Capsized on the Chattahoochee

A man and woman were rescued by the Johns Creek Fire Department after they lost their canoe and became stranded in the Chattahoochee River at the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area in Johns Creek, Georgia. Credit:  Candra Umunna

A man and woman were rescued by the Johns Creek Fire Department after they lost their canoe and became stranded in the Chattahoochee River at the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area in Johns Creek, Georgia. Credit: Candra Umunna

Note: This happened on March 15, but I didn't get to write about it until now.

It was a sunny and unusually hot day for March, but a great day to go hiking or fishing or canoeing. The Chattahoochee River was like glass. Smooth sailing for a couple out on a canoe, their paddles cutting through the water without much effort, until they passed over a rocky, shallow section of the river. 

"Thunk!"

My girlfriend Candra and I turned around to see what the commotion was. The couple was wading in the river, trying to catch their balance. 

"Grab the cooler!" the man shouted as it floated downstream. Then the canoe, then the paddles, one by one. The couple waddled towards a pier.

The Chattahoochee River viewed from the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area in Johns Creek, Georgia.

I wasn't about to dive to save any of it. I haven't swum in a decade. I watched the couple as they made their way to the shore, one small step at a time. But then they stopped moving. They yelled for help. 

Candra and I walked over to the pier. The couple yelled for help again. I pulled out my phone, unsure if I should call a ranger or 911. A silly question in retrospect. I dialed 9-1-1 and told the operator I would meet the police at the parking lot closest to the stranded couple. I wasn't the first person to call for help.  I could see flashing blue lights within 30 seconds of hanging up. 

Damn, I thought to myself. The officer is running the wrong way. But more showed up, along with the fire department. I led them back to the pier where they planned their operation. 

The couple hadn't moved. They were facing each other, hand in hand, as the water rushed around their legs. The woman lost her life jacket with everything else. 

"How long?" the man yelled. Communication was difficult. The man and woman couldn't hear the rescue team over the roaring water. 

"Five minutes," a firefighter said.

The man cupped his hand over his ear, squinted and shrugged. The firefighter extended all five fingers and yelled, "we've got a boat coming." 

As the couple rode off on the boat, we waved goodbye to each other. I'm still wondering if they ever found their cooler. Or if their canoe is still wedged between some rocks, half filled with water.