Coosawattee - GA Route 5 to Carter's Lake

Coosawattee, Georgia, US


GA Route 5 to Carter's Lake

Usual Difficulty I-II (for normal flows)
Length 11 Miles



Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02380500 300 - 10000 cfs I-II 00h40m 562 cfs (running)

River Description

Once upon a time, before it was swallowed up by Carters lake, the Coosawattee was one of the more impressive whitewater streams in the state of Georgia. Rumor has it that the stream was influential to the book "Deliverance" and that some of the scenes for the movie were shot in the area.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2005-01-17 09:26:47

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 15 2009 (3050 days ago)
x (1)
Ran this run today(11-15-09) at 2.3 ft and 690 CFS. There is a huge log/debri pool about .5 mile
into the lake. I would allow at least 30 minutes extra for this. It could become unrunnable if all
the big floating logs line up. It requires lots of pushing logs under with your paddle or sliding
them out of the way. Not fun. The run was good at this level with minimum scraping. Several ledge
style, nice class II drops that require maneuvering at this level. Otherwise this is a nice long(6
hours for us) run
December 15 2008 (3385 days ago)
x (1)
Several of us paddled the Coosawattee this past Sunday (Dec 14, 2008). Joe Cook, David Robinson,
Vincent Payne were in solo canoes while Doc Stephens was in a rec yak, Karla Vinnacombe, Kelly
Harbac and myself were in ww boats. Since the inception of Paddle Georgia
( - has a few photos of the river), the Georgia Canoeing
Association has supported the Paddle GA by setting up safety on the more difficult rapids. This run
will be the first day of Paddle Georgia and wanted to scout the rapids so as set up safety for
Paddle Georgia. The temps were a very chilly, overcast 38 degrees. The temps would never get above
46 the entire day. We put on the river around 10:40. The Coosawattee is a 13 mile run and is rated
class I-II. Depending on the lake levels, 9-10 miles of the river is whitewater while the last 3-4
miles is lake paddling until you get to the first take out on Carter's Lake. Only Doc and Joe had
run the river in October and at that time the river was running just below 1'. The Coosawattee
gauge on AW was at 1.6' so we figured we'd have good water to explore the river. The river starts
slow with only occasional class I shoals. I was expecting more of a wilderness experience, but
there were lots of houses along the river. The closer we got to the lake the less we saw of houses.
Also, the closer we got to the lake the more numerous the rapids got with a few solid class II
rapids. We had GPSs with us and we noticed that after mile 4 the rapids really started to pick up.
The first significant rapids started around mile 5. One rapid around mile 5 stands out in my mind
because it was a slightly tricky ledge. At this ledge, there was a scrappy, bumpy slide on river
left and middle right was a twisty, S-turn type rapid. You entered into a chute going left and cut
hard left to right. It required quick maneuvering skills, but there wasn't any horrible
consequences and at the bottom was a nice pool for recovery. At lower water levels, the river left
slide might not have been doable. After that there were a few more straightforward rapids and
ledges. Around mile 8, Mountaintown Creek entered on river right. I'd paddled this river before.
It's a fun river, but I think the Coosawattee had a few more class II rapids on it. The rapids
really started to pick up below Mountaintown Creek. There was on series of a couple of class II
type ledges. Most of the ledges required good river reading skills and you sort of had to pick your
way around. Most chutes were either on the far river left or far river right and occasionally there
were strainers that you had to watch for, but you could see them from upstream. At this water
level, most ledges had more than one line to choose from. The last significant rapid is around mile
9. It's a cool ledge with both far right and far left lines to choose from. I think the far left
line had the most water. The remainder of the river was class I shoals and then at approximately
mile 10 we hit the calm waters of Carter's Lake. The remaining three miles was lake paddling, but
it only took us about an hour. We had to make sure we followed the right bank otherwise you could
be deceived and go the wrong way. The Ridgeway Boat Ramp take out is at the first slough on the
right. You don't want to miss it or you'll be paddling another 4 miles to the next take out. We
knew we were on the right track when we saw the sign on a point saying "Slow" with several buoys
lining the shoreline. Around the corner was the boat ramp. We got off the river/lake around 4:15.
It took us about 5 ½ hours to make the paddle. We did stop once for a few minutes for lunch, and
once to rescue a swimmer, but other then that we didn't piddle or play around much so you can
expect a long day. The other thing to note is that there are very few places to stop to either take
a nature call or eat lunch. The further you go down the river the fewer houses you see. There are
no houses once you get to the lake. Joe and Doc said that when they paddled the river at 1' that
there weren't as many lines to chose from, but most rapids were runnable and that the line was
pretty apparent. All and all it was a great adventure, but I wish it had been about 5 degrees
warmer and sunny. The river is really unique and the rapids are really a lot of fun. I guess the 3
mile lake paddle has kept many whitewater boaters from trying the river out. I will paddle the
river again, but maybe when it isn't so cold. Jamie
June 15 2004 (5029 days ago)
Jerry JascombDetails
I recently read an interview with James Dickey where he comments on an encounter with two locals
while canoeing this river before the dam. They confronted Dickey and his paddling partner in the
late 60's with a shotgun, asking why they were snooping around. Dickey felt that they were
protecting a moonshine operation in the vicinity, so they did the intelligent thing and got back in
their canoe to continue the run, a bit shaken by the experience - which obviously made a lasting
impression on him.

I've subsequently seen old photos of several rapids in this stretch - one a large Class V waterfall
- all submerged today beneath the lake. The Coosawattee became the Cahoolawassee and the rest is
history. The dam construction scene in the movie is from the bulldozing work going on then as Lake
Jocassee was being built in S.C.

Other points of movie trivia: a friend of my dad's was a social worker in Rabun Co. during the
movie and said the guy who plays the Banjo Player got $10k for his role (he couldn't really play),
bought a Camaro, and totalled it within a month. Also, my Ex's older brother worked for Ga.
Outdoors at the time, which supplied paddling gear for the crew. He said Burt Reynolds would hit
the ground for push-ups prior to his scenes to look as buff as possible. Funny.

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

Or, consider donating