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Like ducks in a row...

So I get this text query Friday evening: “Hey. Want to paddle Lookout Creek tomorrow from the training hills to the LZ?”  Ummm…  Training hills??  LZ??   I know Lookout Creek and it’s a perennial favorite, so I’m in; I have no clue what language is being spoken in regards to training hills and LZs.  I immediately pick up the phone.  A few minutes later all is revealed, and I have plans to join Christina and her daughter Maggie on a new-to-me section of Lookout Creek.

A not-so-selfie

I’ve written before about Lookout Creek, and about the fact that this body of water is one of the (many) hidden gems of Chattanooga.  It moseys north through two states along the base of Lookout Mountain, with the source – in Rising Fawn, GA – being about 30 miles south of Chattanooga.  What I’ve failed to mention in previous posts, however, is that in addition to being able to claim the distinct honor of being home to not only world class climbing, mountain biking and boating, Chattanooga is also home to world renowned hang gliding.

Per Christina: "... a dragonfly towing a glider." The visual in my head did NOT match what I was seeing in the sky..

Maggie: "Do NOT take my picture!" So what do I do? Yup.

Those training hills I mentioned?  Yeah, those would be the training hills for the Lookout Mountain Flight Park.  The Flight Park operates off of several hundred acres at the base of Lookout Mountain in Trenton, GA; many of these acres front Lookout Creek.  The LZ?  The landing zone for the Flight Park.  As with many creeks and rivers, the meandering nature of Lookout Creek meant that while our chosen put-in and take-out points were separated by a mere 10 minute drive (if that), we had a solid 4 hours on the water.  Truth be told, we took longer because we were having fun playing in the pushy water, but you get my point.

The day started off overcast and dreary, but the lure of forecasted 60° temps and blue skies drew us. Before we even settle into the rhythm of the Creek we see a bald eagle light from the canopy overhead and soar off.  About 10 or 15 minutes in, we have an easy portage around a low head dam followed by a bit of fun, pushy water bringing us back in sight of civilization, then smooth paddling back under the canopy.

Looking back towards our portage around the low-head dam.


apres portage


Running out of a bit of pushy water.

From that point, our paddle was interspersed with a several more sections of pushy water broken up by shoals, easily navigable downfall, and long stretches of quiet flat.

Kickin' it.

Looking back at Lookout Mountain from it's namesake Creek.

Evidence of urban wildlife was ever present, and we saw not only beaver, ‘coon, deer and other critter tracks near the water, but also the actual critters themselves.  I’m thinking I remember the final count was: 1 opossum; 1 beaver; 1 bald eagle; several great blue herons, kingfishers and pileated woodpeckers; and a what seemed to be an inordinately high number of squirrels.  We also saw one of the largest hornet’s nests I’ve ever seen hanging high on a branch, and of course, beaver gnawings.  Oh, and I did have a fish jump up over the deck of the boat and smack my hand at one point!

Shoal finds: a fragment of heat treated flint, a fossil, and a rather awesome rock.

Heron nest-building. The heron's perched on the shortest tree at about 5:00 down from the nest.

Moseyin' with the current.

The end of our trip meandered us through farmland, and evidence of former homesteads and mills highlighted by tumble down remains and steel bridges to nowhere.

Shades of yester-year.


As we passed under a concrete bridge in our final miles, we see Thor – Christina’s sweetie, and our shuttle guy – standing in the middle of the bridge grinning down at us.

Hi, Thor!!

A view from above (photo credit goes to Christian Thoreson)

Another 30 minutes paddle beyond that finds us taking out at the LZ while blue skies peek through the cotton ball clouds.  Thor ran us back to grab our transportation, and though it was a crazy short drive from put-in to take-out, by the time we got back to the LZ Thor had already brought all three of our boats up from the Creek, and had them in the field pretty much ready to load; talk about first class shuttle service!!

Shuttle service at it's finest, hang glider and all.

Loadin' boats at the LZ.

As we loaded boats in the fading twilight, we finally settled on dinner plans.  With food in our bellies, a good day in our memories, and some great pictures on our cameras, we began scheming our next foray on the water!

Thanks so much to Christina and Maggie for introducing me to a new section of an old favorite, and to Thor for a stylin’ shuttle!