This photo needs editing.
Difficulty I-II(III)
Length 13.5 Miles
Gauge Toccoa near Dial
Flow Range 350 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 2 hours from now 1179 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 10/04/2006 11:56 pm

River Description


The Toccoa and the Ocoee are the same river; it is the "Toccoa" from its headwaters on the Blue Ridge in Georgia until it crosses north into Tennessee.

This is the official Forest Service "Toccoa River Canoe Trail" which runs from Deep Hole campground down to Sandy Bottoms. Rapids are class I-II with one set in the middle that approaches class III. Butt Bridge and Toccoa Valley Campground offer alternate takeouts and shorter runs; 8 miles and 11 miles respectively. There is a good fisherman's parking lot on Dial Road about a mile below Butt Bridge - neither of the bridges afford great parking opportunities. There is NO access in the 5-mile wilderness section between Margret and Butt Bridge, so bring extra food & water, first aid kit, footgear etc and be prepared as if you were hiking the backcountry.

It's a spectacular all-day wilderness cruising section or 2-day overnighter and a good training run for intermediate paddlers. Spud kayakers will have not much fun as there are some very long stretches of slack water. Take the long boat if you are planning to kayak this one, or be prepared to do a lot of tedious wallowing along. There is no park-and-play worth mentioning on this reach.

The river runs close along state highway 60 a couple miles from Deep Hole to the town of Margret, then heads west into the National Forest around the back side of Tooni Mountain. The next few miles are dense wilderness with no easy access in or out. Midway, the Benton MacKaye hiking trail crosses the river over a suspension footbridge. A set of class II-III drops separated by wide eddies starts under the bridge and continues for a couple hundred yards through a shallow gorge. This rapid is known locally as "the Margret Drifts" - look out for driftwood. You may not notice the bridge coming up until you are there, due to thick woods, but it can be spotted if you look ahead as you approach down a long westerly straightaway. Find the clearings along the right or left bank just upstream and pull out to scout. Scouting is difficult to impossible from the riverbanks. It's a messy riverbed portage if you elect to walk it, forget trying to get down on the banks; the woods are thick, steep and virtually trailless adjacent to the rapids. Best scouting overlook is on the bridge (see photos). There are good campsites here if you want to stay overnite. You can hike the trail back to highway 60 a few miles to the north to get out if necessary. It is difficult, but not impossible, to haul back up to the bridge once you've run down the ledges, if you wanted to do multiple runs whilst camping. Look out for snakes.

A few miles on, the river leaves the National Forest, continues through some scenic farm country, under a couple of backroad bridges, through some more pasture, finally past the Toccoa Valley campground on the left, then to Sandy Bottoms another mile or two beyond. Whitewater throughout this pleasant piece is limited to pretty small stuff; relax and enjoy the float.

There was a river-use conflict with a landowner below Margret in 2003 which is mostly settled but this depends on the responsible behavior of boaters. Fishing rights are still disputed. The Forest Service has very clearly marked the disputed 3000 feet of riverfront with many obvious large signs, and another pair of signs at the downstream end lets you know that you are re-entering the National Forest (where once again you can basically raise hell and do as you please). While boating through the private property please:

1> Do not trespass or set foot on the private land.
2> Do not fish.
3> Keep the noise down.
4> Be courteous to the landowner and his friends.

Please help promote community awareness of landowner rights issues.


Also see River Reach #4320; shorter, more populated, easier access, beautiful & fun.




Rapid Descriptions

Deep Hole Campground

Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Located about halfway between Blue Ridge and Suches on Georgia Highway 60. Park in the designated area on the right just before you enter the campground. The boating access ramp is right around the corner. $3 per vehicle parking fee.

Margret Drifts (Swinging Bridge)

Class - II+ Mile - 6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A series of ledges with interesting, Chattooga-like channels. Some pretty good play spots. Optimum line is to enter close to the right bank, then work across the ledges to the final chute on river left.  Plenty of eddies.

Sandy Bottoms

Class - Mile - 13.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Nice dedicated canoe/kayak access point with parking, access ramp and outhouse. Follow the yellow FS signs on Dial Road from Highway 60 to get to Sandy Bottoms. $3 FS parking fee charged.

