The “Nacoochee Section” of the Chattahoochee runs from just past Helen to Hwy. 255. The “Upper Chattahoochee” traditionally runs between Hwys. 255 and 384. Though the part between 255 and 115 doesn’t get paddled very much these days, virtually all GCA canoe & kayak trips on the “Upper Chattahoochee” the club led between 1966 and the early 1980’s went from 255 to Duncan Bridge with little playing and took out at the old bridge on river left on a public dirt road which has now been grassed over. At that time there were no houses between 255 and Duncan Bridge but one trailer on river left just after the big left bend just past the Soque confluence.
Nacoochee is the most used name for the Indian village which was in the “Nacoochee Valley” at and just downstream of the “Nacoochee Indian Mound,” south of Helen. The word in Cherokee means evening star. GCA trips in the 1960’s and early 1970’s usually put in at the dirt road bridge about a mile upstream from Sautee Creek with permission from the landowner. However, the landowner later withdrew his permission, due to the crowds blocking the road, littering, people changing in public, etc. The two Hwy. 75 bridges just south of Helen have very little parking, and the owners of Nora Mill, just upstream of the first bridge, have objected to people putting in or portaging on their property. Since 1974 most trips have put in at the Sautee Creek Hwy. 17 bridge. Nevertheless the 4 miles from Nora Mill to Sautee Creek, which actually go through most of the Nacoochee Valley, were considered the first part of the paddling section ending at Hwy. 255 and known as “the Nacoochee Section.”
The river upstream of Sautee Creek in this section is lovely and has frequent, mostly class I rapids and nothing more than a very easy class II. However, some landowners in this section still try to keep paddlers out and organized for that effort a couple of years ago in response to the State’s buying land below Hwy. 115 and at the river’s Mossy Creek confluence and wanting to establish a river trail. Their opposition and threats to take the case to court, along with budget shortfalls, have kept the State-owned Mossy Creek and Upper Chattahoochee area access roads closed and the “river trail” plans on the back burner. It is important that we work through the GCA, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and other groups to promote river access here and throughout the state and work to modernize Georgia’s very restrictive 1863 navigability law.
Dukes Creek, which joins the Chattahoochee in this section just over 2 miles upstream of Sautee Creek, is also very runnable with ample rainfall. The easiest putin used to be the bridge near the start of the Richard Russell Scenic Highway at Hwy. 75 Alternate. We would paddle down to Sautee Creek. The creek here was undeveloped, very pretty and all class I and II, except for a tight, easily portaged class III+ about a quarter of a mile below the put-in. The creek immediately downstream of Hwy. 75 has been posted for many years, and there is very little parking at that point. Since the State has operated the Smithgall Woods State Park, its management has outlawed paddling Dukes Creek in the park and promises to arrest any boaters they catch. You can still easily pole upstream from the Chattahoochee confluence into Dukes Creek. In about a half mile you will approach an interesting site where most of the creek swiftly traverses a 75 yard, rock-walled, narrow, man-made channel. It appears to have been an old mill race but may be part of an old mining project. Dukes Creek is a purported site of modern Georgia’s first gold discovery. Dukes Creek has outstanding water quality and several beautiful swimming holes.
By Roger Nott,
From The Eddy Line, September 2010