Floating the Toccoa River with Celibate Dragonflies


Float is a misnomer, bounce, twist, spin, turn over and paddle would serve better. Paddle would be paramount as scooping water is required to avoid rocks, dead tree skeletons and overhanging trees.

Spinning is my favorite action. Gentle cascades of tumbling water flow around and over rocks twirling the large fat plastic tube I am lounging in to and fro, clockwise and counter clockwise. Leaning back my world swirls. Sky, water, trees, clouds, trees, rocks, banks, blue, white, brown, sky, water, trees, clouds, trees, rocks, and forty shades of green. I am intoxicated.

Eighty-foot pine trees and sixty-foot deciduous trees line the banks with no breaks creating a passage to a primitive alternate reality far from my normal world of computers and comfort. The river is easily a football field wide, the water scattered with rocks. Substantial boulders jutting out like ships prows, middling rocks of every shape sending the water flow in numerous directions and underwater rocks lurk hiding covered with rough moss. Even the flowers are enormous. Giant Sunflower and Joe-Pye stalks reach twelve-feet.

Submerged rocks and cascades between rocks require the “butt maneuver” lest you spend most of the trip pulling yourself and your tube off of rocks. The instructions are easy. One, lean your body back as if struck by rigamortus, thus raising your center of gravity and allowing passage over rocks lucking just below the water. Two, clasp your hands behind your head just above the water. The bonus is that now you not only hear the approaching rapids but also the gurgles and singing of nearby eddies.

Spinning and dragonflies, dragonflies and spinning, what joy. Blue, grey, green and black, but all with iridescent bodies and delicate wings. They dart, hover and land in ways that appear to defy gravity. Stay still and they will land on you, at first motionless then bending their slender bodies in an arch sucking water off your skin.

A mating pair land on my knee attached in a copulating embrace. “Oweee, do that somewhere else,” I cry shaking my leg. The dragonflies provide escort all along the six-mile journey. Then must be very libidinous as conjoined pairs spin past me frequently. I myself prefer celibate dragonflies.

My other companion is twelve-year-old Nikki. Her presence is perfect. Unlike my adult friends she does not want to chat about the economic crisis, irritating husbands or No Child Left Behind. A sweet sheltered child, neither does she converse about boyfriends, or fashion as her contemporaries do. Nikki is fascinated by nature.

We note the plants along the banks as I always do, but Nikki teaches me to examine what is in the water. She notes tiny fish and then discovers river snails by scooping her hands along the rocks. Quickly she has acquired a dozen, then more. Nikki turns the tiny creatures carefully noting the typical shape as she bobs in calmer waters. Before long I am required to troll for snails, a process I am squeamish about. The moss on the rocks is not slimy but rough, much like ocean kelp. In crevices on submerged rocks the snails attach, immovable despite a strong and constant current. After my snail lessons I am less comfortable stepping on rocks despite my swimming shoes.

Two hours into the float I grow cocky, less observant of the river. Suddenly I am submerged gagging for air. I twist upright and instantly scan for the bright pink tube I have been riding, disaster looming if it escapes. Grabbing plastic I sit back on a rock and begin to laugh uncontrollably. It takes minutes for me to stop.

In a small cove along the shore Nikki and I discover a plant grove that looks like water lilies, only with leaves in an upright position. Fat seed pods along the stems add to the water plant appearance. We paddle closer then vow to look up this mystery on the internet.

Our float takes three hours, a good time for low water. Shallowford Bridge comes into sight a signal to pull our tubes ashore. We are both triumphant. Nikki is because she has river snails that her science teacher has only talked about but not seen and myself because at age 65 my float time was an hour shorter than the much younger group before us. Tomorrow my body may ache but I won’t care.