About This Episode
More than 20 years ago canoe enthusiast and outdoor store owner, Neal Wickham, dreamed of running rapids in his own backyard on the Chattahoochee River. But there was a problem – those rapids lay submerged beneath the waters held back by two aging rock and masonry dams. The dams were built more than a century ago after the Civil War. They powered Columbus’s booming textile business. Eventually that business moved elsewhere leaving behind a blighted riverfront, empty mills and disused dams in danger of failing. But it takes more than a few sticks of dynamite to get rid of a dam.
Filmed over the course of two years, Chattahoochee Unplugged explores how local businessman, John Turner and the civic organization, Uptown Columbus had to raise millions of dollars. They enlisted the services of Olympic whitewater designer, Rick McLaughlin, the US Army Corps of Engineers and many other experts. The best environmental science converged with state-of-the-art engineering and construction to realize a much grander dream: to return a critical 2.5 mile stretch of the Chattahoochee, one of the largest rivers in the Southeast, to its natural state. At the same time it’s creating a thrill ride for kayakers and rafters who can enjoy the world’s the longest urban whitewater run through the heart of downtown Columbus and neighboring Phenix City, Alabama.