Amicalola Creek - Lower

Amicalola Creek, Georgia, US


Lower (Highway 53 to Kelly Bridge/Etowah River)

Usual Difficulty III-IV+ (varies with level)
Length 9.75 Miles
Avg. Gradient 29 fpm
Max Gradient 70 fpm

Third ledge at EOTW

Third ledge at EOTW
Photo taken 04/04/10 @ low runnable level

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02390000 1.00 - 3.50 ft II-III(IV) 00h58m 1.37 ft (running)

River Description

   A fun fact, the entire Amicalola river resides in Dawson County. This is a pristine section of river with amazing whitewater at the right water levels. Because most of this strech lies in a wildlife managment area there are no houses along the river. The scenery is top notch with massive rock walls, mini gorges, and beautiful forest. All the major rapids on this run take place in the first 3.75 miles and are interspaced by an assortment of class II-III ledges, slots, and smaller wave trains. Levels 1.1-1.5 is a good beginner level to this section with everything running but nothing too serious. From levels 1.5-1.9 things become much more clean regarding the lines. New slots open up and the EOTW becomes more pushy. From 1.9-2.5 this run takes on a whole new attitude, the rapids start running together and it becomes much more continuous with large waves and sticky holes. At these levels the middle ledge in EOTW starts to be a bit retintive so it is a good idea to scout/portage on the left. From 2.5 to 3.0 it is full on, not recomended unless having bigwater skill,and you are used to kayaking in floods.Knowing the river won't really matter at this point because everything starts to change. Have a good crew and be ready for battle.(When levels are really high the last chance to get out before EOTW is sandbar/ beach looking area on left about 100 yards above beginning of rapids.) Above 3 feet the whole river seems to start feeding into a terminal death ledge hole formed by the middle ledge in EOTW. Also logs tend to stack up in EOTW so anytime there has been a flood you should rescout this rapid. The run is capped off by about six miles of flat water that moves good at flood level, not so good at lower levels(1.6 and down). The gradient of the white water section averages 52 FPM.

Note that the most up-to-date Topo map of the area is 30 years old. A large majority of the roads and trails in the area, including both takout roads, do not appear on the maps.

Here is a video I have created to try and have a virtual walk threw of all the rapids. This is at a high level but a lot of the lines are the same.

Kelly Bridge Take-out Directions.

Go west on GA53 for one mile and make a left on Cowart Rd at the Quickie Mart. At the stop sign, make a left on Kelly Bridge Road. Go 3.4 miles to the take-out. Shuttle round trip is about 15 miles.

Alternate take-out directions.

An alternate take-out point exists at river mile 3.5.

Go to the top of the hill where the little "raft guide" place is--with the totem pole out front. Go south on Sweetwater-Church/Juno Rd. It's a left on GA53 west, a right on GA53 east.

Take this road for about 0.7 of a mile and it will turn into a dirt road.

Keep going on the dirt road for another 0.9 and it will turn back into blacktop at a GA Forestry Service sign.

Go 1 mile on the blacktop, ignore all the turn offs- just go straight.

The Black top will dead end, dirrectly before it, bare onto the gravel road veering to the left.

Go about 1/4 mile and take the first right. Go 100 yards and park at the gate. DO NOT BLOCK THE GATE!

If you want to walk down to the take out-- Go down the road about a 300yds and bare left over the hill on an old jeep trail. The road goes down and bares around to the right a little,about 0.8 miles. Take a left at the "T" in the road and the take out is about 50yards-can't miss it. All in all this is about a mile hike up hill to your car.... Is flat water that bad??

Directions on the river.

About one mile after Roostertail the river will bare around to the left a little. You'll see a little flat area on river left that has a makeshift campsite. The banks get pretty high after this and about 50 yards further down you'll see a cut in both banks where there use to be an old ford. There's a set of very old stone bridge supports, one on each side of the river. Take out on river left.

The walk out is 1 mile and while not steep, it is up hill. Be prepared to sweat a little. If you own a set of backpack straps, you might want to throw them in your dry bag.

