NANFA-- Tallulah Gorge area trip report (way long)

Roselawn Museum (
Wed, 17 Jul 2002 15:54:28 -0400

Hi All

This past weekend (July 12-14), NANFA's GA Region hosted a trip to the
Tallulah Gorge area of NE GA & SW NC that attracted 7 fishheads from four
different states. On Friday afternoon, I checked into a motel in Clayton,
GA just north of Tallulah Falls to set up for yet another marathon fish
chase. Fritz Rohde (Wilmington, NC) and I had previously agreed to meet for
some afternoon snorkeling at the Chattooga River, so I turned of US Highway
441 onto Warwoman Road for the seventeen mile stretch between there and the
rendezvous point. Several places along the way (including a nice wildlife
area) bore the name "Warwoman," and I was sure there had to be a story
connected with it.

As I pondered this, I spied a farmer pulling into his driveway. He waved as
I passed, which is the standard rural greeting. (It differs from the city
wave in that all the fingers are extended, instead of just one.) I pulled
over just past his mailbox as he politely waited for me to approach. We
exchanged salutations and names, then I asked him if there was a legend
attached to the name Warwoman.

An older gentleman with a kind manner, he introduced himself as Junior
Crow. Speaking slowly, he patiently explained that back in the days of the
Cherokee removal from the area the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation was
"relocated" in NC while the rest made the horrible journey toward Oklahoma
on the Trail of Tears. On one of these human round-ups, government troops
along with their captives stopped by a stream for the night at a place
where Clayton's Battle Branch Baptist Church now stands. During the night,
a determined Cherokee woman crept into the camp with a long knife and made
a commando style raid. She allegedly took out at least nine soldiers before
she was finally stopped. Whatever her true name was, she is now remembered
simply as the Warwoman.

My brief visit with Mr. Crow, who seemed to be as much a part of the area
as the land itself, was representative of why I can't even entertain the
notion of leaving the South. Being a historian, I could have listened for
hours but I knew Fritz was waiting for me. I'll have to research this story
further at another point in time. Casper Cox and I share some distant
Cherokee ancestry from this area of the state. Geez...Casper & I possibly
related?....Now there's a truly scary thought! (-:

Mr. Crow granted my request to photograph him, and I'll include his picture
in the pictorial portion of the report. We shook hands and parted company
as I continued my drive to the Chattooga. I had barely arrived at the
appointed spot before Fritz rolled up. We donned the wetsuits and moved a
repectful distance upstream from the few trout fishermen already in the

July in GA is usually way hot, but a wedge weather pattern moved into the
area and parked there for the duration of the weekend, bringing in mist
(later rain) and temperatures in the 70s (noramlly 90s). Without the
sunshine, the water seemed much colder, but we still got in a couple of
good hours of snorkeling before we were thoroughly chilled. We saw
warpaint, whitetail, and yellowfin shiners, bluehead chubs, redhorse,
northen hogsuckers, rainbow trout, assorted sunfish, and a couple of
darters that we couldn't get close enough (especially without glasses) to ID.

When we returned to the motel, Casper Cox (Chattanooga, TN) was waiting for
us. He and Fritz shared a room three doors down from mine. After they got
settled in their room, the three of us stood out in the parking lot,
viewing and photographing fishes before we went to dinner. As with most
memorable trips, it didn't take long for the "wierd factor" to appear. The
door to the motel room nearest the truck opened, and out stepped a young
blonde. Although she was attractive, she was a just a bit too chubby for
the clothes she wore, and her smile was a lot like an advertisement. She
drove away, but returned just a few minutes later.

When she emerged from her room again, she was wearing a strippers outfit
(what little there was of it), and announced, "Time to go to work," as she
got in her car. "I only come up here on the weekends to work as a
bartender," she claimed. We couldn't help but chuckle, and she said, "What?
Do I look bad?" We assured her that she did not, and wished her well.
Putting her car in reverse, she said, "Well, gotta' go make some money,"
then shot us another billboard smile and said, "Unless I can make more
money here." We politely declined, and she rolled away.

