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Difficulty III-IV(V)
Length 4 Miles
Flow Range 1.60 - 8.20 FT
Flow Rate as of: 47 minutes ago 2.09 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/03/2019 10:23 pm

River Description

Gauge Description: Class III at low flows below 4 feet. Class IV above 5 feet on the gauge.
The falls are Class IV+. At 7 feet the falls are a Class V drop.

The river has been run a few times over 10 feet and possibly as high as 13. Floodstage Class 5 at these flows. LOCATION.--Lat 33°46'22", long 84°36'53", Douglas County, Hydrologic Unit 03130002, on right bank 100 ft upstream from bridge on Interstate Highway 20, 400 ft upstream from Blair Bridge, 3 mi southeast of Austell, and 5.5 mi upstream from mouth. More gauge info in text below. Sweetwater's drainage area is nearly 250 square miles, so it usually holds its water for a couple of days after a heavy rain. 

Description: The Put-in for this run is in Sweetwater Creek State Park. There is a parking fee $5 for the day or $50 for the Annual pass. Once inside the park drive straight back to the interpretive  center and park.  Walk down the nature trail until you hit water.
A general rule of thumb is run down the left side channels from the first ledge until you get to the falls, but there are also other fun lines on the right but tend to collect wood. just scout as you go.

Below the put-in the river goes around a bend to the left. Just around the bend is a small riverwide ledge with some good surfing potential. Below this little wave hole is an island. Run to the left side of the island. Just past the island the gradient will start to pick up and the river will drop over more small bedrock ledges.
Take out on the left above the obvious horizon line.
The first major drop encountered is a riverwide ten foot tall sloping ledge. This is generally scouted and run on river left.
There is also a route on river right. Its a good idea to scout this ledge as wood tends to gather at its base.
At higher flows a nasty low head dam type hole develops on this ledge in the center of the river.

In October 1995 a pair of novice boaters swam out of this hole at high flow and ended up spending the night on one of the islands. One of the local TV station's helicopters was used to drop food and blankets to the stranded boaters. Following this incident the park rangers were not particulary fond of kayakers. At the moment the Ranger/Boater relationship appears to have improved.
After the ledge the rapids thru Mill Shoals are pretty continuous for about a mile until the falls. From the ledge to the falls there are multiple channels and multiple routes. Our usual route is down the left channel. Above 6 feet this is one long class 4 rapid that would not be out of place in West Virginia. Be aware that every time the water comes up, all the wood in the stream relocates. Keep your eyes open.
According to the topo maps this stretch of river drops more than 80 feet in less than half a mile.

"The Falls" - When you get to the downstream side of the islands, start working back to river right.
When you see the observation decks past the ruins, and an obvious horizon line, contemplate scouting.

Take out to scout on river right above the falls.
The falls are not really a vertical drop, but a big convoluted broken ledge. It's the biggest rapid on the river.

At low flows the usual route thru the falls is down the middle.

At medium to high flows drop over the first ledge into the eddy on river left. Then bust the move across the big curler from river left to right. From there, peel back out to midstream and thread your way between the center hole, the big hole on river left, and another smaller hole midstream.

At flows above 5 feet you can sneak the drop by boofing down the ledges on river right, or just use the nice trail beside the river to portage the whole thing.

Around 7 feet on the gauge the falls bumps up to Class 5.

Park & Play boaters have the option of boating down to the falls, then hiking back up to the put-in via the river right nature trail. There is detailed trail info below. The hole below the falls is pretty sweet in the 2.5 to 4 foot range. There is another hole on river left just below.

Below the falls are Four more rapids of note and some good play.

There is a good wave at high flows below the Powerline.

Take out is at the bridge on river right.

Gauge Info: The USGS gauge is on the north side of I-20 and does not readily correspond with the old bridge gauge.

You can no longer access the original gauge painted on the Blair Bridge piling just north of the park on the south side of I-20. There is a Douglas County water intake at that location with the usual homeland security fencing. The gauge is on the downstream river left side of the bridge piling. Two feet should be considered low, 4 feet good, and 6 feet would be high. The creek has been run upwards of 13 feet.

2500 cfs equals about 8 feet on the bridge gauge.

More Gauge info: 850cfs = 4 ft bridge gauge = 3.5 ft USGS gauge.

Put-in: Exit off I-20 to Thornton Road southbound. Take a right at Blairs Bridge Road, the first light next to the Toyota dealership. After about 2 miles take a left onto Mount Vernon Road and follow the signs to Sweetwater Creek state park.
After crossing the lake make a left into the main entrance of the park. Follow the signs to the Nature trail parking lot.

Take out: Thornton Rd south to the last traffic light before you cross the Chattahoochee River.
Turn right on Riverside Pkwy. The takeout is the bridge over the river about 2.5 miles down the road.

