Tallulah - 5 - Tallulah Gorge to Lake Tugaloo

Tallulah, Georgia, US


5 - Tallulah Gorge to Lake Tugaloo (Tallulah Gorge)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Max Gradient 231 fpm

Tanners Boof from Below

Tanners Boof from Below
Photo of Jeremy Adkins by Chris Gorman taken 04/15/14 @ 500 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02181580 450 - 1200 cfs IV-V 00h30m 474 cfs (running)

River Description

Gauge Description:
Flows are typically 500 cfs on Saturday and 700 cfs on Sunday of release weekends.
The gage is included for those who want to check back after a run, especially for those days when a 700-cfs release was planned, but Georgia Power actually released 1000 cfs.

This is a CL IV-V run and deserves the respect and paddler responsibility associated with this rating. Follow the AW safety code and enjoy paddlin' this Southern Jewel.

Releases on the first two weekends in April and first three weekends in November.
The gorge is reputed to have a gradient better than 200 ft/mi.

Inflatable Policy for the Tallulah Gorge - Updated 2014

Volunteers needed

Tallulah Gorge State Park needs some help to manage the releases on the Tallulah.  Volunteering only takes a few hours, you can easily boat and volunteer in the same day.  If you are interested in volunteering contact Laura Dillon.

From StreamTeam Volunteer Don Kinser:
Here is the consensus list of rapid names from those discussions:
1. Last Step
2. Tanner's Launch
3. Oceana
4. Gauntlet
5. Bridal Veil
6. Zoom Flume
7. Lynch's Wrench aka Ticket Puncher
8. Amplitheater
9. Around the Corner
10. Tit
11. Tat
12. Tom's Brain Buster
13. Road to Aintry
14. Twisted Sister
15. Paddlesnake Ledge
16. Powerhouse
17. Maxwell's Last Drop
18. Damned lake

This is a river which requires Class-V skills. Most rapids can be read-and-run by V paddlers, though Oceana and some other rapids are usually scouted.

Directions: From Atlanta: take I-985 north and head for 365 north and Highway 23 and Highway 441. Tallulah Falls is located 12 miles north of Clarkesville on Highway 23-441. Just before the bridge crossing the river, take a left into the grassy field.
From the north: from Chattanooga, TN: Take I-775 north to Rte. 40 east, to US 64 east. In Franklin, head south on US Rte. 23/441 through Clayton. Tallulah Falls is 12 miles south of Clayton. Just after the bridge crosses the river, hang a right into the grassy field.
From Hendersonville, NC: Head west on US-64. Hang a left onto US-23/441, and proceed as above.

Camping: There is a campground at Tallulah Gorge State Park, and Georgia Power maintains a primitive campground near the takeout at Tugalo Park.

Taking out at Tugalo Dam (Not Tugalo State Park): American Whitewater has been asked by GA State Parks and GA Power to inform the boating community that take out access at Tugalo Dam closes at 5:00PM. Please plan to leave the take out area by 5:00PM on all Tallulah release days. GA Power and GA Parks are also concerned about partying at the take out post paddle. Apre' paddle activities are best taken to your campsite. The paddling community has a positive relationship with GA Power and the Park, thank you for your cooperation in maintaining the partnership.

Fun facts: It's a long walk to the putin, down something like 600 steps!
After the whitewater theres about 1.5 miles of flatwater across Tugaloo Lake to the takeout at Tugalo dam. From the parking lot to the lake is about 650 vertical feet. Parking lot is 1550ish and the lake is 900. Subtract 300 or so feet in steps, and that puts the gradient at close to 300 feet a mile. If anyone can give us an exact put-in altitude, please add it in the comments section.

Thanks to the AWA boaters have had releases in Tallulah Gorge since November 1997.
John Bell's account of the first decent of Tallulah Gorge, May 1993.
Tallulah has been permit free since the November 2001 Releases.

You can read some history of the area by clicking here and here.

Photo of paddler Ardie Olsen at Oceana, taken by Ken Strickland from the observation deck, 1998.

This page works best at 1024x768 resolution.
Last updated April 2014

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-11-05 15:59:19

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put-In5.0Putin Photo
0.0Last step aka The Entrance RapidIV+Photo
0.0Tanners Launch aka The BoofIVWaterfall Photo
0.0Oceana5.1Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.0Playspot below OceanaIIIPlayspot Photo
0.1Gauntlet aka The approach to Bridal VeilIV+Hazard Photo
0.1Second part of the GauntletIV+Hazard Photo
0.4Final ApproachIII+
0.5Bridal Veil5.0Access Hazard Photo
0.5Zoom Floom aka The Groove aka The ChannelIII+Photo
0.5Lynch's WrenchIVPhoto
0.6AmplitheatreIVPlayspot Photo
0.6Around the CornerIII+Photo
0.7Tom's Brain BusterIV+Hazard Photo
0.7The Road to Aintry aka The Big SlideIVPhoto
0.7Twisted SisterIII+Playspot
0.8Paddlesnake LedgeIVPhoto
0.9PowerhouseIII+Playspot Photo
1.0Maxwell's Last DropIII+Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Put-In (Class 5.0)

Halfway down the stairs

Halfway down the stairs
Photo by Brad Roberts taken 11/10/01 @ 500 cfs

592 stairs with a 45 pound boat on your shoulder.

