This photo needs editing.
Difficulty III-IV(V)
Length 2.5 Miles
Flow Range 300 - 1500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 20 minutes ago 19.7 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/09/2004 10:10 pm

River Description

Gauge Description:
The gauge is on river left at the put-in. It reads in feet.
Last checked the USGS put-in gauge had been washed away in a recent flood. There is still a spray painted gauge on the Lower Roswell Road bridge pilings.
A visual check of the stream from the Paper Mill Road bridge is strongly recommended before putting on. There is more stream flow info in the text below.

User Comments
Brad Roberts 2001-04-01 21:41:24

Sope Creek is one of the best whitewater runs in Metro Atlanta.
At high flows, around 1100 cfs or above 8 feet Sope Creek can turn into a solid class 5 run. At moderate flows its a class 3-4 run. At all flows the water quality is nasty. Sope is very polluted due to street runoff.

From the put-in on Lower Roswell Road there is about a mile of mostly flatwater. At higher flows there are two small surf waves and a good splat rock in this stretch. Eventually you will round a bend and the bottom will drop out.

The meat of Sope runs over a series of bedrock ledges. These ledges make for a series of fairly deep sticky holes. Sometimes they are punchable, sometimes they are not. The best way to get an idea of how Sope is running is to do a visual check from the bridge at Paper Mill Rd. If the hole immediatly past the bridge is the only thing that looks nasty, then the river is at a moderate level. If the hole has formed immediately above the bridge pilings, then you had better be on top of your game before putting on. Generally the hole above the bridge does not form until about 9 feet on the USGS gauge. I think that correlates to about 1500 cfs in a 65 foot wide ditch. 500 to 1000 cfs make much more sense in a streambed this size.

At high water the 4 ledges down to Paper Mill Road can form riverwide keeper hydralics. The top one recently held a boat for over a half an hour at high flows. The one below the bridge once held a 55 gallon drum for a couple of days.

Below the Paper Mill Rd bridge the rapids continue most of the way to the hooch. Its class 3 at normal flows, and class 3+ with no eddies at higher flows. Below the bridge at higher flows, dropping holes sideways so you can scout and surf at the same time is not unusual.

Sope Creek is also noted for a variety of large strainers that tend to relocate with every flood. Toward the end of the run are two pipes and one bridge that must be dealt with. At lower flows you can go under the pipes, sometimes you can go over them, and sometimes they are clogged with wood. Same with the Columns Drive bridge.

Sope only runs after a hard rain, and usually holds its water for less than a day. Be aware that the water level can go up over 1000 cfs in less than 30 minutes during a good rain. This recently caught a group by surprise. Read the story in the comments section at the bottom of the page.

Updated June 2003

Put-in below the bridge on Lower Roswell Road. About 100 yards east of the creek is a small side street and a semi-legal place to park.

The usual take out is the Metro Hooch put-in. Taking out at Columns Drive is a good way to get your car towed. They are serious about those no parking signs in front of the multi-million dollar homes.

For more adrenaline, about a quarter mile past the bridge on Paper Mill is a micro creek coming in on river left. If you feel like breaking your boat, carry up and run the falls by a putting green on the Atlanta Country Club. Its a back tweaker... but its been run by a couple of people.

Sope Creek runs about 2.5 miles between Lower Roswell Rd and Columns Drive.
The paddle out from Columns Drive to Powers Island is about another 2.5 miles.

Rottenwood creek, less than 5 miles away, can usually be run the same day that Sope runs.

National Park Service Map of Sope Creek.

Sope Creek Feet to CFS correlation:

Feet CFS
2.0 ??
2.5 59
3.0 104
3.5 157
4.0 220
4.5 300
5.0 390
5.5 485
6.0 590
6.5 725
7.0 830
7.5 970
8.0 1100
8.5 1300
9.0 1500
9.5 1725
10.0 2000

Rapid Descriptions

First Big Ledge

Class - III+ Mile - 1
Your basic riverwide ledge. Run on river right at low flows. At moderate to high flows the ledge forms a big nasty riverwide hole.

Paper Mill Rapid

Class - III+ Mile - 1.3
The rapid directly under Paper Mill Bridge. Class 3 at low flows, Class 5 at high flows. The hole downstream of the bridge becomes a keeper when the water is high. When the water is really high a riverwide hole forms on the upstream side of the bridge. Its worth a look from the bridge before you put on.


default user thumbnail
Geoff Kohl
15 years ago



Lower Roswell Road in E. Cobb (a couple miles west of Johnson Ferry Road). Park at the electrical box on the east side of the bridge. Carry boat across road and down to the river.


