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Carter's Lake in Georgia

Trip Overview

At about 10:30 a.m. I launched my CD Storm touring kayak at the boat ramp of Ridgeway Recreation area near the upper reaches of the lake. I had planned to paddle as far as I could up the Coosawattee river arm of the lake. It was a great day for kayaking as it was fair and the high temperature reached the low 80's. By the end of the trip it was completely overcast with a very gentle breeze.

Carter's Lake is a beautiful mountain lake (actually it is in the Appalachian foothills of North Georgia, but if you are originally from South Georgia like me - these are mountains). One can only imagine what it must look like in October when the leaves change. The quiet and solitude that you feel on this lake are unparalleled in all of my years of kayaking. I saw only four or five boats the whole time - mostly fisherman. The shoreline of the lake is very steep and quite rocky with very few places where you could pull up to shore and get out to stretch your legs. The water is a medium green and it is clear enough so that you can see submerged objects that are several feet deep. One of the most delightful and unexpected aspects of the trip is the many small waterfalls that you encounter along the shores of the lake and river. As you paddle along you begin to hear the soothing sound of falling water in the distance that gets progressively louder as you approach. Often, the falls are obscured by the low branches of hardwood trees and only become visible when you maneuver the bow of your boat near the water's edge. The effort is greatly rewarded with the view of these little falls and the rush of cool air associated with them.

As you paddle up the Coosawatee, the water changes progressively to a dark, murky brown reminding me of some South Georgia rivers. Broad, grassy mud flats line the inside shores of the river's meandering turns. In regards to local fauna, the kingfisher is king - I must have seen a dozen of these hardworking little birds. Many turtles and a few vultures also revealed their presence. I even heard the snorts of a deer. At about 12:30 p.m., I reached my desired destination - the rocky class I rapids of the Coosawattee. I played around a while maneuvering my boat through the rocks in the swift current (as much as a 17' touring kayak can be maneuvered in this environment). I longed at this moment for one of those short whitewater or recreational kayaks - of course I wouldn't want to have to paddle one of those back to the boat ramp. I beached my 'yak along the muddy shore in a stream run next to yet another waterfall, pulled my lunch out of the dry hatch and took the most relaxing lunch break that I have had in quite a while. Talk about therapy for the stress of this hustle and bustle world! The trip back to the landing was quite easy and relaxing with a gentle current behind me on the first leg of the trip. I intermittently paddled and casted a spinner bait along the shore. The fish were in no danger today. I also found the best waterfall I had found yet in a bend of the river where a lot of submerged trees were left for fish cover when the Dam was built. The beauty of this waterfall is that it is virtually inaccessible from a powerboat. I arrived back at the landing around 2:30 p.m. for the hardest part of a day's paddle - loading up for the trip home.

For you paddlers out there that like to carry along the old GPS, I am including a few waypoints that you may want to program in if you plan to duplicate this trip.

Ridgeway Landing: N 34 Degrees 39.034 W 084 Degrees 36.621
Best Waterfall: N 34 Degrees 38.519 W 084 Degrees 35.345
Coosawattee Rapids: N 34 Degrees 39.811 W 084 35.172


At Ridgeway Landing there is a restroom and picnic tables.


Use fee of $4.00.


From Atlanta,GA take I-75N to I-575N. I-575N becomes 515 which will take you to Ellijay. From here take 76/GA 282 West to the Ridgeway Recreation area. Go to http://carters.sam.usace.army.mil/CLmap.htm for a lake map and directions.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip