Sometimes you just have to go kayaking with 25 random people that you met less than a week ago and have the time of your life.
As a group, we woke earlier than usual, but we got to watch the sun rise over the mountains so we took it as a win. We loaded up all of our gear and headed towards the Ocoee River. As we arrived at the river, directions were given and kayaks were unloaded and you could feel the anticipation in the air. After dragging our kayaks down to the water, we were off. Perhaps not as quickly or as gracefully as we all had hoped but nevertheless, we were making our way to Caney Creek.
Bruce Guilliame, our fearless leader, taught us about the effect progress has had on the people of Southeastern Tennessee. Caney Creek was a 14 home village on the bank of the Ocoee River that housed workers for Ocoee Powerhouse Number Two. The people of Caney Creek had only one link to the outside world and that was a swinging rope bridge, so they had to create their own fun. Despite being isolated from the world, they were ahead of most of it with running water and electricity. The town was full of life from 1912 until the last family moved away in 1943. When TVA took over the dams the people of Caney Creek were told they had to vacate their tiny village and they were out of a job just as the Great Depression settled over the country. It was strange to see a town that was so full of life, houses, hotels, and people now gone and being reclaimed by nature. All that is left is the moss covered foundations of the old houses. I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that life as they had known it was literally torn and moved from its foundations. This historic town has almost completely vanished, much like other towns that were vacated due to government projects. I find it ironic that TVA’s progress was supposed to push people forward, but it tore the people of Caney Creek down.
Before making our way to TVA we all circled up for lunch. It amazes me every time to see how much food this group can eat, I’m still not used to it. Once at TVA offices, we learned that, TVA provides electricity for 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states at prices below the national average. TVA receives no taxpayer money and makes no profits. It also provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and water recreation for the local community and its visitors.
We were welcomed to TVA by a tech specialist who patiently answered all of the questions we had racing through our minds. He talked about the difficulty of managing the oldest working wooden flume diversion dam in the country. TVA is one of the few historic sites still producing electricity. The kayaking trip exposed me to a piece of history that I never knew about and it gave me a new appreciation for Southeastern Tennessee and my new home.
Submitted by Morgan Gast, 2015 Scots Science Scholar