Last step aka The Entrance Rapid (Class IV+, Mile 0.0)

Last Step

Last Step
Photo by Sutton Bacon taken 11/15/02

After sliding into the pool from the deck there is about 20 feet of flatwater before the first rapid. The first rapid goes about 30 feet before running into the cliff wall and taking a 90 degree left turn.
Its usually run by boofing off a three foot tall ledge in the center aiming between two rocks, then punching a pourover hole before getting typewritered to the left and punching another hole.
The first rapid is one of the more difficult on the river. Just below is a good cartwheel hole.

Tanners Launch aka The Boof (Class IV, Mile 0.0)

(RM) Peter Horne at Tanner's Boof

(RM) Peter Horne at Tanner's Boof
Photo of Peter Horne by Robert Maxwell @ 700

Just after the first rapid is a short pool, followed by a horizon line. The common line is the auto boof on the right. There is a center line that feeds into a large hole, but I have not seen this line run often since the first week of releases.
After landing the boof the river necks down thru a 10 foot wide slot.

Oceana (Class 5.1, Mile 0.0)

Oceana Middle Line from Below

Oceana Middle Line from Below
Photo by Chris Gorman taken 04/15/14 @ 500 cfs

Playspot below Oceana (Class III, Mile 0.0)


Photo of Wade Harrison by Chris Gormah taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

Good cartwheel and loop hole.

Gauntlet aka The approach to Bridal Veil (Class IV+, Mile 0.1)

Boofing the Gauntlet

Boofing the Gauntlet
Photo of Pat Keller and Bo Wallace by Chris Gorman taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

A long convoluted rapid with some offset ledges and a nasty pourover. The general line is a little to the right of center, boofing off of the first ledge, then keeping it straight to punch the holes. The final move is busting the diagnol ledge/hole on the right and grabbing the eddy by the cliff. There is a piton rock after the first boof to be avoided, land flat. Too far left gets you close to an undercut. To far right and you might get typewritered into the eddy behind the pyramid rock and into the trees. Most people catch an eddy at the bottom right against the cliff before making the ferry over to the river left set-up eddy for Bridal Veil.

Second part of the Gauntlet (Class IV+, Mile 0.1)

Second move in the Gauntlet

Second move in the Gauntlet
Photo of John Taylor by Brad Roberts taken 09/10/01 @ 500 cfs

Final Approach (Class III+, Mile 0.4)
After peeling out of the river right cliffside eddy at the bottom of the Gauntlet, go to the right of the midstream stand of trees. Just below the trees is hole that keeps getting more sticky every year. A few years back a boat without floatbags washed into the hole and never surfaced until the water was turned off. Swimming out of the hole will probably lead to a swim of Bridal Veil. After the hole cut hard to the left to catch the Bridal Veil eddy. Its best to make sure there is not too big a crowd in the Bridal Veil eddy before peeling into this rapid - or you might wind up running Bridal Veil blind.

Bridal Veil (Class 5.0, Mile 0.5)

Bridal Veil Middle (Hero) Line

Bridal Veil Middle (Hero) Line
Photo of Dane Jackson by Chris Gorman taken 04/15/14 @ 500 cfs

A good sized slide with an evil hole. Bridal Veil is usually scouted (and portaged) from the left bank. From the river left set-up eddy there is a small but sticky river wide hole to punch. While the top hole looks harmless, people have swum out of it and ended up swimming the entire drop. The standard line down Bridal Veil is to punch the top hole about 5 feet off the left bank, then hug the left bank and punch the left corner of the hole at the bottom. While the middle line has been run, it is generally avoided because it feeds you into the meat of the hole.

In case of emergency there is a trail out of the gorge at Bridal Veil on river right.

Zoom Floom aka The Groove aka The Channel (Class III+, Mile 0.5)

Grinding on the Zoom Flume

Grinding on the Zoom Flume
Photo by Chris Gorman taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

One of the most fun rapids anywhere!! After coming out of the Bridal Veil eddy follow the main current between the two large boulders, then cut to the left and follow the narrow channel back upstream. From there just drop into the narrow channel up against the river left bank. What you have is about a hundred foot long waterpark type slide that is maybe 4 to 5 feet wide. Big Fun!!

Lynch's Wrench (Class IV, Mile 0.5)

Left Line at Lynch's Wench

Left Line at Lynch's Wench
Photo of Jerrod Jones and George-Jorge Hedrick by Chris Gorman taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

On the first decent Walt Lynch dislocated a shoulder here. Lynch's tends to separate a number of boaters from their boats. The top move is about a 7 foot boof, landing in some squirlly water with a major cross current and a good sized hole. After getting hammered here for years my preferred line is to boof right to left into an eddy behind the center rock, then peel out and run the rest of the rapid down the right. After the first boof there are three good sized holes to punch before the eddy above amplitheatre.

