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Etowah River in Georgia

Trip Overview

Etowah River - From GA 9 to Kelly Bridge Road

(about 9 miles, 2.5 hours, 3.6 mph, class I)

GA 136 (Landrum) gauge read 2.8', 260 cfs
GA 9 (Dawsonville) gauge read 4.95', 305 cfs

The put-in is the free Etowah River Park (called in the guide book Mountain Stewards Launch Site) on river right, downstream side of the GA 9 bridge. Note that GA 9 also crosses the river further upstream, so when arranging meeting locations with others you'll need to be clear about which crossing you're referring to . This park has lots of parking, a stepped boat ramp, toilet, pavilion and swing.
Coordinates are 34.359198, -84.113525.

This is mostly in Dawson Forest so the only development you'll see are several houses at the start and finish, and some old bridges and bridge abutments. Some banks are lined with rhododendron, mountain laurel, and nearer the end there are rock outcrops or cliffs.

There were some sandbars in the first 2 or 3 miles, then not many good stopping spots, especially for a group, until the last 2 or 3 miles. A good place to take a lunch break is the waterfall (Bear Foot Falls) on river left roughly 6 miles from the put-in. The waterfall is a very high cascade which may be just a trickle in dryer weather. It is about 5 minutes past an old truss bridge. At this water level you'll have to drag one boat at a time up the steep bank to make room for others to get out. But atop the bank is a large open area. Lots of horse riders here on this day and the Dawson Forest is laced with trails.

There are few shoals on this section but Radioactive Rapid is 5 or 10 minutes past Bear Foot Falls. It consists of two ledges and an island. If you don't want to run it, portage across the island. Otherwise the deepest channel is far left. It's a straight shot through standing waves, and has a huge pool for swimming.

Along the river there are downed trees, mostly bare of limbs and lying on the bottom. We only had to get out once to drag over a log. In lower water you'll get out more often to drag over. At this level it took us 2.5 hours (3.6 mph), excluding a lunch stop, to make the take-out.

The take-out is on river right at a private parking area, Kelly Bridge Canoe & Kayak Launch. Deposit your $3 per person in the drop box. The park has toilet and changing rooms.
Coordinates are 34.353738, -84.206349.

This was a very pretty section of river and I look forward to paddling it again. There was very little trash along the river. Let's keep it that way.


Nearest public camping may be Amicalola State Park or campgrounds on Lake Lanier. The latter close in winter. There may be private campgrounds nearby as well.

For food you can hit up the area around North Georgia Premium Outlet on GA 400, just south of GA 53. Motels in Dahlonega. Tons of restaurants and one or two grocery stores.


Our boats were one tandem Old Town Pathfinder 15' canoe and one solo whitewater kayak.


Fee of $3/person to use the private Kelly Bridge take-out.


A good guide book is "Etowah River User's Guide" by Joe Cook.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip