Potato
Creek

Section:
74 bridge to 36 bridge

Appropriate
for: Intermediate or Advanced

Months
Runnable: October-June after rain

Difficulty:
III (IV or even V at high water)

Gradient:
>116 ft/mile

Runnable
level min: high near banks

                max:
up to flood

Hazards:
Long technical class III rapids, boulder sieves, undercuts

Distance:
3 miles

Distance
from Atlanta: 74 miles

Scenery:
Pretty

Scouting:
Possible, but difficult and impractical due to the number of big
drops
Gauge: None.

Well
it was getting cold, it rained like stink in Florida, and snow fell
on Little River (which was only running a few cfs), so Will (Atom
C-1), Will’s dad (AKA the Hawk) (Godzilla C-1), Tommy Price (Cascade
C-1), Mary Hyatt, and Brad Roberts (some sort of Kayaks) decided
Potato Creek in Thomaston, down by Macon, would be a good run.

It
may look flat from I-75 south of Atlanta, but that’s not entirely
true, because a series of faults cross Georgia create spectacles like
High Falls Park and Potato Creek. With an average gradient, in the
rapid stretch, exceeding 150′ feet per mile, Potato Creek can be
intense.

Potato
Creek starts as an easy class I and II river. The bottom drops out
about a forth mile from the put in with a remarkable forty foot
horizon line. The drop on river right slides down to a pool and is
split by an island. Hazard, a tight and twisting slot, screams by
the river left side of the island. The main danger here is the
undercut 3/4 the way down the slot. On the river right a big
vertical drop, Oh! Cool, plummets into a pool and then is followed by
several more smaller drops.

A
small pool below the island allows for regrouping and a good view
down stream. Horizon lines stretch off to the limit of sight. The
drops are continuous and sometimes blind. Fools Falls and Impact
Falls are some of the most dangerous drops. Both are sheer and
should be boofed or ski jumped to avoided pinning in the shallow
water below.

The
rapids have ample play spots, especially a great surfing wave in Mr.
Potato Head Rapid located near the bottom of the run. The rapid
stretch ends after about a mile with a long technical boulder sieve.

A
mile of flat water follows, and then you arrive at the take-out
bridge just before Potato Creek Falls. You can hear the falls well
before you see its horizon line. Falling over 80 feet, three
back-to-back waterfalls comprise the cascade. Paddle down to the lip
to check runnability; the bridge is an acceptable take-out and the
last completely legal one. If things are honkin’, gofer it.

Meat
Grinder is the first of two sliding drops and ends in a shallow pool.
Run on the right or center. Then comes Mashed Potato, another
sliding drop, run on the far right. The last drop, Potato Creek
Falls, is about 20 feet through a very steep twisting slide into an
enormous exploding and curling hole. Don’t worry, it usually doesn’t
hold boats, especially since you are moving at such a great speed.

Following
the falls are a set of nasty boulder sieves on either side of an
island dividing the stream. The take-out is on the left. This is a
semi-private road so be brief and mind your manners.

To
get to Potato Creek, take I-75 south to exit 77 (Highway 19). Stay
on Highway 19 South, it turns right about 44 miles out of Atlanta.
Continue on to Thomaston and turn right on 74 towards Woodbury. Turn
right again on FS 69 immediately after the Potato Creek bridge. The
put-in is via the tiny feeder stream that runs under the bridge and
into Potato Creek. Be courteous, it might be private land.

The
take-out is back to Thomaston then a right at the light onto 36 West.
Park at the bridge; it is possible to take the last possible left
before the bridge, but this is a private road and you will need to
ask for permission to park. The three drops Meat Grinder, Mashed
Potato, and Potato Falls are all visible from the bridge.

From
The Eddy Line, February 1998

by
William C. Reeves (The Hawk)