Multi-use Area

95%+ of the navigable portion of the Amicalola lies within the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. This is a multi-recreational 25,000-acre tract of land administered and managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Depending on the time of year, the forest is utilized by a wide variety of individuals including: boaters, fishermen, hunters, hikers, equestrians, and DNR personnel engaging in forestry management (controlled burns and logging operations). Please remember to be respectful of these individuals right to access and use this area.

Amicalola and Etowah Access Opened (GA)

Access Reopened

Good news! In January 2002, the landowner at the Etowah take-out called American Whitewater to announce their reopening of the Etowah take-out. The owner is asking for $3 per person on the honor system, envelopes are provided at the site. There is a gate to the parking area that is unlocked during the day. The owner asks that visitors close the gate whenever entering or leaving the site.

While it is disappointing that the State failed to renew their lease on the site, we are excited by the owner's continued interest in providing public access to the Etowah!


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-01-02 00:17:14


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.4Edge of the WorldIVHazard Photo
1.0Off the WallIIIPhoto
1.2Boogie II+Photo
1.3Thy Holiness II+Photo
1.9Split Decision IIIPhoto
2.0Surf and TurfII
2.3Rooster TailIVHazard Photo
3.0Lets Make A DealIIIPhoto
3.5More BoogieII
4.0Paddle OutN/APhoto

Rapid Descriptions

Edge of the World (Class IV, Mile 0.4)

Boof hard!

Boof hard!
Photo by Seth Scott taken 04/09/14 @ 1.80 ft

Edge of the World is the largest and most well known rapid on the Lower Amicalola. During summer months, you will typically find the locals camped out on the ledges of the rapid and swimming the lines, reminiscent of Bull Sluice. At levels of 1.1- 1.3 this rapid is a solid III+, dropping approximately 40 feet in the span of 75 yards. At this level, the moves are mostly slots and make a good training rapid for beginners working on their creeking moves. Its a good park and huck also paddling down from bridge and running laps. At levels of 1.4-1.8 +/-, the water becomes much pushier and the level bumps up to a solid IV. At levels over 1.8, the classic lines begin to wash out and new hydraulics develop. If you are accustomed to running this rapid at the classic level of 1.1-1.5, this is a definite re-scout over 1.8. You will recognize the start of this rapid by the well-defined horizon line and large amount of wood present at the top center and right of the rapid. If water level is high get out on sandy beach area 300 yards or so before rapids on left. There is a boardwalk and you can walk down and scout.The rapid consists of two widely spaced ledges followed by a six foot near vertical drop and then a series of slides. Classic line is to run 20ft +/- off the left bank. Hit the first ledge with some left angle to catch the eddy or some right angle to continue down stream. Follow the moving water towards the second ledge and either run it straight or hit the boof, at levels over 1.2, (this ledge is the one that becomes the problem at higher levels). Be aware of the boat gouging line to the left of the boof. After this, run hard to the right bank and hit the vertical slot. Move left and run the final slide . At levels over 1.4 or so, it is possible to run the slide to the left of the vertical slot. Additionally, the river left line below the second ledge is runnable but not advisable due to a large amount of wood and an undercut rock on the left bank. If you catch the level right, a good surf wave develops below the second ledge and before the vertical slot.

Off the Wall (Class III, Mile 1.0)


Photo by Seth Scott taken 04/09/14

This is the next big rapid after EOTW. You will see a waterfall on your right, then a island. Stay to the right and then run at  the wall, it is defined by a pretty large sloping rock face on the river right bank. The line is straightforward. Run hard to the right bank and then move to the left of the downstream rock

Boogie (Class II+, Mile 1.2)

The scenery for most of Ami

The scenery for most of Ami
Photo taken 04/09/14

Just some class 2 boogie water, keep a eye out for the beautiful rock cliffs. Class 3 boogie at  flows 2.0 feet and up.

Thy Holiness (Class II+, Mile 1.3)

Thy Holiness

Thy Holiness
Photo taken 04/09/14

You will come around the corner after some boogie water then you will see a slight horizen line. Just T up and paddle hard.  I once had a friend swim out of this hole and it took about 20 minutes and 2 miles of river to get all his stuff. When he finally got done with that smim I think I heard him praying.