Comments

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12 years ago

John Spivey
This is a beautiful run for a family overnighter or long full day adventure.Is it even runable at 200 cfs with gear for a camp-out?I guess we'll chance it!!

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Sam Smith
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12 years ago

Took several buddies from work down this section of the river (Deep Hole to Sandy Bottom) May 29-30, and camped at the swinging bridge. Water level was around 335 cfs or so. I was a little worried but, despite a few scrapes over some rocks early on, we didn't have any real problems due to the low water level (of course, it would have helped if we hadn't lugged so much gear in the canoes!).

Found some serious littering from previous campers at the bridge. We cleaned up what we could. Otherwise, the entire trip was almost pristine.

The deadfall Rick mentioned, just past the bridge, was easily passible by ducking under it. At higher water levels, it will cause problems, but portaging should be fairly easy there.

This section can be done in 2 very easy days, or even in one day if you're in a hurry (maybe 8 hrs?). During our trip, water averaged 3-4 mph most places, 4-5 in some.

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n o
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13 years ago

The Toccoa is a beautiful river with some great camping spots along the way, do be careful for nearly half of the river banks are privatley owned and there have been reports of owners with shotguns. Watch out for fisherman, sometimes they are hiding in nice eddy's hidden by the rocks. Generally this is a great river for people that are just starting out. A word of caution, in a matter of minutes (what feels like minutes) this river can scare up some nasty rapids if it starts to rain hard. I found myself going over margret drifts for the second time in a week.. only this time it had started raining within a half hour of puting in at Deep Hole. MD went from a regular class II rapid with some nice lines to a bucking menace with some deep holes and lines that run you into log jams on the right side. Other wise this river is absolutely a pleasure, and I know I will be going back.

A special thanks to the Forest Ranger that is in charge of Deep Hole, he was able to help us in ways that no one else could. :)

Nic

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Rick Bellows
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12 years ago

New deadfall (red oak with leaves still green) all the way across the river about a half mile downriver of the swinging bridge and Margret Drifts. Passable only at left bank. At low level today (about 360 cfs), canoes had about 6" headroom after ducking. If water higher, portage on left bank looks fairly easy.

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Steve Reach
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14 years ago

Ran it 9/11/2004 with 12 members of GCA at 400 cfs. Two days previous it was at 1400 cfs following Hurricane Frances. I imagine the bridge rapids were quite a bit gnarlier then. It probably comes up as quickly as it goes down with rain, so be on your toes. Big thanks to Margo and Jimmy Booth for their kind hospitality and know-how.

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Steve Reach
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13 years ago

NEW HAZARD NOTED 3/2006: downed tree across river between Deep Hole and Margret. May be skidded across at mean water level.

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Ken and Fran Strickland
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14 years ago

The rapid located under the swinging bridge (referred to as MacKaye Bridge Rapid) is locally known as the Margret Drifts.

Ken

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n/a
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7 years ago

I guess finding useful, relialbe information on the internet isn't hopeless after all.

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Ray Gregory
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5 years ago

Great trip yesterday! 5 of us made the paddle from Deep Hole to Doublehead gap yesterday. Flow was perfect at about 970cfs. Be careful there are four trees completely accross the river. The first is just after the fish hatchery bridge, then another just a little bit down past there, then another a half mile down and the last just after you enter the National Forest area before the swinging bridge. We portaged all four of the strainers.

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Sam Smith
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8 years ago

I'm planning a trip for May 17th or 18th. Is anyone else going to be on the river then? Sam

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Steven Goodrich
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7 years ago

At 228-250 cfs, will this be a miserable ride in a kayak?

