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Difficulty I-II+(III)
Length 2.52 Miles
Flow Range 1.50 - 6.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 30 minutes ago 1.93 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 02/22/2020 10:29 pm

River Description

Gauge Description:
The gauge is located at the East Ellijay city limits on Highway 52 - about 1/4 mile east of the Highway 515 bridge.

Here is a tip for running the Lower Cartecay when the level is near minimum:  Drive to the the take-out on Mulkey Road and look at the shoals there.  If it looks high enough to run, it is.  Remember the gauge is down river so it matters whether the level is rising or dropping.  

Most of this section of the Cartecay River runs through a residential area. There are no restrooms after you put in and most of the river banks are on private property. So, please take care of these needs before putting on.  You will paddle past cabins and homes on both sides of the river for most of this section. Most of the homeowners are friendly toward the boating community, but they do not want to see you nude, nor do they want you going to the bathroom in their yard. It is recommended that you keep your groups small and quiet and not stay too long at any one spot, or put on the river after dark.  In short, please be respectful to the home owners.

Put in at the bridge on Lower Cartecay Road. There are put-ins on river right and river left. Managed by commercial outfitters these access points have their own sets of rules. If you prefer, you can put in at Highway 52 and paddle the extra mile down to Lower Cartecay Road, but be prepared to portage because this section will likely have some strainers (deadfall) on on it.

The Stegall Mill Road takeout is just past the bridge downriver from "Blackberry Falls" on river right. Please do not change clothes at the takeout.  You should be aware that parking is limited and the parking lot is closed from Friday through Monday from May 15th to September 15th. If you take out here, you should arrange for someone to pick you up after you get off the river.

When the level is 2.2' or better it is worth it to paddle on down to the DNR takeout.


Rapid Descriptions


Class - II Mile - 1
About a mile below Lower Cartecay Road you will see some houses on river right. These houses look out of place in the mountains because they have long green lawns leading down to the river. Here, a narrow chute on river right forms a small Class II rapid. Run it down the right and eddy out left or right at the bottom.

Rock Garden

Class - II Mile - 1.25
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A quarter mile down river is "Rock Garden", another Class II. Look for a narrow slot in the middle of the drop at the top of the rapid. Go over the drop with a left angle and immediately make a sharp turn back to the right. Follow the channel down the middle, but look out for a pinning rock about 1/3 of the way down. Eddy out at the bottom on the right or the left. There is a decent squirt spot on river left at the bottom. Large kayaks and canoes may have trouble navigating Rock Garden at levels below 1.2'.

Surfing Rapid

Class - II Mile - 1.5
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After Rock Garden work your way through some shoals and pools until you come to a river wide ledge known as "Surfing Rapid. Here is a good place for beginners to work on their surfing skills. It has a good recovery pool and a nice beach, but you should be prepared to roll or get rescued because it is easy to flip here. More shoals after "Surfing Rapid", then "S-Turn".


Class - II+ Mile - 1.75

An island in the middle of the river marks the entrance to "S-Turn". Run left of the island and stay far left to avoid getting stuck on rocks. Beginners will want to scout "S-Turn". Eddy out on river left to scout. The most distinguishing feature of this rapid is the sluice that forms at the top of the ledge on river left. The river makes a sharp right turn through the sluice, and then quickly turns back to the left. Most beginners will run this rapid by aggressively paddling through the sluice and turning left after the drop. Others will catch the large eddy on river right and continue the run from there. At levels above 2.0' you can skip the sluice and drop straight over the ledge. Either way, you need to paddle aggressively the rest of the way. Punch the hole at the bottom. Eddy out river right or river left. If you eddy left be aware of the undercut rock at the bottom of the eddy. "S-Turn" is rated Class II+ at normal levels. At 4-6' it is definitely a solid Class III.


Class - II+ Mile - 2

"Whirlpool" gets its name from the large swirling eddy on river right at the bottom of the rapid. Beginners will want to avoid this and eddy left, where there is a large pool. Be careful though, because the left eddy has a very dynamic eddy line. For best results run "Whirlpool" with a left angle and paddle hard for river left. WARNING: there is almost always a strainer at the bottom of the river right eddy. Also, this is a very deep spot in the river and the channel is full of trees and debris left over from ice storms and other bad weather. You cannot see them because they are below the surface. But watch out if you take a swim. Keep your feet up and swim aggressively for river left. "Whirlpool" is rated Class II+ at normal levels. At levels above 4' it becomes a Class III/III+. At these levels a very large hole forms at the bottom of the rapid. Run the sneak down the left to avoid this hazard. I don't recommend playing in this hole. It is shallow and people have been known to get hurt or break their paddles while attempting to play here.

