Paddling in the treetops 2023-02-13 and for real two years ago 2021-02-27 2023-02-13

Update 2023-02-16: River Low, Action, and Flood Stages 2023-02-16.

“Right now we’d be paddling in the treetops,” joked Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter, Monday at the Lowndes County Commission Work Session, about the upcoming Fourth Annual Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2023-03-04.

Well, five of us actually did that two years ago, February 27, 2021. As I wrote back then, “ it was smooth sailing for experienced paddlers. The overhanging branches would have been a problem for novices, and there were very few places to get out if you did capsize.”

[Chairman says paddling in the treetops, and for real two years ago]
Chairman says paddling in the treetops, and for real two years ago

“It would be a very short trip, I promise you,” Lowndes County EMA Director Ashley Tye replied to the Chairman.

Two years ago it took about four hours to paddle those 11 miles from Troupville Boat Ramp to Spook Bridge, from 9 AM to a little after 1 PM, without rushing. That’s fast, 2.75 miles an hour, compared to our default estimate of 5.5 hours at two miles an hour.

Back then the Hahira Gauge, on the Little River at GA 122, read about 13.73 feet.

[Hahira Gauge USGS 02318380 2021-02-27]
Hahira Gauge USGS 02318380 2021-02-27

The Withlacoochee River looked like this when the sun shone through.

[Driftwood, 10:05:05, 30.8392304, -83.3717073]
Driftwood, 10:05:05, 30.8392304, -83.3717073

That was a foot and a half below Action stage of 15.2 feet.

[Action Stage 15.2 feet, Hahira Gauge]
Action Stage 15.2 feet, Hahira Gauge

Monday, the same gauge read about 15.6 feet, or almost half a foot above action stage, and rising. So Monday it was already almost two feet higher than two years ago. Looks like it’s about up to 16.21 or a foot above action stage and about two and a half feet higher than two years ago.

[Hahira Gauge USGS 02318380 2023-02-13]
Hahira Gauge USGS 02318380 2023-02-13

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson would have had troubling finding his favorite sign, because down at the clean outfall of the Withlacoochee Wastewater Plant, the sign would have been almost completely underwater.

[Mayor and WWTP outfall sign, 09:39:32, 30.8360190, -83.3594110]
Mayor and WWTP outfall sign, 09:39:32, 30.8360190, -83.3594110

This is what the same sign looked like on the actual 2021 Mayor’s Paddle, a month later, March 27, 2021.

[Gushing WWTP Outfall, 10:44:50, 30.8358870, -83.3594783]
Gushing WWTP Outfall, 10:44:50, 30.8358870, -83.3594783

The Hahira Gauge was at about 10 feet, and streamflow was about 871 ft3/s. That paddle took about five hours, from 10 AM to 3 PM, March 27, 2021.

So you can’t just multiply according to water level or streamflow to get paddle time.

But, yes, it would be a brief paddle Monday, and briefer today.

We hardly ever look at streamflow around here, since water level is much more useful to determine when we will be dragging boats, running rapids, or dodging overhanging limbs. But streamflow was about 2170 cubic feet per second very early Sunday morning, February 12, 2023, when the water level was about teh same as that flood paddle two years ago.

[Streamflow 2170 Hahira Gauge 2023-02-12]
Streamflow 2170 Hahira Gauge 2023-02-12

Right now (10:20 AM, February 15, 2023), streamflow is about 5280 ft3/s, or about 2.4 times more.

[Streamflow 5280 Hahira Gauge 2023-02-15]
Streamflow 5280 Hahira Gauge 2023-02-15

So yes, it would be a very fast paddle. Maybe three hours or less.

And much more dangerous for novices. Imagine this with the water two and a half feet higher.

[Those branches are usually 20 feet overhead, 09:07:58, 30.8505670, -83.3483760]
Those branches are usually 20 feet overhead, 09:07:58, 30.8505670, -83.3483760

Which is why WWALS does not schedule paddles during action stage, except for experts. has predictions for the same gauge (in NAVD88 feet, i.e., from sea level), which indicate the water level has probably peaked today.

[Hahira Gauge 2023-02-15]
Hahira Gauge 2023-02-15


Here is video of Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter’s joke:

8. Reports, Work Session, Lowndes County Commission,
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange 2023-02-13.

Join WWALS and the Valdosta Mayor and Lowndes County Chairman in a little less than three weeks for the Fourth Annual Mayor and Chairman’s Paddle, Withlacoochee River 2023-03-04.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!