Since this was my third jaunt in a canoe, I found this trip to be quite challenging. I traveled with a very experienced paddler, who had done the Etowah on many occasions. We put-in at the bridge on US 19 west of Dahlonega at 1pm. We had planned a 12 mile trip that could have finished at dusk were it not for the low water levels. As a result we took out at the bridge at GA 136 at around 10:00pm. There is free parking at the base of the put-in bridge and off-road parking at the take-out.
Tip #1 - check the water levels before planning a trip on this river.
About 1.5 miles into our trip, the scenery was so beautiful we stopped at Etowah Falls for a snack and sun on the rocks. Note: you'll need to portage over or around the rocks to pass these falls. Low water levels made the resulting bump and grind particularly bad a couple of miles before and after Castleberry Bridge.
Tip #2 put in at Castleberry Bridge if levels are low or a shorter trip is desired.
Located just below this bridge is best part of the trip. An old mine tunnel about 7 feet in diameter and about .2 mile long which has nice rapids for a canoe. Be sure to check to see if there is "light at the end of the tunnel" before entering as the exit may be obstructed by fallen trees making it unsafe. This little section of water made the whole trip worth the aggravation very exhilarating.
Tip #3 I had a head lamp on but just for fun try it with no head lamp either way see if you can locate the "air hole" about midway through the run noted by an intense rushing sound overhead.
The last part of our journey was arduous and mostly in the dark. Equipped with a head lamp, I navigated for my partner who valiantly paddled "gondola" style so as best to see the path of my light amid the insects that were attracted to it.
We have a wide body Water Quest canoe that made standing up possible and it seemed to aid our progress. We encountered several fallen trees that were difficult to pass through including one "strainer" that my partner noted having experienced on each. It failed to "strain" us due to my determination to get off the river as soon as possible.
The take-out is at the base of the bridge at GA 136 and is quite a steep haul to the road. The off-road parking isnt very convenient but loading up is manageable with little traffic.
Amicola Falls State park is not far, and great if you want to make a weekend of it as there are campgrounds, restrooms and cabins. Breakfast in the lodge is recommended.
Put-in: From Atlanta travel north Georgia 400/ US 19 toward Dahlonega. Put-in is west of Dahlonega on US 19.
Take-Out: Travel Georgia 136 east from US 19 until you reach the bridge