Etowah, Georgia, US
3 - Highway 9 to Highway 136
||II(IV) (for normal flows)
Etowah FallsPhoto of Will Reeves by Will Reeves
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); Appalachian Outfitters
This attractive run can be broken into two parts by putting in/taking out at Castleberry Bridge
near the town of Auraria.
The 6-mile section above Castelberry Bridge includes most of the significant whitewater to be found
on the Etowah. This section has wooded banks (which are giving way to residences) and several rock
bluffs. The river has several Class I-II rapids and two rapids worthy of particular attention,
Class II Chuck Shoals and Class IV Etowah Falls.
Chuck Shoals is a fairly straightforward slide that is normally run at an angle from left to the
center chute. Scout from the rocks on the right as the banks are private property. Check for logs
and debris that tend to accumulate at the top and bottom of the rapid.
Warning Drop, a two-foot ledge located shortly downriver of a large waterside residence on river
left, serves as a warning for the upcoming Etowah Falls. Warning Drop can be run using any of
several chutes, but the chutes on the left are clearer when the water is low. A long pool below
Warning Drop, also known as Look Back Lake, provides ample opportunity to move right in preparation
for portaging the Falls.
Etowah Falls, consisting of a 10+ foot ledge between two smaller drops, is just beyond the left
turn at the end of Look Back Lake and presents a clear horizon line and a pronounced roar. The
first small drop should not be run unless you also plan to run the main drop. Portage along the
path on river right, beginning at or above the large rock: the land is owned by the family that
operates Appalachian Outfitters, which permits boates to use the path.
The main drop of Etowah Falls can be scouted from the high rocks on river right, also reached by
the path: check for others playing in at the Lower Ledge/Rocky Road. In 1980, the main drop was
considered a mandatory portage by Sehlinger and Otey and most Etowah boaters portage it, but it has
been run often, especially at higher water levels. At normal levels, the usual procedure is to boof
the chute just left of center into a narrow landing area: other options are available at higher
The end of the path presents an opportunity to scout the Lower Ledge of Etowah Falls, also known as
Rocky Road, and options to run or portage it. Just before the end of the path is a steep drop where
it is easier and safer to pass boats than to carry them.
The last half mile before the take-out at Castleberry Bridge includes three technical Class II
rapids, Island Shoals, Middle Shoals and Castleberry Rapid: the cleanest path through the first two
is on river right and for Castleberry Rapid is on river left. Move right after Castleberry Rapid
for the take-out at Castleberry Bridge. Take out at or just below the prominent rocks on river
right or, if you prefer, run the last small rapid and take out under the bridge. The walk to
Castleberry Bridge Road is short and easy.
The 8.8 mile lower section is much flatter, with only Class I-II rapids, but has pleasant woods and
bluffs. The lower section also includes a truly unique feature: 3.5 miles below Castleberry Bridge,
much of the river's flow disappears into a quarter-mile long abandoned mining tunnel
river left. Look for a fast-moving stream running away from the river to the left and into a big
hole in the side of the mountain: eddy out at tje split to check for debris, strainers, etc. Get
out of your boat and look for the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel: if it beckons, even
advanced boaters will enjoy the ride. If you can't see the light from the far end when scouting, or
if it is partially blocked, avoid the tunnel and stay on the main river.
There are slides in the tunnel (to correct the alignment of the crews working from each end to
drill it), there's virtually no light and the noise is intimidating, so hang on, stay seated and
keep your limbs in the boat for a fun ride. There's also a hole at the end of the tunnel on river
right and a potentially dangerous rock shortly below the tunnel exit, also river right. Because the
tunnel is extremely dark, it is important to leave enough time between boats so that anyone
swimming in the tunnel can reach safety at the lower end. The tunnel is a challenge, especially at
higher water levels, and first-timers should be in a group that includes someone who knows the
The usual take-out is under the Highway 136 bridge. Both banks are steep enough to be a challenge
when carrying a boat and other gear, and the designated roadside parking area is 100+ yards west of
the bridge. Some roadside parking is available on the east (river left) side of the bridge, the
climb is easier (or, more accurately, less difficult) on river left, and a gradually climbing path
leads from the downriver side of the bridge to the roadside at the southeast corner.
To reach the put-in, take Highway 9 about 4.5 miles southwest from Dahlonega or north from the
intersection with with Highway 136 (about 7.2 miles) or Castleberry Bridge Road (about 5.1 miles).
The put-in is under the south (river right) end of the bridge: look for a dirt road on the west
side of Highway 9. Parking is available under the bridge.
To reach the access at Castleberry Bridge, take Castleberry Bridge Road west about a mile from
Auraria Road (the turn is at the largely abandoned town of Auraria, 6.7 miles north of Highway 136:
look for a "historical site" marker on the left or an old, brown, abandoned hotel building on
right) or east about 3.1 miles from Highway 9 (the turn from Highway 9 is 5.1 miles southwest of
the put-in or 2.1 miles north of Highway 136 (turn just past the tall water tank on the right)).
Roadside parking is available and the access is down the path at the northwest corner of the
To reach the Highway 136 take-out, follow Highway 136 west from Highway 400 or the south end of
Auraria Road or east from Highway 9. The designated parking area is roadside and west of the
bridge, at the end of the long guardrail on the north shoulder of the road: parking is also
available on the other three corners of the bridge. Be careful, as traffic on Highway 136 tends to
move fast and lines of sight are limited.
StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2006-05-30 08:25:26