(Article and photos by Tom Lamb in conjunction with the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber and Visitors Bureau)
Dahlonega is surrounded by excellent canoe and kayak opportunities, offering many days of paddling. Whether you are looking for a leisurely float trip on flatwater or an exciting whitewater run, one does not have to look far from the Historic Dahlonega Public Square! There are two kayak and canoe outfitters only minutes from downtown. Or bring your own boat for access to more remote sections of river.
The Chestatee River runs through the city limits along the Achasta golf course. The section from the Highway 52 bridge at the old Oar House is a fun, mostly flat, run with the occasional shoals to add some excitement.
The section of the Chestatee from the Hwy 60 bridge at Achasta to the Lumpkin County Access near Hwy 400 offers canoe and kayak rental from the two outfitters listed at the end of this article. The run takes a couple of hours and includes several class I rapids and many shoals and rock gardens along the way. Rent a boat or bring your own for a great afternoon of fun.
When the water is up, a great creek run is the Yahoola Creek from Yahoola Creek Park to the Chestatee River. Appalachian Outfitters rents boats for this run, which winds through this old gold mining area. Note the remains of the Findley Gold Mine about halfway down the run.
The Etowah River is Lumpkin County’s other river. The Etowah (Cherokee for “town”) River offers many sections to choose from and a variety of difficulty. The upper Etowah flows almost exclusively through the Chattahoochee National Forest from Hightower Bridge to Jay Bridge. This is the most remote section, with no road crossings and only two houses on the whole run. It also presents the most difficulty with several class II rapids and many shoals and rock gardens.
From Jay Bridge to the Hwy 9 Bridge at Pine Valley, the river runs for a two-hour float on mostly flat water. This section is very scenic with just enough shoals to offer some fun navigation challenges. 1/3 of the way down this run, cross under the Hwy 52 Bridge. From here to Castleberry Bridge, Appalachian Outfitters offers boat rental with shuttles.
The Hwy 9 to Castleberry Bridge section is the most challenging of the Etowah with many class I and several class II rapids. In the middle of the run is the infamous Etowah Falls, an 8 foot drop with a secondary 3 foot drop. This rapid can be easily portaged on the right. It is not recommended to run this rapid unless one is experienced with Class IV rapids.
These sections, all within 30 minutes of downtown Dahlonega, offer isolated beauty and solitude to the paddler. There is nothing like floating down a rushing river or creek, through the hardwood forest, with the sounds of burbling water to relax one and wash away the bustle of everyday life. Take advantage of the warm weather and the rain we have had lately and get on the water!
Resources: Dahlonega Canoe & Kayak Guide and Map (available at the Visitors Center or online at: http://dahlonega.org/images/Files/Dahlonega-Canoe-Kayak-Guide.pdf)
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