Note: One of the property owners has asked that we not loiter here. She seems to be ok with small quiet groups, but would prefer it if large groups and clinics limit their time at this spot. Please respect her wishes. Thank you.


Blackberry Falls

Class - II+ Mile - 2.25

The grand finale of the run is "Blackberry Falls". It looks intimidating to beginners but it is actually just a big ol' slide. It ends in a haystack that tends to stop and flip those who air-brace, rudder, or otherwise don't paddle. You know, beginners. The classic "Blackberry" run is down the center with a slight left angle. Look for the green hump of water just below the top and split it with your boat. Paddle hard and punch through the haystack at the bottom. Eddy left or right - preferably left. The other popular line is the diagonal line from left to right. If you are good enough, and lucky enough, you can catch the wave above the haystack and surf it. "Blackberry Falls" is Class II+, Class III/III+ at levels above 4'.


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Duncan Cottrell
2 years ago

April 2018 -- Woody says the bridge is still out so use these directions: Take Highway 52 East and pass Lower Cartecay Road where we used to turn. Pass Hudson Apple House and turn right on Aaron Road. Take it until it dead ends. Turn right on Lower Cartecay Rd and go 1 mile. Cartecay River Experience is on the left.

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Nathan Madlock
7 years ago

Dogs have moved!! New owner is a nice guy.

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Nathan Madlock
7 years ago

I have been paddling cartecay for the last month straight and the last time we were there the dogs came out. A first timer rolled and had to get back in his boat. My recommendation would be stay away from that house with the star on it. Those dogs were literally biting the boat. There was fear in the eyes of s few boaters.. Stay safe!

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7 years ago

Hello. Is it possible to put in higher on this river? Say Macedonia Road? If so, what is up there? Anyone ever float that section? Well, I answered my own question this weekend. I put in at Macedonia and floated to River Hill Rd. It was a nice float. No real rapids, but the first part of the hour long float was very serene and pretty with no houses.

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david peek
8 years ago

any thing under 1.7 is to boney for a decked yak let alot of plastic on the rocks above S turn

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Robert Lee
8 years ago

Just did this river last weekend (6/9/2012) at level of 1.66 and it was a great time. The first mile was tame, but the second half was great. I took my 9 and 11 yr old sons with me on our Intex Seahawk II raft and we had a blast. Everyone we passed by on their inner tubes were like... :o wish we had a boat! :D The rapids on the river are nothing to challenge my raft, but were fun to shoot. After we did S-Turn, we parked the boat and jumped directly into the rapids and slid through them multiple times with just our lifejackets. GREAT FUN. When we got to Blackberry Falls, we did the same. Spend over an hour there going over the falls. Super! There is even a nice rope swing a little before the falls that you can use. Great river to take your family to. Thanks for this website! I'll post some pictures of our trip as well.

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Barry Whitehead
8 years ago

Ran it today at just below 4, and it was awesome. At this level ya need not worry about those dogs coming after you, they didn't want to swim in that! They just barked from shore. Whirlpool at this level and beyond is a bit of a scary looking rapid, I know of several experienced paddlers who have recirculated their for longer than any mortal being would care to. We ran from the put in all the way down past DNR take out, no issues with strainers. It was a good day! BRING THE RAIN

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9 years ago

Made a run this morning at level 1.49 and it was very scrapy. Rock Garden was a mess. Left alot of plastic on the rocks throughout most of the run. S-turn was awesome and a little more intimidating than I remember... mainly because after the first drop you HAD to move left to catch the second chute. It almost has to be an entry level class III at 1.5. Blackberry was a lot of fun, but had a rock lip along the top which made lining up with the rooster tail tricky. A fun run but I will not be making the trek back up to Elijay until the river is at least 1.8 - 2.0.

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Luke Crawford
10 years ago

Great run for beginners. We took two people who had never paddled white water before. They did great running it in creek boats. The run down to clear creek falls is well worth it. Blackberry was great tried three lines the best was down the center but boofing far right was fun to.

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Woody Janssen
10 years ago

The Cartecay River Experience will continue the "Chili Run" January 1st. 2010. This tradition was started by Jay and Fuzzy Nuts many years ago. If you would like to participate please contact Jenny or Myself for more details. We are up for additional suggestions on how to make this event a great EXPERIENCE for all.

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cliff knight
11 years ago

DO NOT RUN AT LOWER LEVELS! It is no fun at lower levels but at higher water, it turns into a very fun little river. We ran it this weekend at low levels and I feel like I left most of the bottom of my boat back at the river. Whirlpool, sturn and blackberry are fun beginner rapids and a decent play sopt is at the bottom of all of them

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12 years ago

What a River! it was roughly 2.5. Great ride all the way to DNR and Cartecay Water Shed provided a Shuttle.

