The Dawson Forest section of the Etowah River begins on Hwy 9 below Dawsonville Ga at a newly constructed ramp and parking lot. The parking is spacious and put is large graveled steps. Dawson Forest is a great place for a fun paddle and spotting wildlife. On a recent trip a deer was seen swimming across the river near the put in . Shortly below the put in is the Water Authority. At this point the river turns sharply to the left and leaves civilization to wind through the Dawson Forest. Just past the water authority a family of otters can sometimes be seen playing on the surface of the river. If you see them, drift by quietly and they will watch you go by. If you make noise or move suddenly they will quickly vanish beneath the surface.

This section contains some sand and gravel bars that are great for a stretch or an early snack or picnic. You will see some very nice bridge abutments that remain from when the area was owned by the government. In the late ’50s There was a secret nuclear facility on the property. This Youtube video includes pictures and maps of the facility.


Watch for turkeys in this area. It is not uncommon to see a flock and it is a thrill to see them all fly across the river in front of you. Deer also seen all along the river.

There is a one rapid is an easy class I, but may require your attention. An island splits the river, left or right can be run but right tends to push you hard towards brush near the bank. Far left has a deep channel that may be the best choice. Further on watch on river right for Amicalola Creek to enter and add its flow to the Etowah. If you want to you can overcome the current and paddle upstream on the Amicalola to claim a second river in the same day. Ducks and other water birds are evident all day both on the water and in the air. There is a short path that leads to a water fall that is very pretty. The take out is on private property. They charge $3, but this is a wonderful take out with an easy carry on a boat ramp for a nice end to a very pleasant day on a beautiful river.

Strainer Update – 3/14/2010

There is a river wide strainer on the Dawson Forest section of the Etowah. You can portage around on the right, pulling boats through the branches at the shore. We tried to break off the little twigs to make the opening bigger. At lower water, boats could get sucked under the truck in mid stream.

If you find that this strainer has been removed, please let us know so that this can be updated.

  • River Difficulty: Beginner (Class I)
  • Distance: 9.0 miles (Hwy 9 to Kelly Bridge Rd)
  • Avg Gradient: 5.0 fpm
  • Minimum Suggested Level: unknown – Virtually always runnable

River Information:

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USGS Water Gauge:

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Put In / Take Out Location:

Put in: On GA400, drive North to  the intersection at North GA Premium Outlet Mall in Dawsonville. Turn left on State Route 318. Drive 4 Miles to Highway 9 and turn right. The put in is 1/5 mile ahead on the left.

Take out: On Highway 9, drive South 1.6 miles. Turn right one A.T.More Road, drive .7 miles. Turn Right on Kelly Bridge Rd. Drive 6 miles. Park in field on the right. This is private property, please help keep relations with the land owner positive.  Parking is $3.

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Nearby Outfitters:

Appalachian Outfitters
Phone: 706-864-6156
Rents: Kayaks, canoes, Sit On Tops
Location: At the end of GA400, turn left. Drive 3.5 miles and they will be on the left.

The Outside World
Phone: 706-265-4500
Sells everything you need to paddle. Rental equipment is also available.

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