of us paddled the Coosawattee this past Sunday (Dec 14, 2008). 
Joe Cook, David Robinson, Vincent Payne were in solo canoes while Doc
Stephens was in a rec kayak, Karla Vinnacombe, Kelly Harbac and myself
were in ww kayaks.  Since the inception of Paddle Georgia,
the Georgia Canoeing Association
has supported the Paddle GA by setting up safety on the more
difficult rapids.  This Coosawattee run will be the first day of
Paddle Georgia and we wanted to scout the rapids so as set up safety
for Paddle Georgia.  The temps were a very chilly, overcast 38
degrees and the thermometer would never get above 46 the entire day. 
We put on the river in Ellijay around 10:40.  I’ve never
paddled this river so I was excited to explore another N. Georgia

Coosawattee a class 1-2 river located about 1.5 hours North of Atlanta and is a 13 mile run. Depending
on the lake levels, 9-10 miles of the river is whitewater while the
last 3-4 miles is lake paddling until you get to the first take out
on Carter’s Lake.   Only Doc and Joe had run the river in
October and at that time the river was running just below 1’. 
The Coosawattee gauge on AW was at 1.6’ so we figured we’d have
good water to explore the river.


river starts slow with only occasional class I shoals.  I was
expecting more of a wilderness experience, but there were lots of
houses along the river.  The closer we got to the lake the less
we saw of houses and the river became more of a rock strewn beauty
which produced more numerous and spirited rapids.  We had GPSs
with us and we noticed that after mile 4 the rapids really started to
pick up. 


first significant rapids started around mile 5.  One rapid
around mile 5 stands out in my mind because it was a slightly tricky
ledge.  At this ledge, there was a scrappy, bumpy slide on river
left and middle right was a twisty, S-turn type rapid.  You
entered into a chute going left and cut hard left to right.  
It required quick maneuvering skills, but there wasn’t any horrible
consequences and at the bottom was a nice pool for recovery.  At
lower water levels, the river left slide might not have been doable. 


that there were a few more straightforward rapids and ledges. 
Around mile 8, Mountaintown Creek entered on river right.  I’d
paddled this river before.  It’s a fun river, but I think the
Coosawattee had a few more class II rapids on it. 


rapids really started to pick up below Mountaintown Creek. 
There was on series of a couple of class I-II type ledges.  Most
of the ledges required good river reading skills and you sort of had
to pick your way around.  Most chutes were either on the far
river left or far river right and occasionally there were strainers
that you had to watch for, but you could see them from upstream. 
At this water level, most ledges had more than one line to choose


last significant rapid is around mile 9.  It’s a cool ledge
with both far right and far left lines to choose from.  I think
the far left line had the most water.   The remainder of
the river was class I shoals and then at approximately mile 10 we hit
the calm waters of Carter’s Lake. 


remaining three miles was lake paddling, but it only took us about an
hour.  Carter’s Lake was quite scenic and the little slough
still held its narrow riverine appearance.  I’ll have to go
back with my sea kayak and venture along the lake one day as well. 
We had to make sure we followed the right bank otherwise you could be
deceived and go the wrong way.  The Ridgeway Boat Ramp take out
is at the first slough on the right.  You don’t want to miss
it or you’ll be paddling another 4 miles to the next take out.  
We knew we were on the right track when we saw the sign on a point
saying “Slow” with several buoys lining the shoreline. 
Around the corner was the boat ramp.  We got off the river/lake
around 4:15.   It took us about 5 ½ hours to make the
paddle.  We did stop once for a few minutes for lunch, and once
to rescue a swimmer, but other then that we didn’t piddle or play
around much so you can expect a long day. 


other thing to note is that there are very few places to stop to
either take a nature call or eat lunch.  The further you go down
the river the fewer houses you see.  There are no houses once
you get to the lake. 


and Doc said that when they paddled the river at 1’ that there
weren’t as many lines to chose from, but most rapids were runnable
and that the line was pretty apparent. 


and all it was a great adventure, but I wish it had been about 5
degrees warmer and sunny.  The river is really unique and the
rapids are really a lot of fun.  I guess the 3 mile lake paddle
has kept many whitewater boaters from trying the river out.  I
will paddle the river again, but maybe when it isn’t so cold. 


Jamie Higgins

For more river information see:
Coosawatee- Ellijay to Carters Lake