This section of the Savannah offers easy access and lots of areas to explore. It is easy enough that it gets heavy use by recreational kayakers in flat water and touring boats. However, the numerous wide shoals offer plenty of potential for whitewater practice and play spots. The Augusta Canal parrallels most of this section and offers additional flat water boating.
The easiest and most popular put in is just below the Augusta Canal Headgate / Savannah Rapids Pavilion. This county park has a visitor center, picnic areas and plenty of free parking. As you enter the park, turn right to the lowest parking lot. A pedestrian bridge leads across the canal. Fairly wide stairs climb over a low wall then descend to the river.
Previous descriptions suggested putting in at Steven's Creek dam, but as of 2011 there is no public road access to that dam. There is a public launching area 6 miles upstream of Steven's Creek dam on Betty's Branch at German Island. There is also public access 12 miles upstream at the base of Strom Thurmond Dam. The river is flat water above the Augusta Canal Diversion Dam and above Steven's Creek dam. The only whitewater is below the canal diversion dam to Hammond Rapids.
1) There is a developed public boat launching area on river left at the North Augusta Boat Landing. The landing is on Hammonds Ferry Rd. at Riverview Park, North Augusta, SC. There are limited, primitive campsites nearby which require reservations. Call 803.441.4300 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 803.441.4300 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 803.441.4300 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
2) Boaters can also take out by paddling up the Rea's Creek channel towards Lake Olmstead. Take out under the railroad bridge. It looks like you may be able to drive a car to this location. However, it is probably faster to just carry boats to the canal trail and then across a pedestrian bridge to a parking area at Milledge Rd and Lakeshore Loop.
From Edward Leahy"...Put in below the Steven's Creek dam. Following that is about a mile of flat water to the Augusta canal diversion dam. There is some whitewater starting below this dam. The portage is on the Georgia side just below the dam and is accessed via the canal path below the Savannah Rapids pavilion. It is 5 miles to the North Augusta boat ramp. This section is class I-II with one borderline III, Hammond Rapid on the South Carolin side just downstream from the Augusta waterworks (which is on the Ga side. Optimal flow is 8,000- 15,000 CFS. The guage is downstream and the canal usually diverts around 3,000 CFS. After Hammond rapid, there is no more whitewater on the Savannah."
Augusta area kayakers have a 30 year tradition of playing kayak football in the Augusta Canal just upstream of the 13th Street gates. Most Wednesday evenings, boaters in whitewater kayaks, recreational kayaks, sit on tops, surf skiis and canoes, show up to throw a ball around in the water. The rules are basically kayak water polo, but to score, the ball must be thrown and caught across the goal line, just like a football touchdown. The ball can not be carried across the goal line and if it is thrown into the water across the goal line, the defenders get posession.
Historically, the Savannah River was quite rocky upstream of Augusta. River men brought bails of cotton downriver to Augusta in very large but manuverable canoes, called Petersburg Boats. These rapids are now completely hidden by a series of very long reservoirs which generate hydro-electric power for the region.
Other Information Sources: Augusta Canal National Heritage AreaSavannah Rapids ParkSavannah Rapids Visitor CenterAugusta Canoe and Kayak Club
There appears to be an easy portage around the river right side of the dam. There is a boat ramp on the upstream side of the dam and a grassy slope a short ways downstream of the dam. The dam itself is for hydro-electric power. Boaters must stay a long ways away from the inlets to the generators
The road to the dam is gated, so there is no public access to the dam via road.
This long dam diverts water into the Augusta Canal. There are a few spots along the dam where some boaters carry over the dam or paddle over without portage. Most boaters will take out on river right about 30 yards upstream of the headgates. They then carry across the headgate to the canal trail and downstream to stairs leading to the river.
This may be the most used put in as it is convenient and avoids dealing with the dams. From the lowest parking lot at the Augusta Locks Park, walk across a bridge over the canal. Once on the canal trail, look for a wide stairway leading down to the river.
Reed Creek is a small side creek that is next to the put in parking area at Savannah Rapids Park. The creek enters the Augusta Canal immediately downstream of the pedestrian bridge.
When rains bring the flows up enough, boaters can launch near the top of the parking area and crash down to the canal. There are several large drops in this very short section.
These shoals form the main rapid of significance on this section. They are in the far left channel by the South Carolina shore and are the furthest downstream of any rapids.
The mouth of Rae's Creek is on river right (Georgia side) about 1/4 mile upstream of the North Georgia Boat Landing. It is the first creek outlet on river right below Hammond Rapid. Paddle up the channel almost one half mile to a railroad bridge and an easy take out. There is also a pretty waterfall with water released from the canal.
