Coosa River Campout
Fort Toulouse,
Wetumpke, Alabama
10-12 September 1999
by: Bob Barnett

Huntsville Canoe Club members began arriving at Ft. Toulouse Friday afternoon. Annora Day being the first to arrive reserved the best campsites in the campground; this proved to be unnecessary since we were about the only campers there. There was plenty of firewood stacked up, and with the first cool nights of late summer made for great camping. By late evening all had arrived. Brenda and I, Steve and Evon, Lewis and his two boys Rutland and Temple, Richard and Nancy, Si and Moonyen had dropped by earlier, but they had planned to stay the night with her brother who lives in the area. Ron Thomas drove down Saturday morning, missing the Wetumpke exit he went all the way to Montgomery making him run a little late. “It could happen to anyone, Ron”. Si brought his brother-in-law and nephew along bringing the total number of paddlers to fourteen.

At the put in we watched in dismay as a group of about thirty developmentally challenged kids between the ages of twelve and sixteen received their crash course in running whitewater. With helmets cinched down and paddles in hand, the down river command was given, it was total chaos, reminding me of a scene in a old movie I once saw of the Oklahoma land rush, canoes were turning over, people falling out, kids going in every direction. I bet those three trip leaders were asking themselves, what have we gotten ourselves into? When we returned from doing our shuttle everyone had cleared out, but toward the end of the run we found evidence of them passing by a broached canoe wrapped around a rock. The difficulty of the river that day was about class II + at Moccasin Gap, the hardest rapid on the river. The rest of the river consisted of long pools, shoals, and some very squirrelly eddies, nevertheless in my opinion this was too much river for those kids.
We stopped for lunch on the rock island, at Moccasin Gap, a good place to scout the rapid and watch the play boater. Ron studying the rapid very carefully, seemed to be somewhat intimidated by this rapid, and had just about decided not to run his beautiful Prospector through, Annora, Ron’s tandem partner was really getting excited watching all the action. She asks Brenda if she would run through with her, and Ron not to be outdone asks me if I would run with him. All went well and we had a good run. Lewis and his tow boys ran first, hitting the big curler at the bottom and becoming airborne, Rutland leaned out to brace, grabbing nothing but air, they capsized. Brenda and Annora got a chance to practice their rescue skills, although the boys would rather have kept on swimming. Si led the rest of our group down river right, We made one more river rescue, a lady and her two kids, that had no idea of what to do. This is a deep wide river with very few places to self rescue, I’m sure they were glad we happened by. Richard and Nancy approaching a rapid that was blocked by a raft, were unable to maneuver around, hitting the raft and knocking it loose they capsized, luckily they were able to self rescue. When we passed Moccasin Gap, Evon seemed to be relieved when I told her the worst part was behind us. Although I did not hear Steve myself, Evon and Steve becomes very vocal when he gets excited. I thought they looked very good that day.

That night we were sitting around the campfire and Steve asks Evon if she would rub his back. Evons reply! “You should have thought of that before we went through that first rapid.” A quote worth remembering. We finished out the evening back at the campground sitting under oak trees draped with Spanish Moss, eating Gumbo, crawfish and drinking our favorite beverage. Great trip, see you next time!