Can you believe the rain this past week? The amounts that fell in some areas were amazing (and a bit terrifying, too, especially if you were one of the folks affected by out-of-the-banks creeks and flash flooding). It made the news bigtime, and it was hard to pull your eyes away.
I think about that TV video showing the normally quiet Chattahoochee through Helen as it rampaged through the town. Rain in the mountains flooded small branches, which then flooded small creeks, which in turn flooded bigger creeks and, eventually, flooded the Chattahoochee through the town.
The result? A zillion gallons of water roared right through the middle of the community, right through places that I recognized from days spent fishing the river earlier in the year. But there was no fishing in the midst of that maelstrom – just awe at the force of a flooding river.
Watching this on the news was scary enough, but watching it in real time was another. Thanks to the U.S. Geological Survey’s live webcam in Helen, I could see the river “right now” without leaving the comfort of home. You can see it too. Here’s the web address:
Watching the river this way is always interesting, and for a few seconds at a time you can even take control of where the camera is pointing. If we get more rain, and they say we might, this will be a compelling way to see firsthand what’s going on as the rain comes down and the rivers come up.
There’s another waterway webcam you might enjoy checking on too – the one that overlooks Big Creek near Rock Mill Park. Find it here to see what happens to Big Creek when heavy precipitation comes:
I found this one by accident one day while fishing this part of Big Creek at low water. Right away, I called my wife on the phone and told her I was on TV, sort of, and that she should check it out. So she went to the site and, sure enough, there I was (waders and fly rod and all) standing on the paved greenway trail. I waved and blew her a kiss. She liked that.
But I digress. Here in the southeast, we’ve got good live webcam coverage of a number of different rivers. In fact, there are currently some 17 USGS river cams in operation in Georgia and in North and South Carolina. You can access them via the USGS site, usgs.gov/centers/sa-water.
Look for the link at the right side of the screen (it’s the second entry under “SAWSC Quick Links”). Then click on the “Overview” tab, which takes you to the links to the various webcams. But be forewarned. These live river cams will eat up a ton of time if you don’t watch out.
Yes, river cams are nice. But there’s nothing like experiencing a creek or river firsthand, even in the rain. My buddy Marty and I managed to squeeze in a couple of hours of fishing last Monday far up in the mountains, between the worst of the rain bands, and the trout fishing turned out to be better than you might have expected. The trout, as my dad once pointed out to me, are already wet and don’t mind the precipitation at all (at least until things get too high and too muddy).
But the big rainy-weather draw isn’t fishing. It’s waterfalls.
There’s no doubt about it. If you’re a waterfalls enthusiast, the days right after a big rain event are the best time ever to check out some of northern Georgia’s falls. Otherwise, tiny falls become impressive cascades, and medium to large falls take on epic proportions that just may be a photographer’s dream come true.
Of course, you’ve got to keep safety in mind when visiting waterfalls during or after a rain event. For one thing, there’s a wee bit of danger associated with all that fast-flowing, hard-falling water. Don’t forget that. Stay out of the swollen creeks, and don’t go climbing in search of a better angle, etc. etc. You know the drill.
Be careful hiking in too. The same rains that turn the falls into unforgettable scenes will also make trails slippery and footing unsure.
Are there any particular falls you should check out? Everyone has favorites. One of the most accessible (and most spectacular) post-rain waterfalls is Anna Ruby Falls (accessible via Ga. 356 and Anna Ruby Falls Road near Unicoi State Park) not far from Helen. Fed by creeks that come out of the mountains, this falls truly has been in world-class form these last few days – and the fact that a paved trail takes you to a couple of observation platforms makes the adventure even more appealing.
Other falls in the area will be equally impressive. In that context, I’ve got to mention Dukes Creek Falls, accessible from the parking area off the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway/GA 348 which turns west off Highway 75A just north of Smithgall Woods State Park). You’ve got to do a bit of hiking to get there, but it’s worth it at any time – especially after a lot of rain. Need I say more?
Just be safe as you visit these falls. Never forget the power of a rain-swollen stream – even the little ones like you find up in the mountains.
Just don’t forget that camera – and a dry change of clothes!