Events > 2016 > July > Toccoa River Trip

About this event:

Created by Lesley Symington

Trip coordinator: Lee Torbush, 770-598-0494, torbushscout@gmail.com

Let’s spend the day on some mild whitewater in the beautiful North Georgia mountains and celebrate the 4th.

River Description

The Toccoa and the Ocoee are the same river; it is the “Toccoa” from its headwaters on the Blue Ridge in Georgia until it crosses north into Tennessee.

This is the official Forest Service “Toccoa River Canoe Trail” which runs from Deep Hole campground down to Sandy Bottoms. Rapids are class I-II with one set in the middle that approaches class III. Butt Bridge and Toccoa Valley Campground offer alternate takeouts and shorter runs; 8 miles and 11 miles respectively. There is a good fisherman’s parking lot on Dial Road about a mile below Butt Bridge – neither of the bridges afford great parking opportunities. There is NO access in the 5-mile wilderness section between Margret and Butt Bridge, so bring extra food & water, first aid kit, footgear etc and be prepared as if you were hiking the backcountry.

It’s a spectacular all-day wilderness cruising section and a good training run for intermediate paddlers.  Play boat kayakers will have not much fun as there are some very long stretches of slack water. Take the longer boat if you are planning to kayak this one, or be prepared to do a lot of tedious wallowing along. There is no park-and-play worth mentioning on this reach.

The river runs close along state highway 60 a couple miles from Deep Hole to the town of Margret, then heads west into the National Forest around the back side of Tooni Mountain. The next few miles are dense wilderness with no easy access in or out. Midway, the Benton MacKaye hiking trail crosses the river over a suspension footbridge. A set of class II-III drops separated by wide eddies starts under the bridge and continues for a couple hundred yards through a shallow gorge. This rapid is known locally as “the Margret Drifts” – look out for driftwood. You may not notice the bridge coming up until you are there, due to thick woods, but it can be spotted if you look ahead as you approach down a long westerly straightaway. Find the clearings along the right or left bank just upstream and pull out to scout. Scouting is difficult to impossible from the riverbanks. It’s a messy riverbed portage if you elect to walk it, forget trying to get down on the banks; the woods are thick, steep and virtually trailless adjacent to the rapids. Best scouting overlook is on the bridge. It is difficult, but not impossible, to haul back up to the bridge once you’ve run down the ledges, if you wanted to do multiple runs whilst camping. Look out for snakes.

A few miles on, the river leaves the National Forest, continues through some scenic farm country, under a couple of backroad bridges, through some more pasture, finally past the Toccoa Valley campground on the left, then to Sandy Bottoms another mile or two beyond. Whitewater throughout this pleasant piece is limited to pretty small stuff; relax and enjoy the float.

There was a river-use conflict with a landowner below Margret in 2003 which is mostly settled but this depends on the responsible behavior of boaters.  The Forest Service has very clearly marked the disputed 3000 feet of riverfront with many obvious large signs, and another pair of signs at the downstream end lets you know that you are re-entering the National Forest. While boating through the private property please:

1> Do not trespass or set foot on the private land.

2> Do not fish.

3> Keep the noise down.

4> Be courteous to the landowner and his friends.

After the paddle we can go eat at the Toccoa River restaurant and then on to watch the fireworks on the shore of beautiful Lake Blue Ridge with the southern Appalachian mountains as a backdrop.

For those interested you can find several options for camping in the area and possible run the river again on Sunday