CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - Discussions of a possible canoe trail floated out of the conference room and into the creek over the weekend.
About 30 paddlers from the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club floated about eight miles on a swollen West Chickamauga Creek on Saturday, tracing the route enthusiasts and local officials hope to make into a blueway.
Walker County Attorney Don Oliver, who is spearheading the effort, plans to propose to East Ridge possibly this week the use of Camp Jordan as a northern terminus to the route. The southern end of the proposed water trail is Lee and Gordon's Mill in Chickamauga.
Blueways are scenic certified paddling trails maintained primarily by volunteers that allow public access to creeks and streams.
"This is going to be a beautiful, beautiful ride," Mr. Oliver said of the path, which snakes along the edge of the Chickamauga Battlefield.
Along the route, paddlers passed a sod farm with rich green grass and five curious horses and halted traffic on a bridge as drivers stopped to watch the waterlogged procession.
The view of the battlefield is obscured by high banks or thick underbrush in most places, but paddlers still are treated to views of rustic barns and rolling hills as they float past. Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park historian Jim Ogden said if the blueway is approved, the park most likely would add an access point and interpretive signs along the creek marking where certain units crossed the stream on the way to battle.
"There are quite a few historic sites along the creek," Mr. Ogden said.
Canoeist Rebecca Richard focused on the wildlife along the water route. Herons and other birds flew overhead while frogs provided background music for the trip. At one point two kayakers at the front of the flotilla startled a beaver that jumped into the water with a splash.
"If (the water) was lower, I'm sure you would see even more out there," Ms. Richard said of the creek's inhabitants.
The week's rain pushed the creek over its banks and turned a lazy stream into swift-moving muddy water. Paddlers who had run the route before said it usually takes four to five hours but the group finished in about three hours Saturday.
That's about the time commitment many paddlers are looking for, Mr. Oliver said. He said he hopes the blueway eventually will have about half a dozen access points in Chickamauga, Fort Oglethorpe, East Ridge and at the battlefield to punctuate paddlers' trips.
"Getting the launch points is the primary focus," Mr. Oliver said.
Making the route a blueway, which would mean creating a certification program in Georgia similar to the one already in Tennessee, probably would help keep the creek cleaner as well, according to Rossville kayaker Debra Martin. The first part of Saturday's route was relatively free of trash. Farther downstream closer to the take-out point at Reeds Bridge Road the creek was littered with soda bottles, shingles, metal drums and a refrigerator.
Many paddlers bring trash bags with them and pick up litter along the way, Ms. Martin said.
"I got four soccer balls last time I was out," she said.