There is a parking area at the canal overflow, which can be reached by taking Broad St. to Goodrich St. toward the pumping station. The takeout trailhead is immediately before Goodrich St. crosses the RR tracks. The parking area is immediately after the RR tracks.
You could also carry boats along the railroad to the canal trail, then across a pedestrian bridge to a parking area at the end of Milledge Road. The walking distance is about 340 yards This take out reduces the shuttle distance considerably.
On Wednesday evenings, boaters gather to play "kayak football" in the Augusta Canal just upstream of the 13th street gates.
There is plenty of parking. The Augusta Canal Trail starts here. Sidewalks and a grass slope provide seating for spectators and easy access to the canal for boaters.
Brandon you should go on Facebook and look up The Georgia Canoe Association. Most of the members are whitewater kayakers as am I. I simply haven't been on the section you are asking about. From looking at the pictures I'm not sure I'd play on that. It looks like there are simply too many spots to get seriously injured or pinned and drown. But pics are very deceptive. So take the time to search out some of the GCA members on Facebook. Or go to GaPaddle.com for more contact info. Have fun & be safe.
How dangerous is it to boof the savannah diversion dam? My friend and I really enjoy whitewater and have messed around in the rapids below(even though they're pretty timid) the dam quite a bit. We've always been drawn to the dam drop and think it might be fun. I've seen a video on youtube of some random guy going over using a gopro and without a skirt and he seemed fine. I am just looking for a credible opinion. Thanks.
As mentioned in the previous post, taking out at the Augusta Canal overflow (Rae's Creek) is very easy and cuts off a couple miles of flatwater. Rae's Creek is the first creek entering from river right after Hammond Rapid, and it has little to no current. Just paddle up the creek ~100 yards and take out under Riverwatch Pkwy. It's an easy carry up the trail to the parking area at the canal overflow, which can be reached by taking Broad St. to Goodrich St. toward the pumping station. The takeout trailhead is immediately before Goodrich St. crosses the RR tracks. The parking area is immediately after the RR tracks.
Ran the river today at 28000 cfs. I'm a beginner paddler, yet had little trouble even at this level. Put in at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, took out at the canal overflow (which was not running) I was with experienced boaters...they found a few play holes and waves, even threw some cartwheels and loops at Hammonds Ferry. Great day!
Paddled at hammonds ferry @ 15,000 CFS. Good surfing on river left! Large Hole in center.
Don't go out less than 5000 cfs. The only thing you will be doing is getting unstuck off of rocks. At 5000 it is a pretty good ride. Be aware around hammond rapid, someone has created some small dams out of rock. It is a good place to get your boat entrapped.
There is a new bridge and some new steps at the Savannah Rapids Pavillion on the Georgia side that make river access much easier. I have tried several variations to this run and find that I like putting in at the Savannah Rapids Pavillion and taking out at the North Augusta boat ramp about 6 miles downstream. There is only one rapid on the upstream side of I-20 and it should be run just river left of the island. After that there is flatwater all the way until after I-20. If you want to miss this flatwater section another option is to put in at the Augusta Canal Pumphouse and carry to the river. The longest sections of rapids starts here. This site suggests 3,000 cfs as being a minimum for this run but I won't go if it is not at least 5,000 cfs. You will definitely scrape your way down and have to maze through rock gardens at anything less than 5K. To catch Hammond Rapid you have to stay all the way river left and it is the last rapid on the river. At levels over 5,000 you can side surf the hole in the middle. At 3K this rapid is more like scraping over rocks.
This section of the Savannah River has dozens of islands. I love paddling the channels between them and one usually sees herons. There are many dark granite rocks that have lilies growing from them in spring and summer. Water clarity is usually excellent. Just below the dam at Savannah Rapids Pavillion is a fast chute that is a good place to practice ferrying and rolling in current.
Optimal flow is reported to be 8,000- 15,000 CFS, but flows up to 28,000 have also been reported as good. The canal usually diverts around 3,000 CFS. The guage shown below is a long ways downstream, south of town near the regional airport. Daily fluctuations in flow of 2,000 to 4,000 cfs are due to hydro-electric generation patterns at Strom Thurman Dam..
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Hammond Rapid Flood Stage
Kayak Football at 13th Street.
Reed Creek:2nd from bottom drop
Reed Creek: bottom drop
Put in Stairs
Canal Diversion Dam
Portage start at Canal Headgates
Diversion Dam Pano
Stu Thompson @ Stevens Creek Dam
Reed Creek into Augusta Canal
Savannah River Spillway
Running the Chute at Savannah Rapids
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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!
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