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12 years ago

We were talking tonight about how the name of a rapid on the Cartercay has changed names for some strange reason. I have been running this river since 1976 - in fact my ex-husband's family owned all the land on both sides of the river at the covered bridge - actually back then there was no covered bridge. However, after the ex's grandmother died the land was divided among the 11 siblings. Some chose to keep their land other chose to sell to development. Now people are referring to the river's slide/fall rapid as Blackberry. It was and as far as I know always called by locals as Stegall Mill Fall. Just curious how it metamorphosed into Blackberry. Blackberry is the development that came about in the 80's. The developer even took control of the river trying to banned paddlers from using the river and take-out at the falls. Jay represented the paddlers and was able to get the Gilmer County Commission to permit paddlers to take off the river below the covered bridge. Blackberry Development has never done one thing to be honored by the naming of the rapid. They were allowed to develop too close to the river and when the river rises the trash/debris from decks, lawn furniture and like have littered this river for years. And, it seems no on is responsible for cleaning up the homeowners messes. They probably spend more on keeping paddlers off the river. Unless someone knows otherwise, I suggest paddlers call the rapid Stegall Mill. Quit giving credit to those who basically ruined a great river. Steve & Alice

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Steve Reach
15 years ago

We ran this section on 9/19/04 right after Hurricane Ivan dumped, at a level between 3.5 and 4 feet on the gauge. At this level the three named rapids (S-turn, Whirlpool and Blackberry) run together and become an Ocoee-like maelstrom, with huge haystacks, keeper holes, and very few easy eddies. Scouting gets difficult. Playing is only practical in the realm of the very experienced and terminally insane. The top of S-turn develops a foot-wide tubular curler. Whirlpool ramps up to something approaching a class 4 level of difficulty, with 2 giant haystacks and a nasty bottom hole. The ledge at Blackberry is underwater and some interesting alternate lines open up on the left side. The convergence of the right and left channels produces a monster exploding wave, best hit smack in the middle of the vee.

Ya can't walk out of the river until you are below Blackberry without trespassing on private property. Stay away when it's this high unless you are sufficiently experienced and confident. It's BIG.

Use caution! Have a blast! Keep it safe


Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2020-05-25 Medium Near Miss/Rescue One Boat Trip Read More




article main photo

Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, dies

Charlie Walbridge

Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, died on November 20th, 2019. He was 83. A microbiologist by training, Terry began paddling in the mid-1960's while a professor at Emory University. He took to whitewater readily, and it became an important focus of his life. In 1969 he met veteran paddler Doug Woodward, and in 1971 the two became the technical advisers for the movie “Deliverance.” Afterwards, Terry and Woodward purchased the rafts Warner Brothers used in filming and bought 19 acres near the river. This became Southeastern Expeditions, one of the Southeast’s first whitewater outposts on the Chattooga. In 1974, Terry took then-Gov. Jimmy Carter on three trips on the Chatooga River, totaling 57 miles. This inspired Carter to get the Chattooga included in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and influenced later decisions protecting rivers across the U.S.“Terry adopted me as one of his students,” Carter told Outside Online in a 2017 interview. “it opened my eyes to the relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had contemplated before that. When I got to be president I vetoed 16 different dam projects all over the United States.” Terry eventually quit his Emory University job and started full time career in environmental advocacy, including founding American Rivers, a principal U.S. conservation group. For the next 30 years he specialized in environmental projects involving rivers and wetlands and later, when he became a board-certified toxicologist, he developed an expertise in hazardous waste cleanups. He was an active paddler until sidelined by Parkinson's Disease. A passionate teacher and advocate, he is sorely missed by all who knew him. Click through for an excellent obituary and a photo of Terry taking Governor Carter over Bull Sluice!


Mark Neisler


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1195628 07/12/09 Mark Neisler
1194983 05/20/09 Mark Neisler
1195715 07/29/09 Mark Neisler
1195714 07/29/09 Mark Neisler
1214379 02/22/20 Mark Neisler updated stats
1193207 12/30/08 Mark Neisler
1194982 05/20/09 Mark Neisler
1194984 05/20/09 Mark Neisler
1195716 07/29/09 Mark Neisler
1195717 07/30/09 Mark Neisler
1195720 07/31/09 Mark Neisler
1195007 05/20/09 Mark Neisler
1195721 07/31/09 Mark Neisler
1196143 10/02/09 Mark Neisler
1204002 01/11/15 Mark Neisler Added a tip for judging level
1204007 01/12/15 Mark Neisler tweaked
1206428 05/16/16 Mark Neisler Corrected a level for a rapid