Chattooga River of northwest Georgia’s Chattooga County is not nearly
as well known as its Rabun County counterpart. And deservedly so.
While the northeast Georgia Chattooga splashes and crashes through a
spectacular mountain gorge, the other Chattooga meanders placidly
through a bucolic, industrialized valley.
headwaters of the Chattooga, Chattooga lie in Walker County. The
river flows south and west for thirty miles before emptying into
Alabama’s Lake Weiss. We floated a six mile stretch of the river
from Old Highway 27 in Trion to the newer Highway 27 bridge a few
miles east of Summerville.
trip began at the old iron bridge near Mt. Vernon Mills in Trion.
The river at times is unnaturally blue — perhaps from dyes used at
this textile mill. Just a mile downstream from the mill, the river
slides past a waste-water treatment plant, which adds foam to the
water and a stench to the air. Then, after several relatively
pleasant miles through pasture and woodlands, the river courses by
Hayes Correctional Institution. Its warning signs, ominous guard
towers and baying dogs (bloodhounds?) did not lend a festive air to
from the shadows of the prison, the Chattooga Valley reverts to
pasture and woodland, with a few nice homes on hillsides overlooking
the river. Occasional mountain laurel on this stretch serves as a
reminder that long ago this was a pristine river. In fact, one of
the principal Cherokee villages was situated beside the Chattooga.
upon forecasts of heavy rain, I had discouraged prospective paddlers
from making the two hour trip from Atlanta to Summerville. As luck
would have it, the front passed through on Friday night and Saturday
dawned cold and blustery, but dry.
two Paddlers braved the forecast, the trip leader’s discouraging
recommendation, and the dreary conditions, and joined me: Ronnie
Floyd in an open canoe and Robert Zuill in a kayak.
Chattooga has a large watershed, no rapids to speak of, and for most
of its course, flows under a canopy of hardwoods. It might make a
nice summertime trip for families during dry periods when there isn’t
sufficient water to float other rivers. But other than that, I
classify the Chattooga with a few other north Georgia rivers (the
Oostanaula and Oconee, for instance) which simply pale in comparison
to the large number of excellent white water and smooth water creeks
February 8, 1997.