Northern Georgia Canoeing, Sehlinger, B. and Otey, D.
Appalachian Whitewater: The Southern StatesPut In for Upper Consauaga: Finding the put-in is the hard part. From the take-out drive up West Cowpen Road to Chicken Coop Gap. For lack of a better description, go about four miles up West Cowpen, then look for a turnout on the left. You should be able to just barely see the river at the bottom of the hill if there are no leaves on the trees some 250 vertical feet below.
From there carefully carry your boat down a shale and mud covered steep incline (borderline cliff) to the river.
Most of the rapids are class 3 plus with a couple of borderline class 4 drops. Some of the bigger rapids are Undercut (aka Room of Doom) and Whale Tail. They will be obvious, especially Whale Tail with its impressive roostertail of water.
Keep an eye out for wood in all of the major drops. Another thing to watch out for is rebar in the drops. About 100 years ago this area was extensively logged and the rebar is leftover from the logging.
The Upper Conasauga is a beautiful wilderness run. People have put on higher than Chicken Coop Gap and report that it is a great run, though it does require quite a bit of work to get to the river.Directions to the Upper Upper put-in from Boatertalk:
"I don't remember the exact mileage, but from the take-out. Go back in the direction that you came in, take the first left up a steep hill. At the fork stay right, when the road T's, go left. This will dead end @ a trail head. It is probably a 20 minute hike downhill to the creek. Total driving distance is probably 8-10 miles. There is section below the put-in with class III - IV fun, it's all read & run same as the lower part. Hope that this helps."Directions: From Atlanta take I-75 north to Highway 411 north. Continue north on Hwy 411 thru Chatsworth, Ga. to Cisco. In Cisco look for the Cisco Baptist Church. It's a stone church on the east side of the road at the intersection of Hwy 411 and Old Ga. Hwy 2, which turns into East Cowpen Road. Go east on East Cowpen Road into the Cohutta wilderness for about 7 miles.Take Out for the Upper Conasauga: The Conasauga take-out is NO LONGER the first major stream on the right as you come thru the mountains and the Alaculsy Valley opens up. Take out at the Old Hwy 2 Bridge to avoid landowner issues and make sure to park on the USFS land, not the private landowner's section at the Old Hwy 2 Bridge.
On the way to the take-out you will pass a game checking station. The game checking station is where West Cowpen Road intersects with East Cowpen Road. Using a good topo-map, a compass, and a GPS, you should be able to find Chicken Coop Gap on West Cowpen Road.From Boatertalk (Nov 27 2001):
"If you get on GA Hwy 2 east follow it all the way until you get to Hwy 411 intersection...there will be a gas station on your right and a church kind of in front of you and to the left...you are now in Cisco...drive straight across the intersection and go exactly 3.2 miles...you will see a guard station on your left....the take-out with the crooked tree is down the road past the guard station...just a little ways after the little wooden bridge (look for small creek on river left)....from the guard station go up the road to your right exactly 5.8 miles to the put-in...listen for water...there will be a 4-wheeler type trail behind you on the left and a sign that says no motor vehicles....then bring your rope because you are going down a steep freakin put-in....go straight down(don't go to right when trail looks like it goes that way)...don't carry your boat...bring a rope.... water is straight down there....Yes, I call that one undercut rapid(room of doom)....and Yeah Whale Tail is good to go... use gauge at Eaton, GA for Conasauga....but it drops fast and sometimes by the time that water gets to that gauge, it's already gone from the gorge....if the water table is up and we get a good rain, then get there early for a good level.
Do NOT park at the pull off near where the road and river get close to take out. This is the location https://goo.gl/maps/P2rfph1kegx - Again, do not park there because of landowner issues!
Park at the Old Hwy 2 Bridge. Here is the location: https://goo.gl/maps/9djvNC9wYAy
This is also where the gauge is located. There is USFS land at this bridge, park there (not on the private land side of the river).
After the flood from Ivan we ran this in a large group of 9 at a higher flow. All rapids was clean of strainers but a hazard has threatened the life of one boater. The last rapid has a housed sized boulder that is badly undercut. It is easly avoided to the right but looks like it has an eddie above it. When a few got blew off line and went left to the eddie above the rock, one boater was sucked under the large boulder from the eddie. When pulling his skirt, the boat went out from in under him and he reached up an felt some wood to pull himself out from in under this rock. His paddle flushed through but boat stayed in. Its like a large funnel with a 3x3 exit and could hold a few boats. Avoid this rock. There is realy only two house sized boulders on the conasauga. One on the Upper Upper that creates a slot to the left. The other is on the left in the last major rapid on the Chicken Coop section. I think the best way to internet gauge anything in the cohuttas is going to be with the usgs Mill creek gauge AW #8361 near Crandall. Haven't got anything dialed in yet but around 2.5ft on the online gauge shows a good clue of water in the cohuttas. I also have a Stick gauge where the old elbow tree was. Its river left 20ft upstream from the elbow. 1.8 is a good minimum and if the gauge is under water its high. 1.8 is 0.6 on the old hwy 2 bridge gauge.
