Toccoa - Deep Hole Recreation Area to Sandy Bottoms

Toccoa, Georgia, US


Deep Hole Recreation Area to Sandy Bottoms

Usual Difficulty I-II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 13.5 Miles

Margret Drifts

Margret Drifts
Photo of shoals below the bridge by Paintball Dave (the Assassin) taken long ago @ around 300 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Toccoa near Dial
tva-td019 350 - 10000 cfs I-II(III) 01h15m 831 cfs (running)
Upper limit for best boatability uncertain. Please help your fellow boaters with a comment or report.

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2006-10-04 23:56:08

scouting campground for rapid

Detail Trip Report  scouting campground for rapid  Toccoa, GA(373.25KB .jpeg)

Margret Drifts below the bridge

Detail Trip Report  Margret Drifts below the bridge  Toccoa, GA(24.73KB .jpeg)

The Bridge

Detail Trip Report  The Bridge  Toccoa, GA(27.14KB .jpeg)

Margret Drifts

Detail Trip Report  Margret Drifts  Toccoa, GA(26.35KB .jpeg)

Toccoa footbridge Rapids

Detail Trip Report  Toccoa footbridge Rapids  Toccoa, GA(407.51KB .jpeg)

Sandy Bottom Rapids

Detail Trip Report  Sandy Bottom Rapids  Toccoa, GA(418.25KB .jpeg)

Put in at Deep Hole

Detail Trip Report  Put in at Deep Hole  Toccoa, GA(400.05KB .jpeg)

Gauge Information

Gauge Description:

TVA gauge for Toccoa at Dial.

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Toccoa near Dial
tva-td019 350 - 10000 cfs I-II(III) 01h15m 831 cfs (running)
Upper limit for best boatability uncertain. Please help your fellow boaters with a comment or report.

RangeWater LevelDifficultyComment
350 -10000 cfs barely runnable-high runnable I-II(III) Upper limit for best boatability uncertain. Please help your fellow boaters with a comment or report.

Report - Reports of Toccoa Deep Hole Recreation Area to Sandy Bottoms and related gauges

Reports give the public a chance to report on river conditions throughout the country as well as log the history of a river.


When River/Gauge Subject Level Reporter
Toccoa [GA] Toccoa footbridge Rapids n/a n o
Toccoa [GA] Margret Drifts around 300 cfs Steve Reach
> 10 years Toccoa [GA] Put in at Deep Hole n/a n o
> 10 years Toccoa [GA] Sandy Bottom Rapids n/a n o
> 10 years Toccoa [GA] scouting campground for rapid n/a 0
> 10 years Toccoa [GA] The Bridge n/a Steve Reach



