Last week, receding water left the rocky shoals whitewashed with a mystery coating that gave the area a marbled look, more like the cliffs of Gibraltar than Augusta on a summer day.
One reader even e-mailed me about the phenomenon – asking whether the bleached rocks were a byproduct of herbicide spraying conducted in the river the previous week. The herbicides were applied miles downstream, though – and were not the culprit.
I also asked our affable Savannah Riverkeeper, Tonya Bonitatibus, who easily solved the mystery.
The whitish glaze was apparently the remains of an algae that grows on rocks submerged in moving water, but which dies upon exposure to air and sunlight and decays into a whitish powder.
There is always something new to learn about our river.
FLYFISHING THE SHOALS: Speaking of the shoals, there was good news last week for anglers who enjoy flyfishing the pools and rocky ledges downstream from Interstate 20.
The Canal Authority unveiled plans for a new access point, with 42 parking spaces, at the dead end cul-de-sac of Riverlook Drive near Eisenhower Drive.
Once completed, the proposed “Riverlook Gateway” would allow visitors to park, walk across the Augusta Utility Department bridge to the pumping station – and then it’s just a 10-minute walk up the towpath to access prime casting water.
It was about this time last year when Goodrich Street was gated near Sibley Mill to bar vehicle access to the pumping station parking area.
The Riverlook Gateway would replace an existing path near the Eisenhower Drive ballfields that has become problematic due to the need to walk along railroad right of way and cross a rusty metal footbridge.
The new access could open early in 2013.
GEORGIA COUGARS?: I was excited to get a note recently about an 18-year study, soon to be published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, that concludes cougars are making progress repopulating their historical range.
Since we get all these reports of big cats roaming our local fields and forests, I immediately e-mailed one of the authors, Clay Nielsen of Southern Illinois University’s Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, to see what they had to say about Georgia.
Although new breeding populations have been confirmed in portions of the Midwest, there is no new evidence of cougars in Georgia or nearby South Carolina, he replied.
BEER AND BOATING: This weekend, law enforcement rangers are cruising our local lakes looking for boaters who have had too many beers.
It’s all part of a nationwide exercise called “Operation Dry Water” designed to focus attention on the risks of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In Georgia, a blood alcohol concentration of .10 or higher can lead to a BUI charge.
Nationally, alcohol was a contributing factor in just 6 percent of boating accidents overall, but played a role in 16 percent of boating fatalities nationwide.
Georgia rangers have made 63 arrests this year on state lakes and waterways, after a total of 168 in 2011.