Coosawattee River is formed by the confluence of the Cartecay and
Ellijay Rivers in Gilmer County and flows into Carter’s Lake. On the
trip on a rainy May day was William Gatling, Connie Venuso, and
another canoeist whose name we can’t remember (apologies) in OC-1s,
and Tom and Shannon Bishop in K-1s.
shuttle was fairly long and parking at the Corp of Engineers lot cost
$5. Due to the torrential rains of the previous week, the water level
was rather high at about 3 ft. and 1,400 cfs on the Ellijay gauge.
The river was muddy brown and for the most part all the rocks were
covered. We started out with wavy water and pushy current due to the
high water level. About an hour and a half into our journey we
stopped for lunch at a park that had covered pavilions, a playground,
and indoor plumbing!
lunch we encountered many class II rapids and an unexpected II+. In
the II+ rapid you started center, moved to river left, went down a
series of cascades, and wound up center again. There were many rapids
towards the end of the river where it flows into Carter’s Lake. There
were so many rapids that I started to get tired! When we got to the
lake it was about eight feet over full pool. From the moment we got
on the lake we saw trash that had been washed down by the flood.
decided that we would be good citizens and pick up some of the trash.
We would paddle through the trees and gather garbage. It was neat
paddling through the trees because it was like running a slalom
course. After a while we came to a river wide island of trash that
probably covered several acres. We found basketballs, baseballs, golf
balls, racquetballs, soccer balls; every kind of ball known to man.
We found bottles of all descriptions and a 50-gallon trash can. We
decided that we couldn’t pick up everything on the river that day.
through the trash I felt like an icebreaker in the Arctic cutting a
trail through the ice. We had about a 1.5-hour lake paddle to the
takeout. Aside from the trash, the lake was beautiful, but it was
still a long paddle. The Coosawattee River is a good trained beginner
trip. The scenery is outstanding with high river bluffs covered in
mountain laurel, rhododendron, and hemlock trees. The rapids keep
your interest, and if you don’t mind the paddle at the end it’s a
By Shannon Bishop
For more information about this river see:
Coosawatee- Ellijay to Carters Lake