Just beneath the surface of the Chattahoochee River, Columbus Fire and EMS Battalion Chief Bryan Watson says the currents can be vicious, and others who are knowledgeable of the water agree.
“Now keep in mind also, that the river current is moving quite rapidly, so even if the pools are elevated and it looks, all things looking, it may look like a lake, at certain sections of the Chattahoochee, but the river can be moving quite rapidly,” says Will Chambliss with Whitewater Express.
The rapids, the rocky bottom, and a changing landscape create a need to proceed with caution while enjoying recreational activities.
“I recommend always, if you’re near the water, whether you’re a great swimmer, weak swimmer, anything, if you are near the water, you need a PFD (personal flotation device),” Chambliss says.
Battalion Chief Watson says it’s necessary to wear a life jacket, even if you’re simply standing on the riverbank. He says the rocks are slippery, and the water conditions can change at any moment due the Georgia Power dams.
“My understanding from Georgia Power, they give you a siren burst down here, you’ve got three minutes at that point to move. If you’re out on these rocks in three minutes, you’re going to be covered up with water,” Battalion Chief Watson says.
Chambliss says the water pressure from the rapids can be fatal, and says if you find yourself caught in the current, do not try to stand up.
“You get hung up on something on the bottom of the river, whether it be a rock or a log, or some form of debris, then the pressure of the water moving so quickly can hold you under water,” Chambliss says.
He says that’s one safety precaution they focus on while preparing adventure seekers for whitewater rafting, along with wearing a life jacket at all times.
Game Warden, Sergeant Jeremy Bolen, with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources says there have been talks to place signage along the Riverwalk to inform newcomers and those unfamiliar with the Chattahoochee River of the dangerous circumstances.
“We are always looking to see what we can do to keep these drownings from occurring,” says Bolen.
If you’re planning an outing to the river, Chambliss suggests checking Georgia Power’s website, where you can find the generators’ schedule and know how many gates will be open during your trip. You can find that information here.