The Gwinnett County Fire Department’s swift water rescue team was dispatched to the Chattahoochee River after two kayakers found themselves in trouble on Friday afternoon.
At 3:29 p.m. the swift water rescue team was dispatched after a call came into 9-1-1 about two kayakers who overturned near Bowman’s Island on the Chattahoochee River just south of Buford Dam.
The first units entered the water at 3:49 p.m. to rescue the kayakers. By 4:13 p.m., the rescue team reported that the kayakers were safe and that the team was in the process of retrieving the kayaks.
The area of the Chattahoochee River near Bowman’s Island is characterized by Class I-II shoals with big mossy rocks according to the American Whitewater nonprofit organization. If someone has experience and pays attention, this section of the river shouldn’t present a problem to kayakers.
However, when the US Army Corps of Engineers opens the gates of Buford Dam to allow more water to flow downstream, the water can rise rapidly in that area turning a Class I into a Class III+. The water level so close to the dam can rise up to 11 feet after the gates are opened. The increased water level can occur within minutes of the sirens notifying people that a release is imminent.
According to the US Army Corps of Engineers’ “Hydropower Generation Schedules” website, on Friday at the time the kayakers ran into trouble, the river was flowing at 12,500 cubic feet per second. The majority of the day, the river was flowing at a rate of 6,500 cubic feet per second. The rate of 12,500 CFS was the peak outflow on that date so this could have played a factor in the kayakers’ distress.
The swift water rescue team dispatches out of Gwinnett County Fire Station 14 in Buford.