Columns Drive (off Johnson Ferry, near the Hooch), or paddle the Hooch out to the metro hooch section and take off at Metro hooch put-in or metro hooch take-out, depending on how long a paddle you want, how much flatwater you can stand.

The in-between:

After you put on, you'll paddle about a 1/2 mile or so of flat, moving water, then the rapids pick up. At the first good, right hand bend, a ledge forms. Be on the far right, almost under the trees to find a sluice that punches what can at some levels be a nast hole. (III to IV+ depending on level; V if you're on river left at high water/flood)

Below that is the bridge rapid (you should be able to see the bridge from upstream of the aforementioned ledge rapid). Start middle right, go down center between tow bridge pilings. A big, nasty hole forms under the bridge at some levels. Eddy left or right. Immediately downstream is a ledge hole (20 feet from bridge) that is best snuck on far right. After that comes another big ledge hole. Again, get far right to go around it. This section is a III+ at low water, solid V at flood. In between it's a regular old IV, but very continous at higher water. The bridge is Old Papermill Road (or it might not be "Old," unsure of that). It's a good exit point if things are too big for you. There's a trail out of this small "gorge" on river left abvoe the first ledge drop that leads up to Papermill Rd.

Below this, the river settles into class III boogie water, some ledge holes to punch/sneak. Then it flattens out after a little while and you'll be coming into a golf course. At some levels you may find that 2 big sewage or gas pipes are crossing the river above your head. At flood, these are at river level and are very dangerous, with little in terms of eddies above them thanks to the manicured bank inside the golf course. They tend to collect wood.

Overall, expect to find some strainers on this creek, dirty water and a short period of opportunity. Right after a good rain ends in Marietta and E. Cobb is the best time; if it's too high, just grab a burger at one of the restaurants on Johnson Ferry and come back in an hour, it will have dropped.

default user thumbnail
16 years ago

More of the Story New
Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Suburban Sope Creek Carnage - 2 need to confess their swims! by paddleman m Jun 19 2003, 0:52 GMT New
Re: Solved (long) by Will_Gosney Jun 19 2003, 4:51 GMT New
Re: Did anyone have a throw rope? <NT> by Bradley Jun 19 2003, 5:29 GMT New
Date: Jun 19 2003, 6:04 GMT
From: Will_Gosney

From: "Michael R. Stephenson"

Well, we learned a lesson or two today. Only one of us had run this run before. Neither Chad or myself had even seen it other than the descriptions on the AW page. We should have at least driven over Paper Mill and looked at it on our way to the put-in.

On the one hand, we would have seen that the line was on river right at the first two big holes/drops, then back left above the bridge, then push hard left-to-right going under the bridge and run the rest of the rapids on the right. Milt mentioned something to this effect, but I didn't remember it until afterward, so I had no idea what was coming up really, was just following the leader so to speak. That's a bad place to be, and I usually try not to let myself get in that position.

On the other hand, looking at the run on the way to meet up might not have helped all that much; it probably would not have helped with the decision to run the river (plus, I showed up in my BigEZ rather than the creek boat). We were unfortunate that as we were waiting to meet up and running shuttle, it rained pretty hard for about half an hour and then rained more moderately for another half hour before it stopped. Looking at the USGS gauge, Sope Creek jumped from 5.98ft/587cfs at 5:30, when we were just meeting up, to 9.04ft/1510cfs by 6:30, about the time that we put on. I knew the creek was flashy, but I didn't have any idea how much.

After paddling on a bunch of fast-moving flat water (that's a kind of scary contradiction) with a lot of debris in it, and looking at the bank and realizing that the river was probably cresting or at or about at it's highest level, maybe we should have gotten out. But, everyone was loose and chatting as we made our way toward the rapids. Frankly, the levity was because we didn't have a clue what we were headed toward.

When we got to the first set of rapids, everyone was doing fine. These amounted to some almost river-wide holes but not too terrible, and some huge offset waves breaking all over the place, stuff that I'd basically call "big water." After we went through the initial stage, Geoff and Louie eddied out on river left. Jeff said that the first big ledge hole was below. So we were all strewn out in somewhat of an eddy when Chad came paddling down. His boat was pretty full of water from going through the section up above, and he wasn't able to make it quite into the eddy. There was an "oh shit", then he headed down towards the big ledge, pointed backwards from missing the eddy. He seemed to mostly turn around and just barely straighten his boat downstream before he went over the horizon line angled slightly left.