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9 years ago

Kayaked from Deep Hole to Sandy Bottoms over the weekend with friends and had a great run. Thanx to heavy rains recently the river was well over 900cfs...probably closer to 1000cfs. Not much time to relax as the water was moving pretty quick almost the entire way. The 5-6 hour trip most people report took us less than 4 hours from launch to packed up and driving back to the campground....and we stopped for lunch at the suspension bridge. This was my first run on the Toccoa so I'm not sure what it's normally like but at this level it's fast and choppy almost the whole way. You will want to stop at the suspension bridge and check out the rapids downstream. We started just to the right of center as we crossed under the bridge and crossed to river left in order to avoid a rather intimidating rapid on the right. That was as far as we could see from the bridge. There are plenty of rapids beyond your line of sight from the bridge but with this flow all lines seemed pretty good. At this level I don't really think this run is good for a beginner unless you have a really stable boat and someone experienced along to help out. I don't think there were any really tricky spots or dangerous rapids but if you flip the swift current makes it difficult to get to shore, retrieve lost gear or even find a dry spot to empty your boat and get back in again. With that said, the 5 of us had a great run, although, everyone agreed it would have been nice if the flow was down a bit so that there was time to just float and enjoy the scenery. For those interested...we paddled 2 Dagger Crossfires, 2 Wilderness Systems Tsunamis and an Old Town recreation kayak.

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9 years ago

Paddled Dial Bridge to Shallowford Bridge May 24, took around 2 hours. Probably 350-375 cfs. There are a couple of small ledges (2 ft.) that were fun to navigate in a canoe.

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Sam Smith
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9 years ago

Sorry Wesley, I didn't see your note until we returned. I hope you were able to go. My group put in at Deep Hole on Tuesday, May 5th, with the water level around 500 cfs. Within 100 yards, the other canoe had already flipped (yes, we laughed). After we got them emptied out and going again, the dangers still lurked. About 30 minutes later, a goose, apparently upset at us for doing nothing more than drifting with the current, decided to charge the other boat (same guys that had just gotten dunked). We assumed it had a nest nearby, but we didn't see it. We managed to escape the clutches of the angry waterfowl, and continued our journey. There was one downed log a short distance before the swinging bridge, but due to the higher water levels, we managed to slide across the top of it (along the left side). At normal water levels, I'm sure it will be a problem. We stopped at the Swinging Bridge for lunch, and also noted the "No Camping" signs on the left bank. We did not check the right bank. We scouted the shoals, both from atop the bridge and along the left bank. The second canoe was fairly inexperienced, and they were concerned about making it through safely, so they decided to portgage around. My partner and I decided to give it a shot, and somehow made it through with our dignity intact. The remainder of the trip was uneventful, other than enjoying the rapid water flow (we averaged about 4.8mph for the entire trip). We did encounter an unmarked cable strung across the river about 3/4 of the way to Sandy Bottom. At normal river levels, it won't be a problem, but anything a foot or two higher than we had and it might catch an unsuspecting canoist in the head. I warned the second canoe as we approached the takeout at Sandy Bottom, and suggested they stay close to the right bank (the water gets a little bumpy for the last 100 yards, and if you're on the left bank, you might have difficulty reaching the takeout). Sure enough, they blasted though a chute, and managed to turn sideways on a rock, swamping the canoe again! I laughed so hard I cried. Due to the high water levels, we managed the trip in four hours exactly. We all had a wonderful trip (except for the bruised egos in the second canoe!) and can't wait to plan another trip. Sam

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Sam Smith
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9 years ago

Well, it looks like my trip is still on. I've got 3 buddies plus myself looking to do a single day trip around May 5th. Anyone else going to be around then? It doesn't look like there will be much chance for rain between now and then, but hopefully the water levels will hold..... Sam

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Sam Smith
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9 years ago

Austin, how did your trip go? I was hoping to do an overnight trip in early May, but my co-workers are wimping out on me. So, we're scaling back and looking at a single day excursion. I'd appreciate some recent river conditions. Water levels are really looking nice so far. Sam

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9 years ago

Kevin: Austin, I'd have to say go for it. It's gonna be low, but as my post says below, me and my girlfriend ran it in a fully loaded tandom canoe last year in the summer time with a max CFS of 170. It was a chore, but we still managed to have fun. If you're gonna run it, do it now. The flows will be dismal as summer draws nearer, and your only hope then will be to get lucky and catch it after a bunch of rain. At least now it's staying consistently at around 300, which is doable but not ideal.

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10 years ago

Kevin: For some reason this river is in a black hole and can't get any rainwater. While all rivers have suffered, I've watched all manner of rivers get runnable flows within the course of the year but this one seems to be among the worse hurt by the drought. I can't wait for the Toccoa to get some water because it's one of the most peaceful rivers in north Ga.