Split Decision (Class III, Mile 1.9)

Rick all smiles and brown claws here / left line at split decision

Rick all smiles and brown claws here / left line at split decision
Photo taken 04/09/14

Split decision is made up of three chutes divided by large boulders in the streambed. The left chute is a tight slide into a pillow that immediately banks right. There are often trees in this line so scouting should take place before you run it. The center line runs down onto a boulder where if you hit it correctly can give you a nice boof. The right line is a slide that banks left at the end. If you are skilled and willing to work a little you can run all three lines without too much diffuculty. At higher levels, this rapid becomes a definite scout due to the possibility of pinned wood in the chutes. Neither bank is great to scout from, but the right bank does give a better view of the line.

Surf and Turf (Class II, Mile 2.0)

More boogie with some great play spots with beautiful rock gorges.

Rooster Tail (Class IV, Mile 2.3)

This is the sneek right??

This is the sneek right??
Photo taken 04/09/14

Rooster Tail is nothing more then a huge slide with good lines on the right and left sides when levels are 1.0-1.7+. The rapid gets its IV rating from the presence of a potential keeper hydraulic that develops at higher water levels 2.0+ The rapid is easily scouted from the left bank and the hole is easily avoidable. Right below here on the right there is a great surf wave and a little futher down on the left there is a sandy beach.

Lets Make A Deal (Class III, Mile 3.0)

Punch hard young Padawan

Punch hard young Padawan
Photo taken 04/09/14

This is the last significant rapid of the run. You have door 1, door 2, and door 3.... Well really you can run combinations of each line. The rapid consits of a upper part which has three lines and a lower part which has three lines. Mix and match all you want for the same price. The right line is more creeky and channalized and the left line is a little more beefy. At flows over 2.2 its hard to distinguish any lines.

More Boogie (Class II, Mile 3.5)

After lets make a deal, there is another mile or so of class two boogie before the gradient is taken out back and shot.

Paddle Out (Class N/A, Mile 4.0)

Sunset in Dawson Forest

Sunset in Dawson Forest
Photo taken 04/09/14

To cap off this run you will need to paddle yourself out on about 6 miles of flat water. At levels above 1.7 the run out is moving pretty fast, below this it is not running very fast. At any level it is very beautiful .