I was sitting there and didn't know what to do. I knew there was a bad hole there, I didn't think I was in a position to do much in the boat I had brought to the party, so I just kind of sat there and mulled things over for what seemed like an eternity. All that time, Chad was getting recirculated in the hole. Before too long Louie peeled out and headed toward the drop. I peeled out when I saw him, though I was quite a big farther upstream then he was.

When I approached the drop, searching, hoping, praying for a sign of two people paddling out of the hole, or at least a tongue or some other way around, thinking that my best bet at least was as far left as I could get, I looked down and saw both Chad and Louie swimming in the hole. Shit. I figured I was going to be hole bait too. Just above the drop I then noticed an eddy on river left with some large rocks/boulders. I jumped in the eddy and got out of my boat as quickly as I could. By this time, Louie had washed out of the hole, but I could see Chad, who had been in the hole much longer, swimming, back-stroking, a good ways down from the crease, maybe 15ft, but even though he was swimming (he looked exhausted), he was slowly but surely moving upstream towards the hole. That was freaky. I was hoping to get up over the rocks onto the bank, grab my rope, and maybe I would be able to help Chad out. As I was making it up over the rocks, someone said "he's out", and indeed Chad was out of the hole.

I didn't see it as I was still trying to scramble up the rocks to the bank, but apparently Louie, who had already put himself in harms way chasing after Chad, waded out as far as he could in the swift current, holding onto a tree limb, to try and reach out to Chad as he was washing downstream towards what seemed like one river-wide, nasty hole after another. Apparently Louie missed Chad's outstretched hand by only about a foot or so, but fortunately Chad was able to grab onto the "last twig" to use his words of a tree before being swept downstream and over the next ledge and beyond. It was a very dramatic moment, and honestly Chad was in some mighty dire straits there before he got out and grabbed that last twig.

Chad's boat stayed solidly in the hole. Part of this was because it turned out there was a nice log down in the hole on the far river left that was blocking exit from the hole on that side and recirculating some of the current back into the hole. This tree was not visible even from the brink of the drop, not until we climbed up on the rocks. By the way, as we scampered over the rocks we discovered a nice nest of Yellow Jackets, and they proceeded to sting us all repeatedly.

Anyway, Chad's boat stayed in the hole for another 30-40 minutes I'd say, until finally one of his floatation bags popped out and within a minute or so the boat cartwheeled it's way out of the hole. It then proceeded downstream. It had really nice runs of the rest of the holes, it wisely took the far right line and misssed the meat of most of the holes. Milt, who had driven down to the Paper Mill bridge to get some carnage video, said at this point, "Someone had better get in a car and haul ass down to the bridge, otherwise the boats are going to end up going down the Hooch." Well, my guess is that they probably did, we never saw any boats by the time we got down there. We're going to head back tomorrow for a low-water run to look for Chad's and Louie's boats just in case. By the way, Milt was gracious enough to offer those of us with cars a ride back to the put-in, and we accepted.

By this time the rest of us had climbed up the bank to the road, Paper Mill, and we were on the bridge watching when Chad's boat came floating by and headed on downstream.

That's about it for the telling of the story. But I do have a couple of additional thoughts. First, Louie did a very brave thing chasing after Chad. I feel like a sissy that I sat in the eddy wondering what to do and then that I didn't run the drop to try and help him, but yet I'm not sure those were entirely the wrong decisions either. I just feel that I let Chad down. Chad, by the way, was also a trooper, he never looked panicked, and as he will tell you in his description of the events I am sure, he was actually pretty darn calm and thinking of what he might try to get out of the sucker on about his 6th or 7th recirc.

We took some definite risks today, take heed of them everyone. None of us knew the run except for Geoff. The creek level was extremely high, but even worse we didn't know what the level was because the USGS was spotty today and there were no marks on the side of the gauge that Milt said he had painted there in the past. Someone joked that they were probably underwater, but Milt said no, they probably just changed out the tin culvert that he had painted the marks on. But the point is, we didn't have a clue what the level really was. We knew it was pretty high, but not how high. I personally never would have dreamed that it was over 9ft. It's not the smartest thing to get on a raging creek that only one guy knows and no one knows how high it is.

