The Oconee at Milledgeville offers many interesting attractions for boaters as well as those looking for some fun on a hot day.
I went out to the Oconee two days ago as the dam has been releasing some water (Peak flow @ 3500). At this level, in the area above the powerhouse where the channel splits in three places, a very nice surfable wave forms in the middle channel.
As usual with this river, be careful if you swim as the rapid is somewhat shallow and rocky. Thankfully, I have seen it at low water and can guarantee there is no rebar.
For a river runner this section of the Oconee also provides a good paddle. If you head north on North Jefferson St. leaving Milledgeville you will soon come to a 4-way stop at Log Cabin Rd./Sinclair Dam Rd. Take a right headed east onto Sinclar Dam Rd. and this will take you past the country club to the Dam at the southern tip of Lake Sinclair. This is the put in where the Oconee River begins from the lake. Here you will bypass Furman Shoals which is a rock outcrop blown up in order to build the dam. It is a marshy area most of the time but when big water is released it quickly becomes unrunable class VI whitewater. Your paddle begins directly around it and around Carter Island where you join the main body of the river.
This paddle is flatwater until you reach the rapids at the highway 22 bridge other than a mild class I turbulence called Turtle Shoals about a mile past the put in.
It is roughly a 3.5 mi float until you begin to approach the highway 22 rapids. You warning sign is the gaging station which is a concrete tower shooting a stream into the river, you have about a 100 yards to make your decesion.
Here you may choose to run river right around Buzzard Island. This will take you to "Grist Mill Rapid" labeled here as "Powerhouse Rapid." This is my favorite way to go and the only way to go at low water. Like instructed here the line is just right of center and just left of the mill. At higher water this creates a nice climbing wave. You can collect in a eddie pool just upstream of the mill before running the rapid and recollect in the eddie behind the mill to play.
If the river is high enough you may decide to run the upper drops on the left fork of the river. At high water this is where the river naturally takes you. It's a good idea to land your boat onto the small island in the middle of the river to scout out your options from there. You may walk out onto it into the eddie below and view the rapids from downstream. Far river right where most of the current goes is a class II called "Tombstone Rapid." This is a good run with no specific line as long as you avoid the "Tombstone" pin rocks.
The center rapid called "Baldwin's Dip" is a more enjoyable class II run while the line is slightly right of center, then you just bump over the main wave and ride the wave train afterwards.
The far river left rapid seperated from the other two called "Oconee Falls" is only runable at real high water and just tumbles over small rocks. After running any of these three upper drops you can ferry down to "Grist Mills Rapid" and play. If you swim in any of these three rapids you will get beat up. I am not sure of any rebar, but these rocks have gravel teeth.
If the water is low the upper drops do not exist and you will have to portage the shoals below them to the current that comes out of the mill. You can view some fish activity in the pools in the shoals.
From here you can take out at the highway 22 bridge or paddle another 4 miles of flatwater to complete the Milledgeville Section of the Oconee. You can camp out at low water on sand bars to make an overnight trip, but beware of the rising water or sleep in you boat. There are also some rock outcrops on the river bank below the only houses on the the river at Pebble Hill. The take out will be a concrete boat ramp on the right. To get there by road you go South on Hwy 112(Vinson HWY) out of Milledgeville and when you see the prison you take a left down the road before it(there is a brown boat ramp sign.)
This area is a grate place to learn to paddle at higher water there is a nice surf wave up stream that opens up. What we who paddle this area call this the powerhouse because this is an old powerhouse that has a nice area to play at higher water. As long as the waters up there are several waves that open up. The wave at river right is probably the best on at the powerhouse. The upper area has a good wave that can be surfed at the right water level when the water is at the yellow line on the powerhouse.
The flow for the spill way is determined by release out of Sinclair Damn.
At low levels, the run is VERY slow. Expect to be on the water for at least 2 hours. If you just plan on playing around at the powerhouse, low levels are a bit dangerous. The rapid becomes very boney.
At high levels, the main run gets moving fairly fast. It can be run up to almost any level. The upper waves and the powerhouse rapid only get better and smoother as the water level rises.
At flood stage the run becomes a bit more dangerous due to trees. The powerhouse rapid really washes out after about 10,000cfs.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Put In -- From Milledgeville: Go north on N Jefferson St NE toward Renallds Plantation. It becomes two lanes after a while. When you come to a stop sign turn right. You will see a sign that says Sinclair Damn 2 miles. Go until that road dead ends and take the dirt road through the gate. You will pass a good fishing spot at the first parking area on your left. Go a few minutes down the dirt road until you get to another parking area. There is a boat ramp, this is the put in.
Take Out -- From Milledgeville, GA: take HWY 49 (Main St.) east out of Milledgeville until you see the bridge over the Oconee. Before the bridge, take the dirt road on your right.
Like cut'n butter
Nice and glassy
looking upstream at the mill rapid @low
Bringing it around
intiating a loop
Practice in the eday
at low water
Play Spot at Milledgeville
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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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