How would you like to rent a canoe in Chickamauga, Ga., float down West Chickamauga Creek past historical markers at Chickamauga Battlefield showing where Confederate troops forded the water, stop for a creekside lunch in Fort Oglethorpe and then pull out at Camp Jordan?
That daylong canoe trip is drifting closer to reality.
Fort Oglethorpe and East Ridge have concrete canoe launches on order, and Chickamauga will start construction this week on a wood-sided restroom near a natural canoe launch at the historic Lee and Gordon's Mill.
Fort Oglethorpe's canoe launch will be installed this summer behind a cluster of restaurants -- O'Charley's, Logan's Roadhouse and Panera Bread -- on Battlefield Parkway west of Dietz Road. Restaurant officials are interested in installing tables outside near the creek, Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Ron Goulart said.
"It would take about four hours to float to here [from Chickamauga], which would put you right at lunchtime," Goulart said.
Or, canoeists simply could put in and putter around.
"It's slow water. There's very small current in it," Public Works Director Jeff Long said.
In about 18 months, Fort Oglethorpe plans to build a paved trail leading to the launch using a $100,000 recreational trail grant the city recently received from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
A grant of $33,000 to fund the canoe launch came from the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation, which has its roots in the Coca-Cola bottling fortune of Thomas Cartter Lupton. Lyndhurst, which aims to enhance the natural environment, also is helping fund East Ridge's canoe launch.
Chickamauga City Manager John Culpepper said markers are proposed at Chickamauga Battlefield that would show where troops crossed the creek.
"To me, it's a historical trail," said Culpepper, a Civil War buff who serves as chairman of the Georgia Civil War Commission.
Culpepper said there's space at the city-run Lee and Gordon's Mill for a canoe rental and outfitting business, and he's open to having a vendor there.
"I've had two or three [vendors] ask me about it," Culpepper said. "I would be willing to work with someone to develop a business to complement the blueway."
The "blueway" is a name for a water path developed specifically for canoeists and kayakers.
Culpepper and Walker County Attorney Don Oliver were inspired to push for a West Chickamauga Creek blueway after they attended a seminar in Chattanooga several years ago about blueways elsewhere.
"It's just another outdoor activity that people can take advantage of," Culpepper said.
Blueways are an economic boon for communities, too, he said.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.