up past Little Blue Hole, then drove over to the Edge of the World swimming hole near Dawsonville, GA before heading to Ripper's mom's house and then home.
Pics and vids are posted on my Facebook profile.
July 2nd-3rd Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made This week TVA had removed the "Occoee #3 dam will be spilling intermittently" warning from their website for #3 dam, and the flow through the riverbed, while a bit higher than last week due to more rain, was low enough to go swimming. Despite a dire forecast and some morning rain the weather stayed rain-free for the entire afternoon at Blue Hole and it ended up being a good day. Met some cool people including Casey, and Brady, Trey and their friend who wanted to remain nameless, plus some other cool folk. All in all, it was a pretty good day considering the forecast.

It rained heavily in Cleveland TN several times overnight and on Wednesday the radar showed a vast expanse of moderate rain covering the area and extending back into the Gulf of Mexico, so I headed home early, stopping at two "bucket list" places that are normally closed when I pass by in the evening: Roger and Carol's Quick Burger in Copperhill TN and Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, GA. The former was really good, and the latter was really BIG. :)
Videos from all summer -- including two from this week -- are posted in this YouTube playlist.
Pics from this week's trip are now posted here!

July 16th and 17th Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip cancelled Water was being run high by TVA on Tuesday. Wednesday was the first time in almost two weeks that TVA wasn't sending extra water through the Ocoee gorge, but we decided to forego a one-day trip. The water would have been pretty cloudy anyway since TVA didn't reduce the flow through the Ocoee #3 gates until 8am.
Also, the next scheduled roadtrip up there is early next week, so we're hoping to get up there soon with water low enough for swimming.
July 22nd and 23rd Monday and Tuesday roadtrip made! The 22nd was to be a mandatory unpaid furlough day and Tuesdays are my regular off-days at work, so this was going to be a "freebie" visit to Blue Hole, but at the last moment the furlough day was lifted and I had to use up some vacation time instead.
With a forecast (per TVA's Ocoee #3 Reservoir page) of extra water being flowed through the river and a VERY iffy weather forecast it was looking like I'd be wasting a bunch of vacation time, but it ended up being a lot better than my friend Ripper and I expected. On Monday TVA dropped the water flow down to around 1,400 cfs at 11am and by the time we got there, the alarm was off and the water was down just enough to make swimming through the tunnels do-able. The water was very cloudy, though, with 1 or 2-foot visibility. The weather cooperated despite a dire forecast and it didn't rain.
On Tuesday there was again no water being released from the dam and the water was much lower and a good deal clearer, perhaps 10 ft visibility, so it was almost a "normal" day from yesteryear. A thunderstorm passed slowly through between 3 and 4pm, chasing away some cool rafting guides we were hanging out with, and also a large group of church-kids, which we didn't mind.
July 30th and 31st Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made My friend Ripper again came along with his malamute/wolf mix Fenrir. Tuesday was easily the best day we've had up there this season, with water levels approaching normal, lots of sun, very clear water and reasonably warm, too.
Pics from Tuesday and the last roadtrip are now posted here.
On Wednesday it rained through the morning and the forecast indicated more rain coming all day (90% chance), so we headed back to Atlanta, stopping at Roger and Carol's Quick Burger and at Mercier Orchards on the way back.
Videos from this trip are in my 2013 Blue Hole YouTube playlist.
August 6th and 7th Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made! Ripper once again came up along with his wolf-dog Fenrir. The forecast said 40% chance of thunderstorms on Tuesday and 80% chance on Wednesday, but after one storm right before we got there on Tuesday, it never rained on us at Blue Hole while we were there. Other areas nearby got rain and it rained at Blue Hole overnight, but we got pretty lucky. Sadly the sun never really came out fully on either day, just a high overcast at best, so I didn't try to take any underwater vids.
The water level on Tuesday was on the low end for this summer but higher than in drier years past. Due to rainfall overnight, it was substantially higher on Wednesday and actually increased in depth a few inches while we were there...not in an alarming way but quite noticeable near the tunnels. Met some awesome people this time around including Joshua and Zak, who are rafting guides on the Nantahala and discovered Blue Hole as they were passing by, a group of guides from Nantahala Outdoors Center whose names I forgot (sorry!), and Dylan, Zachary and Grant, who saw my website and came to Blue hole.
Overall this wasn't a bad trip but it reinforced something I noticed on Wednesday: unlike most years, in 2013 on days when we've been at Blue Hole, the cloud-cover has been so prevalent that the river-rocks and the asphalt parking lot have never been so hot that you'd blister your feet. Just goes to underscore how clousy the year has been for the entire region.
Pics from this roadtrip are now posted here!
I only took one vid, abovewater, but it has been added to my 2013 Blue Hole playlist on YouTube.
August 20th and 21st Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip cancelled Once again, the weather turned against us, and heavy rain fell in the Ocoee Basin right before this roadtrip. TVA was forced once again to flow extra water past the dam -- about 1,900 cfs, which means 400-500 cfs through the rivercourse -- and I decided not to go up on Tuesday. I was considering going up on Wednesday since it was the last chance for 2013, but even though the water level had been reverted back to normal, the forecast showed highs only in the lower 80s and the radar showed a lot of rain. So, the rainy, damp Summer of 2013 at Blue Hole ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
Here's hoping that Summer of 2014 proves to be drier!
To put matters into perspective, parts of Georgia have already received over 45 inches of rain since January...which is the amount we would normally receive in a full year, and it's only August as I'm typing this!

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