Hike out: Hop out of your boat just below the falls on river right where the wooden stairs hit water level. Grab your boat and go up the stairs to the top of the hill. At the crest of the hill, take a left on the trail that keeps going up the hill, don't follow the riverside trail back down to the falls observation deck. When that trail ends, take a right on the Blue trail. Follow the very nicely groomed Blue trail back to the Mill Ruins. At the ruins veer right to the Red trail. Staying on the blue trail will take you on a scenic three mile hike. The red trail will stay by the river back to the put-in. From the put in take the obvious trail back to the parking lot. The hike out takes between 30 and 45 minutes.

You can also hike out by following the riverside trail all the way back to the put in. This is much more difficult than the blue trail option.

Georgia DNR Sweetwater Website.

NGeorgia.Com page on Sweetwater.

Friends of Sweetwater Creek Website has more good info including some good photos of the park.

Last updated May 2006

Rapid Descriptions


Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Where one gets in the river. Most of the descriptions below are for water levels in the 5 to 6 foot range.

Warm up ledge.

Class - II+ Mile - 0.23
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A nice little river wide surfing ledge. Short boats can get cartwheels, long boats can 360 spin. There is an island below, run left of it.

First Ledge

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.3
A sloping 10 foot tall ledge. It might be class 3 at low flows. At flows above 4.5 feet the middle part of the ledge makes a nasty low head dam type keeper hole. Best place to scout and run is on the left. This one should definately be scouted before you run it. The logs in this drop move every time the water comes up.

The sneak is just below the island on the left that is immediately above the drop. Be aware this sneak turns into a nasty hole above 7.6 feet.

There is also a far right line, but it is hard to scout and ends in a log pile. At flows above 8 feet consider the channel by the jogging trail on the river right bank.

Mill Shoals

Class - IV Mile - 0.31
From the first ledge to the falls is nearly a mile continious class 3 plus or 4 rapids depending on the water level. Above 5.5 feet its one sweet long rapid. Normally run to the left of the islands, but there are also right and center lines. There is always badly placed and hard to see wood in the drops.

The Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - 1
Big riverwide ledge with multiple routes, depending on the water level.

The Hole below the Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.01
Being out of control thru the falls at high flows means you are going into the meat of this beast. There is a tongue around the left, and a sneak on the right.

Creek Right

Class - II+ Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Fun narrow creek around the right side of the island. Fun waves on the left.

2nd Island - Surf right, play left

Class - III Mile - 1.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Good waves on the right of the island, not so good waves on the left.

Powerline Waves

Class - II+ Mile - 2.25
Nice riverwide surf wave/hole at some levels. Higher flows make for a better hole. There is a huge eddy river right under the rope swing that feeds you back onto the wave.

This one is best in the 5 foot range. It starts to wash out about 7.5 feet.

Big Island Rapid, aka Last Ruin Rapid

Class - IV Mile - 2.3
More open on the left, but with some big holes. The right side of the island has some cool routes, but usually has some badly placed wood in it. Look before you leap. At the bottom left of the rapid are more old Civil War era ruins.

Pumping Station

Class - III Mile - 3.5
During the summer of 2006 the dam at the pumping station was rebuilt. It is now a dangerous low head dam. The left side is particularly deadly. There was a sneak around the hole up against the river right bank.

Pre 2006 description:
The wave, or hole, or ledge at the pumping station is a whole lot of different rapids depending on how high the hooch is and how far it is backing up into sweetwater and how much water sweetwater is sending downstream.

If the hooch is really high, it backs up and covers the entire rapid.

Take-out : Riverside Parkway

Class - Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The take-out is a pain in the neck. The normal take-out is on the right, under the bridge. The bank is slippery. The mud is nasty, and there is some re-bar waiting for someone to impale themselves on it.

Just above the bridge on the left is a cement culvert. At higher flows the culvert makes for a much better take-out. From there, carry up the trail to the road. Watch for snakes, poison ivey & broken glass.


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Chuck Kirk
7 years ago

12/22/12 - Right side of island just below the power lines there is a tree down around the blind turn. Beware as we had 4 paddlers get trapped by it. All ended up okay. Two flipped and went under it. One got his body stuck for a bit on it then flushed out under it and then one boat had to be z-dragged off of it. We will try to get in and cut it out. Also at the Falls, a tree is blocking the middle right and far right lines. The park rangers said they will cut this out. We removed a lot of wood and opened up some routes that have been blocked since the flood in 2009.

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Chuck Kirk
8 years ago

The gauge has been updated to reflect the level changes since the floods of 2009 took out the old gauge and the new one was put in a downstream location.

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Duncan Cottrell
9 years ago

The right-of-island line at Powerline Rapid is blocked by a tree completely across the channel. Still there on Feb. 6, 2011.

