Community leaders came together Friday morning for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the grand opening of the West Chickamauga Creek Canoe Launch at Lee and Gordon’s Mills. The canoe launch will serve as the head of a day-long route through the Chickamauga Battlefield to Fort Oglethorpe and on to East Ridge at Camp Jordon. This recreation outlet will enhance tourism in the area for Civil War historians and outdoor enthusiasts.
West Chickamauga Creek flows from Mountain Cove all the way to Camp Jordon, where it joins South Chickamauga Creek from Ringgold. The Blueway continues as South Chickamauga Creek from Camp Jordon through East Ridge, Brainerd and East Chattanooga crossing Amnicola to join the Tennessee River at the Greenway/River Park near Chattanooga State. Boat launches are already in place from Camp Jordon down to the Ross’s Landing, and along the Tennessee River. Funding for the network of canoe launches has been provided by a variety of sources including local and state government as well as from the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation.
“The establishment of the Blueway, connecting our three communities, is a very exciting development for Northwest Georgia and Walker County, and we expect to see a huge economic impact through this new partnership,” said Walker County Commissioner Bebe Heiskell. “The popularity of blueways in other cities has contributed more than $1 million to their local economy through the addition of new businesses and increased tourism, and we hope to see similar successes here.”
The canoe launch is opening just in time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, which will be commemorated in 2013 when at least 30,000 attendees are expected to travel to Walker County for a series of anniversary events. Historic bend crossings used by soldiers during the war aren’t currently accessible by land but will be available to view by boat on the creek’s Blueway.
“West Chickamauga Creek is a significant part of the local Civil War history that draws in visitors from all over with the bend crossings in the Battlefield used by soldiers to the connection to Chattanooga and the Tennessee River,” said Bruz Clark, president and treasurer of the Lyndhurst Foundation. “We are thrilled to be opening the head of the Blueway in time for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chickamauga, and hope everyone takes advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty and history that is here.”
“I want to thank the Lyndhurst Foundation for including Walker County in the scope of its Blueways Initiative, and for supporting other conservation projects in our community to enhance our natural setting,” said Commissioner Heiskell. “The canoe launch at Lee and Gordon’s Mills and the West Chickamauga Creek will be a great addition to Walker County’s economic development and we look forward to the growth it will bring.”
Local businesses are excited for the possibility of increased traffic to the area by historic Civil War tourists as well as outdoor and nature enthusiasts, and believe they will see a boost in local economy from the opening of the Blueway. New businesses moving to the area may include boat rental companies at the head of the creek.