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9 years ago

Ran it on 5/15 at a little under 500 cfs. Very nice, smooth all the way except for the one tree accross the river just above the Drifts. Got to see some great wildlife this time too - turtles, trout, and even a bald eagle. Got to see some trouser trout as well. Now is a great time to run this river while the water is still up. - Austin

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Sam Smith
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8 years ago

A canoe should be fine. A canoe with a keel might not be the best choice, but even that should be OK, as long as you have some river experience (the keel makes it difficult to quickly turn the canoe - very important in fast water). 400cfs is fine, any less and I'd think twice, expecially if you've never done this section before. I've done it at 335, but it wasn't fun. If you put in at Deep Hole by 9 am, you'll make it to Sandy Bottom in plenty of time to make it to the Toccoa Riverside Restaurant for an early dinner. Please remember that you will be out in the wilderness for most of the trip. No cellphone service, and a VERY long hike. Take friends in a second canoe in case you have problems. But definately worth the trip! Sam

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Dave B
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8 years ago

i am thinking of paddling this when i take a trip up to the area in a few weeks. if anyone can answer a few questions i have, it would be great. davidwbogle@gmail.com my basic questions are what kind of boat do i need to paddle this? i have a canoe, is that sufficient (assuming 400 CFS)

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10 years ago

Me and my girlfriend just did a two day camping run on this through the national wilderness part in a 1980 Mad River canoe with about 130 pounds of gear. This was at a level extremely low; I'm thinking 170 cfs at the very best. But even though the trip was hard work, I'll still have to qualify this as one of the best wilderness excursions I've had in a long time. It's technical to run this tandom with gear, but it can be done as long as you accept you'll have to walk your boat off rocks not too infrequently. No tree barriers are impassible unless you're in a large boat. The rapids are entry level, but I would recommend at least one person on the trip to have experience, because this could give the casual float trip seeker a really long day. If you're looking for some great Georgia scenery and wilderness, then take the trip. Just be prepared for the hard work ahead.

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Sam Smith
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10 years ago

You're braver than I am! The last time I canoed this section (with camping gear - about 2 years ago), it was around 335 cfm, and I thought that was marginal at best. I had hoped to do this section again this week, but not with the water this low. Instead, I canoed the section from the Lake Blue Ridge dam downstream (north) to Copper Hill, TN. There is a small park right at the state line with a boat ramp. The trip took about 5 hours, but was very rocky for the first 3 hours or so. It seemed the water level was a little lower than "normal", even though it is controlled by the dam.

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11 years ago

I HAVE CAMPED QUITE A FEW TIME'S ON THIS RIVER AND HAVE HAD NOTHING BUT GREAT TIME'S. I HAVE FLOATED IT SEVERAL TIMES TO AND THAT WAS A LOT OF FUN TO. WHEN THE RIVER IS LOW THINGS GET SLOW..LOL! BUT IT IS STILL WONDERFUL! THANKS TO TOCCOA VALLEY CAMPGROUND FOR OFFERING A GREAT PLACE TO CAMP. STEVE

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Sam Smith
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11 years ago

I"m planning another overnight trip on this section in June. Has anyone been down the river lately? I haven't seen any trip reports in a long time. Sam

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Sam Smith
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10 years ago

The river might be passable at 300 cfs or so in an unloaded kayak, but I wouldn't try it any lower than that. I have run it at 335 in a loaded canoe, and it was tough. I really miss the days of it regularly running 350+...... I'm planning another overnight trip in mid May. Hopefully we'll get plenty of rain between now and then.

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10 years ago

Austin: Kevin, a couple friends and I are thinking about making an overnight trip on the Toccoa in early April. In its current condition, do you think it's runnable in single kayaks?

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n/a
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7 years ago

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9 years ago

my name is wesley and me and some friends are also interested in getting it on on this river on tuesday may 5th 2009 please either email me or call and maybe we can rendezvous near the river we live in nashville tn so it may be a a drive for us but its my birthday so we are definitely wanting to get on the river my phone number is 6155570030 or my email is wbs2f@mtsu.edu.

Summary of Gauge Readings

TVA gauge for Toccoa at Dial.

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
Toccoa near Dial
AW Gauge Info
1179 cfs ℹ️ -02h27m
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Steve Reach