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 13 2013 (1946 days ago)
jack orrDetails
Ran on 8-12 at 1.2'. No portages. Few trees down after the whitewater section but all fairly easily
avoidable. There was only one river wide and there was a path clear on far RR. You can see it in
this video:
September 21 2011 (2638 days ago)
Sidesjeremy (153551)
MULTIPLE RIVER WIDE STRAINERS!!!! My friend and I attempted to float the lower Amicola river from
Hwy 53 to Kelleys bridge. Along the way we discovered huge trees that were knocked down from the
recent tornado activity causing huge river wide strainers. Luckily for my friend and I, the river
was very low and considered BARELY runnable. If there is any real flow, then this will propose a
huge safety hazard. They are located around mile 5 or 6 from the put in. Luckily all the fun rapids
are way before this so use the alternate take out at 3.5 miles in. Also, floating this river when
it's low is a huge mistake. It took me 8 hours to get down it and that included a lot of dragging
my boat over rock beds and rapids that were to low to run. We got caught in the dark and had to
camp out. Not fun. Thanks for reading.
March 12 2011 (2831 days ago)
jack orrDetails
As of 3-12-11 the big log at the top of EOTW that you use to be able to paddle around has moved
downstream 10 feet and is now sideways after the flood on 3-9-11. It is totally blocking the main
line on the far left, and part of the sneak line to the boof in the middle. Serious consequences
could occur. Please be safe.
January 1 2010 (2901 days ago)
Vance BarnesDetails
Someone has cut the big log at Edge into 4-5' lengths. 3 pieces still in various places in the
upper drop.
April 4 2010 (3173 days ago)
jessehebden (151590)
There is a pine log blocking the left entrance line to the edge of the world.Its been there a
couple of months now and doesn't look like it will be moving anytime soon. We portaged to the first
drop and re-entered there.
December 11 2009 (3287 days ago)
backdraft (151305)
The log jam just above the etowah is gone
October 9 2009 (3350 days ago)
Dan CashDetails
Ben Whittle and I just ran from 53 down on October 8, and there was no wood in any of the channels
we ran @ 0.98. There is a lot of wood in the flats which is high over head from the floods that
will probably come down soon. One log, well I guess it's really more of a tree, spanned the whole
river and was 12-15 feet above our heads! At Split Rock we can the center and right channels and
Ben ran the left as well. He said there's plenty of room. Though he also says that it's not
Southern Creekin' unless you're duckin' Rodo.
August 31 2009 (3390 days ago)
Flint (150735)
The tree is still down at the edge of the world, however we broke a few of the dead limbs off so it
is somewhat passable now if you duck as you go under (at low level, at higher level still not
passable; we ran it at .5ft this past weekend). There are several trees still down as the run
continues downstream. With higher water levels the trees that are down could be a hazzard.
August 1 2006 (4515 days ago)
Brian BabcockDetails
The pullout at the confluence with the Etowah river is open for now. It keeps you from having to go
all the way to Kelly Bridge takeout. The road down can be a little rough so you need to take your
time. The road is part of the Dawson Forest road system (Mill Road).
July 22 2006 (4525 days ago)
David BuchananDetails
Beware of the hole in Rooster Tail at levels above 1.4, maybe lower(the old hwy. 53 bridge guage).
The tail washes out and leaves a tongue that leads to a nasty hole. They aren't kidding when they
say it's a keeper. I ran it a few years back at around 1.8, after summer rains; it grabbed me hard
and wouldn't let go. Finally, I bailed, swam for my life and had to hike out with nothing but my
shorts. My boat(Pirouette S) was still upside down, bouncing around, in the hole when I looked back
from the mountain top. The next day(level around 1.4) we went back to look for the boat and there
it was, still hard stuck in the hole, just like it was left the day before. It took considerable
effort and back-woods ingenuity to get it out. The wierd thing is that it doesn't even look like
much of a hole, but it's just the right size to grab a boat and it's also really rocky underwater.
If the river is high enough to make the hole sticky, you probably won't be able to get anywhere
close to it on foot, for rescue or boat retrieval. Avoid it!
June 25 2006 (4552 days ago)
Rick BellowsDetails
Sometime in the past week, the log that blocked the channel between the two large rocks on the
Etowah between the Amicalola confluence and the take-out at Kelly Bridge was removed, either by man
or nature. The straight center chute is now passable, but stay to the left side of it at lower
water levels.
March 23 2006 (4646 days ago)
Tom WelanderDetails
Three observations where the gaps between the two gauges were 0.32 or 0.33:

Jan 2 12:00 pm
old staff gauge 0.72
new USGS gauge 1.04

Jan 2 6:30 pm
old staff gauge 1.06
new USGS gauge 1.39

March 21 6:45 pm
old staff gauge 0.96
new USGS gauge 1.29
March 19 2006 (4650 days ago)
Rick BellowsDetails
Saturday, June 24, will be Day 1 of Paddle Georgia 2006, being run this year on the Etowah River.
That means about 300 boats, most of them operated by paddlers wil minimal experience, will be on
the Etowah downriver of Highway 9, including the 2 miles or so from the confluence of Amicalola
Creek and the Etowah to the take-out at Kelly Bridge Road. Paddlers should either use the alternate
take-out described above or be prepared for the crowd.
March 16 2006 (4653 days ago)
Rick BellowsDetails
The Etowah Scenic River Committee is working to have 6.8 miles of the Etowah River and 14.4 miles
of Amicalola Creek, mostly within the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area, included under
July 5 2005 (4907 days ago)
Dan CentofantiDetails
Etowah Scenic River Proposal