User Comments

Users can submit comments.
September 23 2013 (1942 days ago)
Ramblinche81 (155476)
Ran from Deep Hole to VanZant/Daniel Bridge (Newport Rd) at 300cfs with two recreational kayaks and
one tandem canoe. On the water about 7hours with a long lunch at and two portages and several
disaster recoveries. Previously my wife and I paddled Etowah through WMA with four college age
girls and they were all asking for something a little bit more challenging. This looked manageable
for a couple of newbies.....Be careful what you ask for. Great river, nice variety of what should
be challenging or entertaining shoals/sections, but maybe is NOT suitable for inexperienced or ill
equipped kayakers at this 300cfs water level. Something of an admission of guilt despite my years
of lake canoeing and three other kayak trips with my wife just this year. Oversimplified, many of
the ledges are difficult to spot and are quite shallow. It is easy to get hung up and turned
sideways. Note, our friends in a tandem canoe made it through without incident...couple close calls
which are expected. Regarding general hazards....... Similar to July post ......Two deadfalls early
on, first within 30minutes is passable on far left. At higher flows, have to believe it is full
blocked....second is within another 30minutes and it is a floater? which we had to portage over.
For those unwilling to ran the rapid on river right at Margret Drifts after swinging bridge, there
is an easier passage far left which takes you to a lower pool which you can then exit and portage a
kayak on shore around the final severe ledge/chute. Not sure if a canoe would make it through the
underbrush ....My mistake was bringing my wife's kayak down river left, portaging, and after going
back up for my kayak, watching my canoe friends go right with success, I then followed, and swamped
at the bottom...almost made it. I should have recognized the risk of swamping at the bottom wave
section avoided. I should have just started and stayed left as I did for my wife.. Contrary to the
River Description / Rapids advice for Margret Drifts, at 300cfs, once you start right, there is no
path to the middle that either of us could see while scouting from bridge and from shore.....once
at bottom, left is available, but there is no obvious path left once you start down that right
chute. I regret not having a skirt for the sit in kayaks. My wife swamped at least six times, and
twice very nearly injured herself severely on what should have been modest or easy sections. Rookie
mistakes getting hung up and a little sideways. I swamped twice. As a side note, a group of three
was putting in behind us and the outfitter who provided for them sent spotters out looking at end
of the day and we had not . Despite at least two hours of lunch/portage/disaster recovery time, we
never saw them. An hour or so later we saw one of the three hanging on to the back of the four
wheeler headed to take out location.
July 15 2013 (2012 days ago)
moosemill (155716)
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.
May 22 2010 (3162 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
A short distance from the put-in at Deep Hole, a large tree is blocking about 95%of the river.
Passage is possible on the far left, but it's a tight squeeze. Othewise, it was a great trip this
time, with water levels around 415cfs (just don't ask about how we swamped the canoe just past the
Swinging Bridge!).
April 12 2010 (3202 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
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
April 12 2010 (3203 days ago)
paddlingtime (151697)
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. my basic questions are what
kind of boat do i need to paddle this? i have a canoe, is that sufficient (assuming 400 CFS)
November 17 2009 (3348 days ago)
x (1)
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.
June 1 2009 (3518 days ago)
x (1)
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.
May 24 2009 (3526 days ago)
x (1)
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
May 6 2009 (3544 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
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
April 20 2009 (3559 days ago)
x (1)
A friend and I had a great overnighter on the Toccoa this past Friday/Saturday. Water was running a
little over 500 cfs which was great. There was a solid push all the way with very few "dead zones".
I can imagine that even at the recommended minimum 350 cfs, you would have to watch your lines to
avoid scrapes. Two deadfalls are present above Margret's Drifts. I'm not sure how far upstream but
they were easy to spot. I don't know if they constitute a warning flag either, but we did watch
three guys in a canoe flip trying to go around the first. I've flagged it just to be sure. The
first tree has a passable gap on river left. The second tree stretches the full river width and we
had to portage around it. Not easy, but doable. Both trees are a foot or more thick and will
probably be there for quite some time. Forrest Service has posted a "No Camping" sign on river left
at the Swinging Bridge just above M.D. I don't know how new the sign is, but we spoke with a fellow
camper who said it was posted because of excessive littering. No sign on river right, but the ban
may still cover this area too. Camp here at your own judgment. Several primative camp sites are
open and available just before and just after the Drifts, though. Good trout fishing. 500 cfs made
the Drifts look a little indimidating with our boats loaded with gear. No problems running them in
the morning, though. We actually had an interesting encounter with a family in four canoes that
split their party up because some of the younger ones didn't want to run the Drifts. There really
is no hiking around these rapids. The family finally connected up after more than an hour . . .
back at the bridge with all four boats more than a mile downstream. It was a reminder to me that
scouting and proper planning are essential even on a relatively flat river like this one. If you
MUST walk around the Drifts, try the right river bank. Forget portaging all the way, but an
intimidated passenger might be able to walk around this way. The rest of the trip was great. A
little cold for the morning run, but very nice. At the present water level, we estimated that the
trip could be done in 6 hours if you stopped for lunch. I took a good many photos. I'll try and
post some later. - Austin
March 11 2009 (3599 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
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.
March 11 2009 (3600 days ago)
x (1)
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?
June 13 2008 (3870 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
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
June 11 2008 (3872 days ago)
x (1)
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.
March 7 2008 (3969 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
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
June 1 2006 (4613 days ago)
Sam SmithDetails
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

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.
May 28 2006 (4617 days ago)
Rick BellowsDetails
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.
March 13 2006 (4693 days ago)
Steve ReachDetails
NEW HAZARD NOTED 3/2006: downed tree across river between Deep Hole and Margret. May be skidded
across at mean water level.
February 16 2006 (4718 days 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. :)

January 31 2005 (5099 days ago)
Ken and Fran StricklandDetails
The rapid located under the swinging bridge (referred to as MacKaye Bridge Rapid) is locally known
as the Margret Drifts.

September 13 2004 (5239 days ago)
Steve ReachDetails
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.

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Deep Hole CampgroundPutin
6.0Margret Drifts (Swinging Bridge)II+Hazard Playspot
13.5Sandy BottomsTakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Deep Hole Campground
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 6.0)

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
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.

General Nonmember Message

 Deep Hole Recreation Area to Sandy Bottoms, Toccoa Georgia, US (mobile)