Amplitheatre (Class IV, Mile 0.6)


Photo of Will Reeves by Brad Roberts taken 04/15/01 @ 500cfs

The top ledge of this rapid is the crux. Its not a tough move at 500 cfs, but at 700 cfs the hole gets a bad attitude. After the top hole the rest of the rapid is a wavetrain. There is a nice eddy river left that sets you up to play on two of the waves.

Around the Corner (Class III+, Mile 0.6)

Best Boof on the River

Best Boof on the River
Photo by Chris Gorman taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

From a small leaky eddy you'll see a midstream rock. You can run either side of the midstream rock down a shallow bumpy sliding drop. On the bottom right is a minor hole.

Tit (Class III+, Mile 0.6)
Seen from above this drop is about 10 feet wide with a small rock bisecting the middle. Bang off the right side of the ledge, then go to the left of the trees growing midstream, from there work back to the right to catch the small leaky eddy above the next drop.
There is also a sizeable eddy on river left, but just over then next horizon line on river left is a pretty significant undercut.
At 700 cfs this drop and the next tend to become one rapid.

Tat (Class IV, Mile 0.7)

(RM) Tat

(RM) Tat
Photo by Rob Maxwell @ 700

A flattish pool leading up to a horizon line spit by a shallow midstream rock. The bottom left of this drop features a pretty nasty undercut.
Most people run right of the center rock for that reason. On the right side aim for the middle where there is a break in the hole at the base of the slide. At higher flows (700 cfs) the hole at the base of the slide gets pretty beefy. The break in the hole is still there, but being off line will lead to a surf. I've seen three boaters getting surfed in the hole at once. On Sundays there is a sneak far river right thru the trees.

Tom's Brain Buster (Class IV+, Mile 0.7)

Bottom of Tom's Brain Buster

Bottom of Tom's Brain Buster
Photo by Chris Gorman taken 04/15/14 @ 500 cfs

The standard line is to run down the far right hand side, punch the holes, stay upright, and go for the eddy at the bottom. I've also seen experts catch 5 eddies in this rapid. Lots of people have gotten hammered at Toms. Tom Jackson for one.

The Road to Aintry aka The Big Slide (Class IV, Mile 0.7)

Chaos on the Slide to Aintry

Chaos on the Slide to Aintry
Photo by Chris Gorman taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

The longest single rapid on the river. Most people tend to slide over a few small ledges to the river right eddy and boatscout. From there most head toward midstream and start down the slide. From the top you see a large midstream boulder at the base of the drop. That rock is not really a problem, you can go around either side of it, or if the river is over about 800 cfs boof right over it. What you can't really see from the top is the hole just in front of the rock. Its a big one!! The good new is that most of the time you'll be going so fast that you blow right thru the hole. Most of the time ;-)

Twisted Sister (Class III+, Mile 0.7)
A long wave train with a couple of holes hidden along the way. At the bottom is an S-Turn move around a boulder with a good play wave/hole below that.

Paddlesnake Ledge (Class IV, Mile 0.8)

(RM) Paddle Snake Ledge

(RM) Paddle Snake Ledge
Photo by Rob Maxwell @ 700

Another big sloping ledge rapid, but blind from the top. The standard line is to start in the top right eddy, ferry across the top, cut over the top curler wave then ride the slide from top left to bottom right punching the fluffy hole at the bottom. Its sorta like a reverse version of Jawbone on the Chattooga.

Below this is another wave that sees some play.

Powerhouse (Class III+, Mile 0.9)

(RM) Powerhouse Rapid

(RM) Powerhouse Rapid
Photo of Kevin Thomas by Rob Maxwell @ 700

The powerhouse features a low head dam. The hole is strongest on the right. There is a break in the hole on the left center side of the dam. Just below the dam is the USGS gauge. Most of the water below the dam splats into a vertical cliff wall. Therefore lots of boaters tend to splat the wall too!

Maxwell's Last Drop (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

Last Drop

Last Drop
Photo by Chris Gorman taken 04/12/15 @ 700 cfs

A series of easy medium sized ledges just below the powerhouse. Its the last whitewater before the lake paddle. There is one hole of note, the entire river necks down and makes a 5 foot tall ramp into a squirlly hole. This one was knocking a bunch of people over recently. You can miss the hole by boofing off the ledge on the far right.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 17 2012 (2469 days ago)
Abel ValdesDetails
Video of all the rapids with names and standard lines @ 700 cfs release.
November 22 2002 (5902 days ago)
From the parking lot to the lake is about 650 vertical feet. Parking lot is 1550ish and the lake is


Calendar Control Date:
Calendar by Date by Title

April 2019

08:00 am -4:00 pm est
Saturday releases @ 500500-500 cfs

08:00 am -4:00 pm est
Sundays @ 700700-700 cfs

08:00 am -4:00 pm est
Saturday releases @ 500500-500 cfs

08:00 am -4:00 pm est
Sundays @ 700700-700 cfs


Tallulah Tallulah Falls, GA,GA runs 04/01/17 - 11/17/19, next 04/06/19
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Associated Projects

  • Tallulah Gorge (GA)
    The dams on Tallulah Gorge were among the first rivers in the Southeast to be relicensed and wow what a classic whitewater river it has become.