Etowah, Georgia, US
4 - Highway 136 to Kelly Bridge Road
||I(II) (for normal flows)
Sources: B. Sehlinger and D. Otey, Northern Georgia Canoeing (1980); S. Welander, B. Sehlinger and
D. Otey, A Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to Georgia (2004).
With only Class I-I+ rapids, this reach perhaps stretches the definition of "whitewater" despite a
fairly rapid flow. But with agricultural or wooded scenery, minimal residential or road intrusion,
a quiet, rural atmoshphere and year-round availability, it is an excellent respite from the
challenges of steeper rivers or the cold swims of winter. The reach is really two sections, an
upper section from Highway 136 to Highway 9 and a lower section from Highway 9 to Kelly Bridge
The 9.1 mile upper section from Highway 136 to Highway 9 snakes through a broad, flat plain
consisting mostly of farms: with traffic noise mostly absent except for the highway crossings,
boaters often hear the mooing of cattle. Residential development is still minimal right along the
river, so the scenery remains agricultural. Though their traffic can only rarely be seen or heard,
two roads parallel the Etowah on river right, Etowah River Road for the 4 miles from Highway 136 to
Highway 53 and Thompson Road for the 2.6 miles from Highway 53 to Highway 9.
While the section is generally described as "Highway 136 to Highway 9," it may actually be
preferable to take out at the Hugh Stowers Road bridge (about 1.8 miles upriver of Highway 9) or at
one of the accesses in the Dawson Forest WMA. The hill down to the water at Highway 136 is steep,
as is the hill up from the water at Highway 9: traffic is fast and somewhat dangerous at both
bridges and parking is limited at the Highway 9 bridge. Directions to the alternate accesses are
UPDATE 02/06: The Georgia Department of Transportation has allocated $32,000 of $40,000 needed to
build a "canoe put in" at Highway 9 on the Etowah. Dawson County will provide the remaining $8,000
in "like kind" funding such as site work. The project will include off-road parking, a gravel
parking lot, portable toilet(s), trash can(s), picnic table(s) and possibly a changing booth. At
least initially, parking will be free. Unfortunately, due to the lengthy documentation and
permitting process to obtain the state approval that comes with the money, construction will not
begin until probably 2007.
The 9.1 mile lower section from Highway 9 to Kelly Bridge Road is even more beautiful. Most of the
lower section is within the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area (WMA), eliminating the usual
residential development. The WMA includes several vehicle roads, but they are generally well
removed from the river and the traffic usually seen while paddling consists of occasional hikers,
bikers and horses. Deadfalls are common on the narrow river, but most can usually be easily
avoided: there are a couple of bank-to-bank logs that may require getting out of the boat at low
In addition to the put-in at Highway 9 (or about 1.8 miles further upstream at Hugh Stowers Road),
there are four access points within the WMA: three are reached by entering the WMA from Highway 9
and the other by entering from Highway 53. Once past these three locations, there is no other
access for put-in or take-out until Kelly Bridge Road.
NOTE: the WMA is closed for maintenance from mid-May to June 1 each year. During this period, use
of the river is permitted but the gates are closed, preventing road access within the WMA.
To reach the put-in at Highway 136, take Highway 136 west from Highway 400 or east from Highway 9
to the bridge. There is space along Highway 136 to park at any of the four corners, but the
designated parking area is about 100 yards west of the bridge on the north side of Highway 136.
Beware of fast moving traffic, especially coming around the curve just west of the bridge.
The Highway 53 bridge over the Etowah is not recommended as a put-in/take-out. The traffic is heavy
and fast moving and the roadside parking is minimal, not particularly safe and discouraged by local
authorities. If you must access the river at the Highway 53 bridge, the least bad alternative is
the south (downstream, river left) corner of the bridge, where the double traffic lane starts.
The alternative to access from Highway 53 or Highway 9 is the bridge on Hugh Stowers Road, about
2.7 miles downstream of Highway 53 and 1.8 miles upstream of Highway 9. To reach Hugh Stowers Road
from the Highway 53 bridge, go northwest (towards Dawsonville) on Highway 53 for .75 mile, turn
left on Thompson Road, follow Thompson Road for 1.1 miles to the 4-way stop and turn left onto Hugh
Stowers Road. To reach Hugh Stowers Road from the Highway 9 bridge, go north .8 mile, turn right on
Thompson Road, follow Thompson Road for 1.5 miles to the 4-way stop and turn right onto Hugh
Stowers Road. Once on Hugh Stowers Road, go .8 mile to the bridge. To reach Hugh Stowers Road from
Dawson Forest Road, turn north onto Grizzle Road at Black's Mill Elementary School and keep going
straight when Grizzle Road turns to the right: the bridge is 1.7 miles from Dawson Forest Road.