After we finally quit laughing, we piled into Casper's van and proceeded to
a local restaurant for an excellent dinner. We had a great time exchanging
personal histories and fish-related anecdotes. These guys make very good
company even if we weren't going anywhere. Just as we returned to the
motel, Blondie rolled up with four (count 'em, four!) Hispanic gentlemen in
her car, and looking rather sheepish. "I am so busted," she said, as if we
hadn't already figured out she was a "working girl." Since their room was
right next door, Fritz said, "I hope you're not going to be making a lot of
noise tonight." She grinned and replied, "I'm not making noise, just
money...lots of money!" We left her with her "friends" and returned to the
room to examine some fish books before we called it a night.

After enjoying the motel's complimentary breakfast Saturday morning, we
drove just a few miles south on US 441 to the Tallulah Point Overlook where
we met Dustin Smith (Newberry, SC), Chip Rinehart (West Columbia, SC), and
John Patterson (Lillington, NC) beside the Gorge at 8AM. Although heavy
mists capped the surrounding hills, the view of the Gorge was still
spectacular. We took a couple of group photos as we waited for late
arrivals, then formed a caravan to our first stop of the day.

Big Panther Creek (Two miles south of Tallulah Gorge on US 441):

This is a small, clear running stream that forms a repeating series of
falls, pools, & riffles. The bottom is mostly sand and gravel, with some
mud in the deeper pools. We chose a stretch just outside the park
boundaries of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Just after we parked, we
were joined by Paul Harney (Clermont, GA). Paul had been the subject of
much discussion that morning as he had missed out on our last two trips
(Little River, AL & Edgefield, SC) due to confusing directions. When he
didn't show up at the Gorge, we concluded that he too must be a blonde. (-;
Not so, however, as he arrived just in time for this one. Anticipating his
arrival, artist/sign maker Casper presented him with a personalized,
colorful "X marks the spot, you are here" placard, complete with check
boxes for recent trips. Paul got to check this one off the list!

After climbing a wobbly fence at the highway median, we all descended to
the stream below. Species collected/observed included

rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
yellowfin shiner (Notropis lutipinnis)
bandfin shiner
creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
bluehead chub (Nocomis leptocephalus)

The bandfin shiner was the target fish for this location, and it was found
in abundance. Yellowfin shiners, much discussed recently for the variations
of their fin color, displayed bright red-orange fins in the males we
caught. We finished here ahead of schedule, and traveled 23 miles north up
US 441 to where it intersects GA Highway 246.

Little Tennessee River (On the property of Kitty Wise):

Ms. Kitty Wise graciously allowed us access to this stream that borders her
property. (Thank again, M'aam!) I made sure I got her email address so we
could send her the link to the trip report. We entered through a one-lane
gravel driveway with a six-car caravan. This terminated in a hayfield where
we parked. We still had to walk a little way to the river, but the weather
was holding steady. Fritz broke out the shocker, and soon we were looking
at lots of fishes. The water there was more turbid, with a strong current.
The bottom (rarely visible) was gravel in the shallows, and mud in deeper
areas with oddly slanted boulders and sudden drop-offs. Seines were the
only way to go, as dipnets were virtually useless. Species
collected/observed included

yellowfin shiner (N. lutipinnis)
river chub (Nocomis micropogon)
warpaint shiner (Luxilus coccogenis)
whitetail shiner (Cyprinella galactura)
central stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum)
Tennessee shiner (Notropis leuciodus)
telescope shiner (Notropis telescopus)
mirror shiner (Notropis spectrunculus)
fatlips minnow (Phenacobius crassilabrum)
northern hog sucker (Hypentelium nigricans)
gilt darter (Percina evides)
greenside darter (Etheostoma blennioides)
mottled sculpin (Cottus bairdi)
mountain brook lamprey (Ichthyomyzon greeleyi)

At this point, the party split up into two groups. Fritz had some further
interest in the Little TN River further down as he continued his search for
stonecats. Dustin, Chip, and Casper opted to accompany him, while Paul and
John went with me to complete the scheduled circuit. (Dustin & Chip have
agreed to supply a trip report of their adventures on that end.) We said
goodbye to our friends, thanked Ms. Wise, and took off to NC.

