View Full Version : In the Cohutta Wilderness After Fire, Flood, High Winds

Dan Roper
10-06-2018, 09:06
The Cohutta Wilderness Area on the Georgia/Tennessee line has been hammered by a tremendous fire (late 2016), an epic flood (July 2018) and many high-wind events. A number of trails are still closed due to damage incurred during the July 21 deluge and wind event - Rice Camp, Hickory Ridge, Horseshoe Bend and the lower half of Jacks River.

Yesterday, I did a 10-mile loop hike that included bushwhacking outside the Wilderness and about 4-5 miles of the lower Conasauga River Trail. I had last been on this trail in September '16, just before the Rough Ridge Fire. I was surprised at what I found. I was looking forward to reaching the trail after some tough bushwhacking, knowing that it's typically in good shape. In fact, it's in terrible shape. The section covered was from the mouth of Paint Bank Branch to the western trailhead. Some of the trail has been pretty much obscured by flood debris, silt, etc. There are many deadfalls from the fire, and this is just the beginning of that, as thousands of damaged and dead trees will come down over the next few years. The area above the Chicken Coop Gap region was especially hard hit. Below that it wasn't so bad. The last 1.25 miles, where the trail leaves the river and climbs to the trailhead, was in good shape except for a handful of deadfalls.

Somebody unfamiliar with that trail would have a hard time following it - not knowing where the river fords are located and with stretches of the trail "lost."

The river was running full but not high. I crossed 14 times, only one of which was challenging enough to require more than the usual amount of care. If we don't get rain, the level will continue to fall and that won't be an issue. But if more rain comes, that could be an issue, since the soil was saturated by last week's rains.

The Jacks River drainage was more drastically affected than the Conasauga drainage. The word is that parts of Beech Bottom and vicinity were badly damaged by the high winds.

The Forest Service and trail maintenance volunteers have a daunting and massive job ahead of them.

Many of the slopes above the Conasauga were heavily damaged in the fire. There are hundreds or thousands of acres of dead trees, with the floor below populated by thick stands of three-foot-high birch saplings. It's an unusual an interesting sight. But when all the rest of those dead trees come tumbling down.....

Tipi Walter
10-06-2018, 10:24
The Beech Bottom to Jacks Falls trail has been opened according of Ranger Kevin---


I guess this was promptly attended to due to all the tourists who must see the Falls.

I pulled two backpacking trips in Cohutta last year, an 18 day thing in July and a 20 day trip in September---a year ago. I got to see the fire damage along all of the Jacks above the Falls (to Dally Gap) and all of the damage on the Rough Ridge trail to Panther Creek etc. The worst trail I encountered then was Rice Camp as only about 40% of it was cleared.

But alot changes in a year with as you say dead trees and heavy rains and high winds.