Lake levels dropping just in time for holiday
by Matt Shinall
May 23, 2013 | 686 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A series of weather events rolling across the Southeast has made for a soggy spring, evidence of which can still be seen at Allatoona Lake, but U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials expect all resources to be reopened and available in time for Memorial Day.

“We are coming down some, and we only have one ramp closed right now and we expect it to be open by Friday,” said USACE Chief Ranger of Recreation for Allatoona Lake Linda Hartsfield. “We are fully operational, the gates are open again and all our campsites are filled for the weekend. In Bartow County, we only have about six campsites still underwater and they’re all non-electric, so they’re unreservable, and we anticipate those being available at least by Friday. ... Those that are underwater are, as I said, non-electric so they’re first-come, first-serve to whoever’s there when they’re ready to go.

“Our beaches will be a little above normal levels, but they will more than likely all be usable, as will the picnic tables — barring any heavy deluges.”

As of noon Wednesday, Allatoona Lake was at 843.08 feet-mean-sea-level, which is just over three feet above normal full pool. USACE officials expect the lake to be at 842 ft-msl by Friday allowing for all public areas to be open for use.

“Hopefully by Friday it will be at 842 or less. That’s very workable,” Hartsfield said, reminding anyone on the water to be cautious over the holiday weekend. “In any and everything you do, regardless of how high or low the water is, it is always important to wear your life jackets, and as of May 15, new Georgia law requires children 12 and under must wear a life jacket on a vessel.”

As for river-based activities, all Allatoona Dam spillgates are still open and the Memorial Day weekend schedule has yet to be determined. The USACE will take many factors, some of which change hour-to-hour, into consideration when making that decision. For up-to-date information on water release schedules, call 706-334-7213.

Also taking place on the lake this weekend is an expanding program offered by Red Top Mountain State Park for new and beginning paddlers.

Lakegoers will have several opportunities this summer to get on the water in a paddle-powered vessel guided by Red Top Mountain State Park rangers. The guided tours will be offered five evenings in May, June and August, with three tours featuring tandem kayaks and two tours by tandem canoe.

The program began last year with the purchase of canoes and kayaks by a state “Tons of Fun” grant to promote outdoor recreation. This year, park staff are expanding and retooling the program to teach about paddle sports, wildlife and the lake.

“This year we’ve gotten more boats from different parks and now we’re able to split up the tours into kayaking and canoeing and do a little different things with both of them,” said Red Top Mountain State Park Naturalist Marcus Toft. “It’s definitely good for beginners. It’s not a very strenuous pace that we’re going to go at and we don’t go particularly far.

“So even if you haven’t ever been paddling, we’ll get out and give you some basic instruction on how to move, how to turn, those sort of things. We don’t have any rapids on the lake, so it’s kind of a peaceful evening. We’ll go in and out of some coves and we’ll stay out of the main channel. We’ll do some interpretation and hopefully we’ll see some wildlife.”

Ranger-led tandem paddle tours begin Saturday with a kayak trip. Two more kayak trips will take place, Saturday, Aug. 3, and Saturday, Aug. 31. Tandem canoe trips will take place Saturday, June 29, and Saturday, Aug. 10. All trips last from 5 to 7 p.m. and leave from the park office in the old lodge at 50 Lodge Road, Cartersville.

Paddle tours are $20 per person. Space is limited and pre-registration is required. For more information, visit www.gastateparks.org/redtopmountain or call 770-975-0055.