by “River Jack,” in The Eddy Line, the Newsletter of the Georgia Canoeing Association, December 2006
I was unaware that this book was even in the works, much less its publication, so you can image my pleasant surprise when I saw a number of books graced with a cover photo that I was familiar with stacked upon a small display table at the NOC.
I first saw this photograph in the publication U.S. Whitewater ’74, the annual program of the US International Slalom Canoe Association. Its caption read: “Doug Woodward of Georgia running a high unnamed waterfall on the Tellico River in Tennessee. Photo by Rodger Losier.” The date of the photo was April 1972 and we now know that high unnamed waterfall as Baby Falls.
From a friend I once heard a first-hand account of that memorable day: There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth by loved ones and friends as Doug took the plunge! However, that was neither the first nor the last “first descent” by Doug, and I, for one, am glad that he took at least one more formidable leap — that of writing it all down and sharing the stories with other kindred spirits!
Wherever Waters Flow is a captivating whitewater autobiography as well as an historical account of the vernal days of paddling in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the USA. For me, the stories of the “Chattooga tribe” from the early and mid-seventies are the most enjoyable. Names of people that I’ve not heard or thought about in decades jump from the pages and bring back fond remembrances of a delightful time in my life when paddling rivers was all bright and shiny-new and a bunch of smiling faces were all shouting, “Come on in, the water’s fine!”
The eighteen chapters in the book include such noteworthy happenings as the beginnings of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, taking (then Georgia Governor) Jimmy Carter down the Chattooga, interesting behind the scenes accounts from the filming of Deliverance (Doug was the canoeing double for Ned Beatty), getting to know James and Christopher Dickey, and paddling with Walt Blackadar (both out West as well as on the Chattooga).
Also, the early days of Explorer Post 49 are well chronicled, including one western road trip in an old school bus where “self-reliance” took on a whole new meaning for a band of river gypsies from Atlanta! Interesting archival photographs are also spread throughout the book.
The book is a fascinating read, often in the form of first-hand dialogue, sometimes purely narrative or even journal-like, and all the while bestrewn with eloquent musings by one of the true pioneers of Southeastern whitewater.
In the final chapter Doug waxes poetic and brings forth the river as metaphor when he looks back upon where his own life’s journey has taken him — but then again I see that perhaps there’s no metaphor here at all, since that for some, the two — one’s life and the river — can be so interwoven as to be one.
So, come on in, the water’s fine, and Doug has this great trip all lined up!
website for the Georgia Canoeing Association