Access is available under either end of the bridge, but the north (river right) end is easier.
Parking is roadside, but do not block the pasture access road at the northeast corner of the
To reach the Highway 9 bridge, take Dawson Forest Road west from Highway 400 (the intersection is
at the light just south of the outlet mall and just north of Outside World) for 4.1 miles. Turn
right onto Highway 9 and go .5 mile to the bridge (just past Riverview Middle School on the left).
Minimal off-road parking is avaialble at the southeast corner of the bridge, but stay on the right
of way and off the private property just upstream. Being careful of the rocks, go down the hill at
the parking area, cross under the bridge just above the concrete support and put in at the
southeast corner of the bridge. (When you pause to rest, look across to the river right bank just
downstream of the bridge and think how great it'll be when the canoe launch is there.)
About a mile below Highway 9, the Etowah enters the Dawson Forest WMA. There are four accesses to
the river within the WMA, three reached from Highway 9 and one from Highway 53 west of Dawsonville.
There is no fee for parking or river access in the WMA.
From Highway 9, take Dawson Forest Road (found .5 mile south of the Highway 9 bridge) west. To
reach the Shoal Creek Road access, turn right shortly before the entrance gate and go .4 miles to
the bridge; the best access is at the southwest corner of the bridge and be careful not to block
the road or any gates when parking.
The main entry gate, 1.5 miles from Highway 9, is open except from mid-May to June 1, when the WMA
is closed for mainenance. To reach the other 2 river accesses, continue on Dawson Forest Road for
2.6 miles, where the pavement will end; angle right onto unpaved Railroad Road. The Blue Trail Ford
access is on the Blue Trail, a horse trail running left from Railroad Road about .2 miles after the
end of the pavement: look for a pine-straw covered path and blue dots on the trees on the left. The
put-in is easy and the carry is fairly flat and just a couple of hundred yards long, but does tend
to be muddy and .... well, what you'd expect for a horse trail, so step carefully. Parking is very
limited, and you may need to go back and park at the clearing where the pavement ends. (The access
from Highway 53, described below, reaches the river at the same point but from the other side.)
To reach the Railroad Road access, continue on Railroad Road another 1.6 miles until it is blocked
by the concrete support for a long-gone bridge. (Railroad Road is also part of the WMA's Blue
Trail, so drive slowly and watch carefully for hikers, bikers and especially horses.) There are
paths down to the river on both sides of the road: neither path is all that easy, but the path to
the left as you face the bridge support is easier.
To reach the WMA access on the north (river right) side of Blue Trail Ford, take Sweetwater Church
Road south from Highway 53: the intersection is 1.2 miles east of the Highway 53 bridge over
Amicalola Creek, 2.25 miles west of the Highway 53/Highway 183 intersection. (Look for signs
advertising "River Tubeing - Kayaking" and "Sweetwater Baptist Church.") There is a second entrance
to Sweetwater Church Road .3 mile further west: they soon merge. Once inside the WMA, where the
pavement ends for the first time, Sweetwater Church Road becomes North Gate Road. To reach the
river access, follow North Gate Road for 4.5 miles until it ends. (When you see the end of the
second paved section coming, you'll need to angle left on the dirt road). Carry about 50 yards past
the "road closed" gate to the right, then turn left on the Blue Trail and follow it about 30 yards
to the river. The access and carry are fairly easy, but be prepared for mud and whatever else you'd
expect to find along a horse trail.
To reach the take-out at Kelly Bridge, turn west from Highway 400 on Jot-em-Down Road in extreme
northern Forsyth County. Go 1 mile to the 4-way stop, then continue west on A.C. Smith Road for 2.2
miles to Highway 9. Turn right onto Highway 9, go .7 miles and turn left onto A.T. Moore Road
(right across Highway 9 from the new CITGO station). In .7 miles, A.T. Moore Road will merge into
Kelly Bridge Road. Stay on Kelly Bridge Road for 5.7 miles to the bridge. The take-out is at the
northeast (upstream, river-right) corner of the bridge: the driveway is blocked by a gate that is
closed but not locked: to keep this private take-out available, please pay the $2 per person
parking fee, fill out the card and keep the gate closed except when you're actually driving through
it. Stay away from the gate across the road, the one with the "trespassers will be shot, then
To reach the take-out from Highway 53, turn south onto Cowart Road from Highway 53 1.5 miles west
of the Amicalola Creek Bridge (5.25 miles west of the Highway 53/Highway 183 intersection). Take
Cowart Road 2.5 miles to the 4-way stop at Kelly Bridge Road and turn left. Stay on Kelly Bridge
Road 3.4 miles to the bridge: the driveway to the take-out will be on the left shortly before the
bridge (look for the gate on the left with signs on it - stay away from the gate on the right).
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2006-08-07 09:35:16