Lake Rabun – Ga
Water Clarity – 8
Natural Quality – 7 (stout kingfishers)
Perception – Friday
Elevation – 1683 feet
Lake Rabun runs along the Tallulah river-bed and is preceded by lakes Burton and Seed in the mountains of NE Georgia. The waters continue from Lake Rabun through the Tallulah gorge joining the Chattooga river within Lake Tugalo – then as part of the Savannah River Basin the flow continues into lakes Yonah and Hartwell before proceeding along the Ga/SC border into the Atlantic as the Savannah River.
A good paddle was sorely needed as the past week has been a tough one for my former cohorts at Asheville Fire Department, – we lost our buddy Captain Jeff Bowen on the fire-scene (my first thought was that I couldn’t imagine anyone trying any harder). Jeff was one of our more enthusiastic firefighters and a leader by-example – it was tough, tough for everyone. So time on the water is in order, this one’s for you Jeff.
Rabun Beach Recreation area was the best location for an improvised put-in ($3 day-fee), Halls Boathouse (Rabun Boathouse) is another option park and leave your vehicle for a paddle – they are both found on the north side of the lake, along Lake Rabun road.
On my drive this morning I was thinking of all the factors used in planning direction for paddling a lake (i.e. shade, wind, current, etc) I had a much longer list, but it turns out that once I was sitting in the kayak, I simply started paddling – seemed like such a trivial concern, today it just really didn’t matter.
In leaving the Rabun Beach boat-ramp I passed along the community beach where kids were swimming, horse-playing, and generally jumping or being pushed off the dock; no matter the culture the heartfelt laugh is universal – after the past week it sure was nice to hear the sound.
At more than 800 acres (and at my ez pace) I had some doubt in paddling lake Rabun in one day, so following Tugalo I was prepared in-case night fell and a riverside stay was needed. ‘Hanging out’ along the way makes it possible to absorb more of the lakes ambiance, plus early mornings provide an opportunity to slip within the solitude of it all.
Traveller was pointed west, toward the headwaters of the lake Seed spillway, this was the shorter end of the lake from the landing. In paddling towards the dam/spillway I found two hours of a much slower pace, a river-like base of fleeting tranquility.
The best perspective that I can put Lake Rabuns shape into is that of a giant earthworm, elongated with few coves, squirming from West to East – pushing about 25-miles of shoreline out along the way. Lake Seed is on the westerly and thinner (tail) end, Tallulah Gorge is on the thicker easterly end. Not that it is a mundane lake (like Williams lake) the shape actually makes it easier to cover the lakes surface area.
It had been a leisurely hour paddle from the boat-ramp, one pm – time for a stretch, half of a subway, and a beverage.
Nacoochee Park is a clean and simple little park overseen by Georgia Power, there are bathrooms and nice tables available (because of the spillway this is a no swimming area). I spent a couple of years attending the nearby Rabun Gap Nacoochee School when growing up – so I know that Nacoochee is an Indian word from many, many moons ago.
Burton Dam road bridge.
For early afternoon on Friday I was surprised with how peaceful this section was, it left me plenty of time to notice how healthy the kingfishers were, large in stature with vivid coloring and seemingly less skiddish than usual.
The temperature was also in the upper 90’s so I stopped once again to submerge, two other paddlers neared and we spoke. ‘Vince’ told me that he lived a few miles away and wouldn’t care to paddle any other lake, a compliment to Rabuns charisma. As for me I was still working on that decision and Vince didn’t give me a good chance of paddling the rest of the lake by nightfall, didn’t matter – I had my gear.
Soon I passed the boat-ramp, it had been two hours since put-in, now time to paddle on towards the ‘head of the beast’ and into the rumble of power-boats.
Boathouses are definitely pronounced, many fine in quality but also tucked in between were those of more character, practical ones such as this – reminded me of the boathouses I had seen on the Gulf at Suwannee a few months earlier.
It appeared to be a paddle-friendly community, many of the docks had kayaks stowed and easily at-hand. Easy to understand that everyday is not Friday and the majority of days this ‘earthworm’ shaped lake could be a fine avenue of muse.
But it was Friday and people were beginning to come out of the woodwork, er boathouses.
The boats that I saw were mostly ‘big-uns,’ ski boats with cruisers or wake-boarders throwing large wakes, yet there were some unique vessels sprinkled about too.
As I traveled Rabun rd earlier I had noticed these wooden canoes, so as I neared the small cove I paddled to investigate – the folks enjoying the boathouse were really friendly – even urging me to take one and try it out. Emily’s dad, Tommy Thomas (or Thompson) a local, built and sells them, I was impressed with how light they were too. Good folks.
Lake Rabun is an older lake, first flooded about 1919 I think – anyway that older character is still reflected in some of the boathouses, I really liked the big eaves on the following one.
Boathouses of different quality, character,
and era’s – you can buy one (they’ll let you make payments).
– with a number of simple ‘jumpin’ docks in between. I could imagine a little dock such as this occupying many a kid for hours over the years.
It was five pm when I reached the easterly most point of the lake, a large body of water busy with the constant motion of Friday afternoon boating.
I took a gander at the dam and water exit point, then turned my thoughts towards the scenery between there and Rabun Beach.
I paddled by the Lake Rabun Boathouse marina, not a bad little store – they do have adult beverages but I was looking more for some ‘land-food,’ maybe even a big ole juicy hamburger, mmmmeatt! Nope, mostly souvenir items, I spoke with Josh a bit and then once again paddled on – I guess the other half of that sub would suffice.
(I later learned that the Lake Rabun Hotel is nearby, must be great food because there was a crowd as I passed)
The shadows were getting longer as the cruisers were beginning to come out for their evening ogle.
Not a bad paddle, and I did make it back to the boat-ramp at 730 pm – 7.5 hours of paddling, 25-miles of shoreline, kinda like a day’s mileage on the Suwannee.
Lake Rabun with its smaller size and boathouses had a neighborly feel to it, I liked that – all of the folks that I met and spoke with were really friendly. Sure there were all those ski-boats pulling ‘jim-bobs’ doing all those flips and things while rolling out the large wakes, but it was Friday and that’s what enjoying the lake is all about.
After paddling Rabun I could better understand Vince’s (the paddler in the beginning) appreciation for this lake, especially on weekdays or times other than the weekends – the boathouses are neat with outstanding character – all in all a very worthwhile paddle with a little bit of everything to see and ponder.
“Jeff loved the water, ” I can’t help to think that we take the positive bits and pieces we learn from others and carry on with them, we’ll be thinking of you buddy……..