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Chuck Kirk
10 years ago

Just ran Sweetwater and Hiked out the Blue Trail after running the falls. The trail is in decent shape except for the staircase down at the river. The steps were ripped away so you have to climb up beside the first platform to get up there. Also the water level is way off. The new guage read about 3 foot but the water level was more like what it was when it read 4 foot or even a little higher. I noticed this a week or so ago as well when the guage read 4.3 but it seemed more like 5 foot. The rapids have had rocks move around in them and seem to be cleaner actually.

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10 years ago

the red trail is open to hike down to the water.we made a run on 10-6-09. the flood washed out almost all the islands in the river. lots of big rocks have been moved the time there were no trees in any of the rapids we scouted.the red trail was washed away along with several foot bridges and the overlook deck at the falls, it looks pretty bad. there was a tree down on river right just below powerlines blocking the right channel.

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10 years ago

All of the access roads to the put in have been closed since the flood. To run it right now you have to put in somewhere besides the state park

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11 years ago

that low head damn thing isn't there at levels between 25 and 30 ft. Don't know below.

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14 years ago

Trails at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Factory Ruins Trail: 1.2 miles one way. Blazed red. Rated moderately difficult. The toughest part is downhill to the creek; the rest of the trail is easy. Trail follows Sweetwater Creek past the 1840s mill ruins to the falls (a large rapid). After the falls, pick up the Blue or White trail to return. A trail guide is available at the Visitor Center, in the brochure box in front of the building.

Blue Trail: 2 miles one way. Blazed blue. Rated easy to moderate, with one steep climb down to the falls deck. Visits ruins and then the falls (a large rapid) via a trail up the ridge side rather than along the creek. At the falls, return via the red-blazed Factory Ruins Trail or Blue Trail

White Trail: 3 miles one way. Blazed white. Connects the ends of the Red and Blue trails back to the parking area. Remember to add the 3 miles to the distance already traveled on Red or Blue trails. Follows Sweetwater Creek downstream, turns up into the hills past a small lake, then up through an area of early 20th century farm fields.

Yellow Trail: 3-mile loop. Blazed yellow. Rated easy to difficult. Follows Sweetwater Creek to Ferguson's Crossing, crosses the creek on a metal frame bridge, climbs the ridge on the east side to the top of the ridge, then loops back to the bridge leading back to the parking area.

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Shayne Day
15 years ago

We ran sweetwater yesterday, 6/1/05 when the guage said it was around 2.6 ft. Our visual check on the painted gauge was 4 ft. Is this acurate? Any one having info on this please post here. Thanks, Shayne

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16 years ago

When the Hooch has more than 10,000 cfs the last rapid is completely underwater. The good news is that you can take out really easily on the left where the culvert comes in.

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Chris Gorman
17 years ago

At levels of about 3.5 and lower there are 2 awesome holes right below the falls. The best being the one that is kind of on the falls, it is an extremely shallow L shaped hole at the bottom of the slide. It is a really fun surf, And the next one is right below it, it is really good for 360's and maybe cartwheels.

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17 years ago

Two kayakers stranded in Sweetwater Creek
Author: From staff and news services Date: October 8, 1995 Publication: The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution Page Number: F/2 Word Count: 628

Two experienced kayakers were stranded on a small island on Sweetwater Creek inside Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs for more than 24 hours after their small craft was swept away. Robbie Martin and Scott Dalton, both of Lithia Springs, huddled together all of Friday night and most of Saturday as they waited for rescuers. Rescue attempts were thwarted several times because Douglas County firefighters and volunteers could not get across the rain-swollen creek to the small island

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Chris Gorman
17 years ago

The takeout road is no longer called lower river road. I am not sure what the name of it is now but i believe it is somthing to the tune of riverside pkwy? There is a sign that says this and points to it. Sorry about not knowing the exact name

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17 years ago

At 5.5 feet on sweetwater, and 4000 cfs in the hooch, the wave at the pumping station was unbelieveable. 4 feet tall, 15 feet wide, good eddy access, it was incredible!!!! Unfortunately the river was dropping fast and the wave dissappeared as the river dropped below 5 feet.

Gage Descriptions

Class 3 at low flows below 4 feet.
Class 4 above 5 feet on the gauge. The falls are 4+
At 7 feet the falls are a class 5 drop.
The river has been run a few times over 10 feet and possibly as high as 13. Floodstage class 5 at these flows.

LOCATION.--Lat 33°46'22", long 84°36'53", Douglas County, Hydrologic Unit 03130002, on right bank 100 ft upstream from bridge on Interstate Highway 20, 400 ft upstream from Blair Bridge, 3 mi southeast of Austell, and 5.5 mi upstream from mouth.

More gauge info in text below.

Sweetwater's drainage area is nearly 250 square miles, so it usually holds its water for a couple of days after a heavy rain.

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







Craig Irwin


rick Thompson


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190296 05/15/06 BradR n/a
1204244 03/02/15 Craig Irwin 201502
1204585 04/29/15 Craig Irwin 201504
1212109 05/03/19 rick Thompson updated description