09:10:11, Georgia, 33° 3.840’N, 85° 12.889’W – It was a sunny, cool Saturday morning when I arrived at the landing on West Point Lake near LaGrange, Georgia where I would begin a 5 mile paddle to Wehadkee Creek. I expected to see boaters already puttin’ in but there was no one in sight. The parking lot was full of weeds growing up through cracks in the asphalt and the boat ramp was barricaded; closed due to low water levels. There’s a drought going on down here.
The lakeshore was one continuous red-clay beach that cut off the boat ramp from the water. This was not a problem for me but an advantage. Today I would not have to watch out for speed boats or listen to their whiny motors. I just dragged my big yellow kayak around the high and dry boat ramp and pushed off into the lake and went on my way.
West Point Lake was flat, glassy and quiet as I coursed up a finger that would eventually whittle down to Wehadkee Creek. Tip: You should ALWAYS paddle a lake during low water levels! I found an exposed bridge column and a once underwater road was now cutting the lake in two. I walked it until it vanished like a ghost into the woods.
The further I paddled up the lake the more desperate the scene looked. The next secret to be revealed was a flooded forest of dead trees jutting out of the water, stripped of bark and feeling the first rays of sunshine in decades. I meandered by in solemn observation. It was sad and beautiful all at once.
The water level continued to drop until the flooded forest was on dry land. The lakescape looked like a war zone leaving a shallow stream weaving around sand banks littered with upturned roots that looked like they were blown up. No longer able to paddle, I dragged the boat forward stepping knee high through loose sand.
At last, I made it through the war zone and Wehadkee Creek was there before me deep enough to paddle again. No one else would be crazy enough to slog through what I just did but perhaps one day you’ll join the club. I was cut off from the rest of the world and it was great.
After a couple of more miles, I reached a shoal on Wehadkee Creek. I was warming my weary hide on a rock when I caught a glimpse of something in the woods that didn’t look natural. It was a wall made from stones pulled out of the creek long ago. I shimmied over the top and landed in a dry trench that paralleled the length of the shoal for 100 yards. At one time the creek was diverted down this path. It knew right then that I had found the ruins of an old Grist mill.
I walked the length of the trench until it ended at a 10 foot drop along side a high stone wall. Below were remains of an interlocking wooden frame that once held a paddle wheel. The mill house itself was long gone leaving a square stone foundation with windows and doors looking out over the creek.
I was not the first wandering soul to arrive here. Graffiti marked the front wall and in the middle of the foundation were remnants of a camp fire. I had a vision of camping here myself and almost didn’t leave.
Take your own quest up West Point Lake through the flooded forest to Wehadkee Creek and see the old Grist Mill for yourself at GPS 33° 6.538’N, 85° 14.022’W. Start at the GPS listed at the beginning of this post. Just do it!
– Steve Tanner