We followed GA 246 until it became NC 106 at the state line. As soon as we
crossed into NC, we began the steep, winding climb into the foothills of
the Blue Ridge Mountains. The route I had mapped out was chosen for the
incredible scenic view it offered. Almost immediately, however, we ran into
a very dense fog that continued all the way to Highlands, NC, which boasts
an elevation of 4118'. It was cold up there! As we entered Highlands, and
turned south onto NC 28, the fog gave way to rainfall that lasted in
various degrees of strength for the remainder of the day. We were dry when
we sat down to plates of barbeque at a placed called Rib Country, but we
were totally soaked after that.

Clear Creek (Approximately 8 miles south of Highlands, NC, just west of NC
Highway 28):

Clear Creek was a tiny, obscure stream with clear, cold water and a
sustrate of sand & gravel. Lining both banks were thick stands of
rhododendrum that blocked access to the stream as effectively as any hedge
could have. Thus, the only way into the water was a nearly vertical descent
through a mat of Virginia creeper. Fortunately, the footholds I had dug on
my previous scouting run were still usable. We worked the seine in the
pools and kicked into our dipnets in the riffles. The steady rain was
already having a noticeable effect on the water level and the turbidity
increased rapidly. This and the cold rain made it a shorter stay than I had
originally planned. Species collected/observed included

yellowfin shiner (N. luttipinnis)
bluehead chub (N. leptocephalus)
longnose dace (Rhinichthys cataractae)
central stoneroller (C. anomalum)
river chub (N. micropogon)
rosyface chub (Hybopsis rubifrons)
northern hogsucker (H. nigricans)
rainbow trout (O. mykiss)

The yellowfin shiners at this location displayed both orange and yellow fin
coloration. Leaving Clear Creek, we turned south on NC Highway 28, crossed
back into GA, and stopped at the Chattooga River, which forms the border
between GA & SC at the bridge. Foolishly, I forgot that it was a trout
stream and that we no longer had anyone with us who possessed a scientific
permit. So, taking the seine in this stream was a huge mistake, for which I
take full responsibility. On any other given day, you couldn't find a game
warden if you tried. Unfortunately for us, a young trout fisherman got
offended when he saw our seine and called 'em. Although I'm still having
trouble with my attitude about this individual, he was well within his
rights to do so. I just wonder why no one ever calls in on the clowns who
throw everything in the water from Granny's broken flower pot to the engine
block out of Bubba's pick-up.

In any event, as I returned to the van for a snack, I was approached by the
Rabun County (GA) Sherriff who asked me to wait until the wildlife boys
showed. Before the next hour had passed, we were also visited by a SC
ranger, two separate units of U.S. Forestry rangers, and two GA rangers.
Eventually, after some stern warnings (and hints on how to read a map),
they let us go intact. The upside is that most of them had actually heard
of NANFA in some form or fashion. The downside is that I risked the arrest
of my companions, and bad PR for NANFA. For that, I profoundly apologize.
Species collected/observed included

central stoneroller (C. anomalum)
whitetail shiner (C. galactura)
warpaint shiner (L. coccogenis)
bluehead chub (N. leptocephalus)
Tennessee shiner (N. leuciodus)
yellowfin shiner (N. lutipinnis)
northern hog sucker (H. nigricans)
some sort of redhorse
redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus)
redeye bass (Micropterus coosae)
unidentified darter
rainbow trout (O. mykiss)

Needless to say, after this drama, we wisely called it a day. Despite the
embarrassment, it was a very worthwhile trip. Thanks to all the guys who
showed up, and special thanks to Fritz Rohde & Dave Neely for their help as
I researched the trip in preparation. And to those about to collect, we
salute you!

All The Best,

Steven A. Ellis
NANFA GA Regional Representative
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