Having said that, at least no one got killed or seriously hurt, and we all got out at that point, figured we had had enough, and maybe that was the smartest thing we had done all evening.

I took a few pictures, which are at:


default user thumbnail
16 years ago

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Suburban Sope Creek Carnage - 2 need to confess their swims! by paddleman m Jun 19 2003, 0:52 GMT New
Date: Jun 19 2003, 4:51 GMT
From: Will_Gosney

I had quite the scary experience on Sope Creek this evening. There
wasn't room in that first eddy and I rebounded of a couple trees
pushing me away from the last chance eddy Louis was in. At this
point I new I was heading downstream and wasn't sure when I'd get my
boat, that was already 1/3 full of water, to shore. I knew there was
something big right behind me and as I got close there was a huge
rounded hump that sloped 45 degrees into a riverwide hole. I looked
for a week spot but didn't any within striking distance so I just
tried to point the boat downriver and punch it. I just barely turned
it downstream as I hit the hole. Without any momentum the hole
stopped me and brought me back for a window shading w/ my on side
upstream. I came out of my boat and popped up on the boil
line...then the hole sucked me back in, took me under, and I popped
up on the boil line again. I ended up recirculating 6-8 times. The
first two I kept thinking it'd spit me downstream, the next couple I
got worried and really thought I wasn't ever going to make it out of
the hole, then the last couple I was determined not to die without
giving a fight and starting really focusing on getting deep and
swimming underwater as I was recirculated. Finally, I was able to
make it over the hump of the boil line and start working my way to
shore, where Louis was. Louis had also run the ledge and spent some
time in it as well. I almost made it to Loius, but missed his hand
by about 6 inches. I used my last energy and grabbed on to a small
branch just below. I knew I didn't have the energy to last in the
hundreds of yards of IV(+) water below. Once on shore I was
lightheaded and a bit dizzy from the lack of oxygen and pure
exhuastion. There was a time I really didn't think I was going to
make it. It was easily my worst thrashing on the river. I'm still a
bit in shock, not sure if it's really hit me all the way yet. Thanks
to everyone on the trip for their help and support after all this.
Yep, the boat is probably gone, but really I could care less at the
moment...suddenly a boat and a paddle seem very small in the world to


--- In, "bigwaterbobby"
<bobby@n...> wrote:
> A bunch of us got together to run Sope Creek. Geoff Kohl, Martin
> Louis Boulanger, Tim Branscomb, Corey Lambie, Michael Stephenson,
> Chad, and I put on at Lower Roswell Rd, a few miles from my house.
> paddled down to the first ledge. The flat water was moving real fast
> and when we got to where it started dropping the waves got big. I
> flipped and missed a roll doing the same things that I had done
> when I swam on Little River Canyon. I thought that I had better take
> my time and roll, so I managed a roll. Just in time, too, because we
> had to catch an eddy above that first ledge. Chad tried to eddy out,
> but missed, and washed over. We couldn't tell what happened to him.
> Louis was next and I don't know what he did. Maybe he tried to punch
> the hole I don't know. He swam out of it. Chad did, too. The rest of
> us caught the last chance eddy, a tough one to catch, too. We
> out and were pretty much done for the day. We found out that Chad
> Louis were OK, so we went to the Bridge to look at the rapid with
> Milt. Yes, the same Paddlesnake Milt. He showed up and had been
> chanting, "You're gonna get your ass kicked!!!," over and over
> Chad's boat was still in the hole. It was window shading,
> cartwheeling, and having a good old time. Most of us had decided to
> stay out and as we were going back to get our boats we saw Chad's
> canoe do some awesome flips, surf across the hole, and punch out the
> side. It probably is heading down the Hooch right now, but if not,
> are looking for boats tomorrow afternoon.
> This sounds like the Tiny Piney last year. How do I get tied up with
> people that do crazy stuff like this? It was fun,though.
> Bobby M

Gage Descriptions

The gauge is on river left at the put-in. It reads in feet.

Last checked the USGS put-in gauge had been washed away in a recent flood. There is still a spray painted gauge on the Lower Roswell Road bridge pilings.

A visual check of the stream from the Paper Mill Road bridge is strongly recommended before putting on. There is more stream flow info in the text below.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190294 03/09/04 n/a n/a