Thursday, October 18, 2007

THE OCOEE BASIN (GORGE)

I parked the Bug high above the Ocoee River and climbed on down to the water. There is some water in the photo but only because a small dam has been created to hold just this much. The following picture is the rest of the river. Normally rough, white water pours through this canyon creating great challenges for Kayaking. If it doesn't rain soon, there won't be any water anywhere in Tennessee. There is definitely a drought. But at least one can see what the bottom of the Ocoee looks like. Bet you stayed up many nights wondering about it........
The photo's below show an amazing (what I thought was a railroad bridge) spanning a cut between two mountains withing the Ocoee Gorge. As I rode the Bug along the Ocoee River through the Ocoee Gorge, I noticed what looked like a railroad line high up on the side of the mountain. Very high up. When the track approached a cut, or valley, on the mountain side; a roof and wall were built around the track to protect it from land slides, boulders and falling trees. It reminded me of some ancient citadel high up on some mountain top in a mystical era. Actually the enclosures are not unlike the ones covering railroad tracks out in Colorado's Wolf Creek Pass. They are amazing structures! (However, I was wrong). It is an enormous flume that carries water from the Ocoee to TVA power generators. I was corrected by a reader who works in the area. Read on: Just wanted to clarify the story about the tracks and structure you saw. That is not a railroad track but a flume. When the water is not in the river bed it runs inside that structure which is also an amazing thought. The water and flume are at an almost level run through the dropping gorge to the end of the Ocoee River. There it is piped straight down into the powerhouse to generate electricity. It does have a track above the flume (look at your pictures closely). That is used by employees of TVA to monitor and repair the flume. Whitewater rafting began on the Ocoee back in the mid seventies when TVA had so many holes in the flume they were loosing too much water (and $$). As a matter of fact the "bridge" photo you took was one spot where a huge hole allowed a constant waterfall type spill to shoot out of the side. They closed the flume for several years for repairs and returned the water to the river during that period. Rafting became more and more popular and so (after much debate and arm twisting) TVA struck an agreement with rafting companies to sell the water to the rafting companies for release on certain days. A significant portion of the fees paid to outfitters helps pay for the water they release and can't use to generate power. The flume is one of the only such structures left in the country. Most now operate with underground pipes or tunnels. One of those tunels was recently in the news colapsing and killing several workers doing repairs.
The Ocoee River empties into Ocoee Lake; a primarily pristine lake with little development on its banks.
This is Copper Country. Mule teams pulled wagon's full of copper ore from the surrounding towns of Duck Town, Reliance and Copperhill to smelting operations in Cleveland, Tennessee. It was a booming industry until Japan appeared with cheap steel. By the end of the 1950's it was all history. Japan had an enormous impact on local industry here in Tennessee as well as huge industrial cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The Bug is a devilish, demonic looking little mosquito. But it is proving to be a magic carpet ride to places a larger motorcycle can not go.
I always had an affinity for old buildings. I love the character they exhibit. This building is very old. Its old, old. Well, it is extremely old. But look at it closely. Click on it and enlarge it. No master craftsman concocted it. No architect designed it. No one went to college to learn how to make it. Tennessee know how made it. Oh, its a little rough. But it stands as a monument to diversity and do it yourselfism. Love it!
Live can be tuff in these mountains. But people cling onto what they struggled for with tenacity.