Jason Hall and myself ran this sections Sunday 2/6/11. Super low water, another half inch to inch lower and we would have been in for it. All in all it was a good day. It was my first time on the run. The gauge at the take-out was reading about 6 inches when we took out. According to Jason, who has ran in many times at different levels (higher) said he hardly recognized the run until we got to the last 4 or 5 rapids. I don't recall the order of the rapids. Whale tail was sketchy at such a low level, a rock on just to the left of the tail comes into play that created a recirculating eddy back in the hole that the tail was making. Nothing to bad, I was put into it, just had to man handle the water a little bit and paddle back towards the tail and grab the downstream water. Jason said at higher levels that rock is not in play but actually forms a decent hole. Room of Doom was super sweet at the level actually, of course It was my first time and I dont know about it at higher levels. It was a good boof and you felt like you clear your head by an inch from the over hanging rock that forms the Room. Just boof hard. Other than that, there's not much more to tell. 6 inches is definitely the absolute minimum. I would recommend no lower than 9 or 10 inches. see ya out there.
I think these are correct locations and mileages for the major rapids.
Three Ledges Rapid
lat/long: 34.9429, -84.6498
3.2 miles from Coop
Room Of Doom
lat/long: 34.9455, -84.6525
3.6 miles from Coop
Whale Tail Rapid
lat/long: 34.9469, -84.6527
3.7 miles from Coop
lat/long: 34.9490, -84.6566
4.0 miles from Coop
Around 1.5 on the new gauge, I'd bump the whole run up a class.
The paddler's gage for this run is on the East Cowpen Road bridge. Its on the upstream river left bridge support. The bridge is 2 miles downstream of the take-out. 4" is probably minimum. My guess is that 1 foot is medium and 1'6" is probably high. I've heard of a group running it as low as 0", but that would be an ELF run (Extrememly Low Flow.
A good way to gage if the Conasauga is running is to check 02385800 HOLLY CREEK NEAR CHATSWORTH, GA. If it is over 300 cfs the upper is probably running.
P.S: the old Elbow Tree has finally rotted and fallen into the river. Its now useless as a gage for the river.
The paddler's gage for this run is on the East Cowpen Road bridge. Its on the downstream river left bridge support. The bridge is 2 miles downstream of the take-out. 4" is probably minimum. My guess is that 1 foot is medium and 1'6" is probably high. I've heard of a group running it as low as 0", but that would be an ELF run (Extrememly Low Flow
A good way to gage if the Conasauga is running is to check 02385800 HOLLY CREEK NEAR CHATSWORTH, GA. If it is over 300 cfs the upper is probably running
P.S: the old Elbow Tree has finally rotted and fallen into the river. Its now useless as a gage for the river.
Ran this thing on Nov. 16, 2002. Good water, maybe on the low side of good. We put in 1.25 miles past the tradition chicken coup gap put-in. There will be a gated forest service road on the right, and a two car pull out on the left. On the left is a fishermans trail down to the river. This is a much easier trail to the river than the standard chicken coup gap trail. First half of the run is mostly Nantahala style class 2. Probably 3 or 4 miles worth. The good stuff is in the bottom half of the run. There are maybe three class 4 rapids. Everything else is boat scoutable class 3. On this date everything was pretty clear of trees. Good intro to creeking run.
The original gauge used most often was a tree branch known as the 'Elbow' where the Conasauga is first visible from the road at the take out. After years of service the tree died and fell in the river in 2004.
Fortunately Ranger Rob hooked us up with a gauge:
The paddler's gage for this run is on the East Cowpen Road bridge. Its on the upstream river left bridge support. The bridge is 2 miles downstream of the take-out. 6" is probably minimum. My guess is that 1 foot is medium and 1'6" is probably high. I've heard of a group running it as low as 3", but that would be an ELF run
The Holly Creek gauge is a pretty good indicator if things are running or not. Look for 300+ cfs.
There are two USGS gauges for the Conasauga, but they are about 30 and 50 miles downstream in Eaton and Tilton.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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Room of Doom
(RM) Dead Elbow Tree
(RM) East Cowpen Road Bridge Gage
Hohol on the Conasauga
a drop on the Upper Conasauga
Whale Tail aka Tombstone
Room of Doom - Bad Line
Third good Conasauga rapid
First ledge on Conasauga
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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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