A grassroots organization, the Etowah Scenic River Committee, has been formed to protect 21 miles
of the Etowah and Amicalola Rivers in North Georgia. The group is lobbying to have sections of
these river designated State Scenic Rivers, in accordance with the Georgia's State Scenic River
Act. The Etowah Scenic River Proposal includes 14.4 miles of the Amicalola River, from Lindsey Ford
to the confluence of the Etowah River. The study will also include 6.8 miles of the Etowah River.
Much of these streams flow across the City of Atlanta tract of Dawson Forest. The proposal follows
the requirements of the Georgia Scenic Rivers Act, which protects the river corridor and does not
allow dams or other obstructions to the free flowing nature of the river.
These two streams are located in Dawson County within a one-hour drive of most of Metropolitan
Atlanta. The area surrounding these streams is heavily wooded and there are no cabins or decks on
the banks for the entire 21 miles! This is indeed rare in our rapidly developing area just outside
the urban sprawl of metro Atlanta. The Etowah is home to 76 species of aquatic life making it one
of the richest rivers in aquatic diversity in the southeast according to Candace Stoughton, Etowah
River Project Director for the Nature Conservancy. The Amicalola is a popular canoe and kayak run,
with several sections ranging in difficulty from Class I-II on the Upper Amicalola to Class III-IV
on the Lower Amicalola.
In the early 1970s, the City of Atlanta purchased 10,000 acres in Dawson County with an eye to
building a second airport. When the property was deemed too hilly for the project, the area was
left undisturbed and eventually came under the management of the DNR's Wildlife Resources Division
and the Georgia Forestry Commission. Public access and recreational facilities were improved and a
forest stewardship program was established. The has become a lush haven for hikers, campers,
canoeists, hunters and fishermen. But, the City of Atlanta still contends that the land is reserved
for a future airport. The Etowah Scenic River Committee came together after an article was
published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in January about renewed interest in a second airport
and a high speed rail link along Highway 400 to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Due to
the rapid development of North Metro Atlanta and the tremendous increase in land value, this 10,000
acre tract is again being eyed for future development projects. Some local real estate brokers have
aggressively opposed the Scenic River proposal because they have a large developer interested in
the purchasing the tract. Designation of the Etowah and Amicalola as State Scenic Rivers would
offer the rivers some protection even if the Dawson Forest is developed.
Leading the Etowah Scenic River Committee is Bill Hess who retired to Dawson County with 30 years
experience with the U.S. Forest Service and was responsible for wild and scenic rivers studies in
the southeastern states for the Forest Service. The committee has completed the first step of the
process, which is local education and support of the proposal. Accomplishments to date include a
informational web site, a town hall meeting of over 200 people, and a petition drive that garnered
over 1,500 signatures encouraging the county to take action to protect the rivers. The petition was
presented to the Dawson County Commissioners at their April 7, 2005 meeting. The commissioners
agreed to endorse the proposal but have not sent it to the governor. The committee has also hosted
a canoe trip and hike where local commissioners, Representative Amos Amerson, Atlanta City Council
member Felicia Moore, Advisor to the governor Terry Demeo-King, as well as media representatives
and others were present to discuss and tour the rivers and the proposal.
A major obstacle to the efforts of the committee is the City of Atlanta. As owners of the tract,
the entire Atlanta City Council must approve any proposed action. The Georgia Scenic Rivers Act was
passed in 1969, but has rarely been used. Designated waterways must be found to have outstanding
scenic and recreational qualities. There are only four rivers that have made the list - The
Conasauga and Jacks Rivers in the Cohutta Wilderness in northwest Georgia, a portion of Ebenezer
Creek near Savannah and the Chattooga River in northeast Georgia. The Chattooga is also a National
Wild and Scenic River.
AW is calling on its members for action to help with this proposal. Here is what you can do to help
protect our local treasures:

#1) Call, write, and e-mail Governor Sonny Perdue, Dawson County State Legislature Representatives
(Chip Pearson, Amos Amerson, and David Ralston), Mayor Shirley Franklin, and all the Atlanta City
Council Members, epically the transportation committee. Tell them how much you value these rivers
and you support the proposal of making them State Scenic Rivers.

#2) Help us spread the word. Tell family, friends and others about the proposal. We need strong
public support to get this passed.

For additional information, contact information, sample letters, and on-line petitions visit

Many AW members are familiar with these wonderful rivers. The AW Amicalola web page is also full of
great information. We request that everyone do their part to help get this proposal passed. For
additional information or opportunities to volunteer feel free to call Dan Centofanti at

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating