Ocmulgee River

Quick Facts:

  • The South River watershed is located in the Upper Ocmulgee River Basin. It is composed of 155,239 acres and includes portions of DeKalb, Fulton, Rockdale, Clayton, and Henry counties.

  • The current trend in the South River corridor is the development of single-family housing. In 1997, 37 permits for subdivision development created 1,920 lots, a 79% increase in this activity from the previous years.

  • The Yellow River stretches from suburban Gwinnett County outside of Atlanta to the south, draining portions of DeKalb, Rockdale, and Newton Counties before entering the backwaters of Lake Jackson. True to its name, the Yellow runs high in sediment, resulting in a water color from light to greenish brown.

  • The Yellow River Water Trail will be 47.5 miles.

  • The Alcovy River originates in Gwinnett County, near Lawrenceville, Georgia. It flows south, eventually emptying into the northern end of Lake Jackson along the Jasper/Newton County border.

  • The South, Yellow, and Alcovy Rivers empty into Lake Jackson, converging to form the Ocmulgee River, which then flows south and east to converge with the Oconee River to form the Altamaha River, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean between Darien and Brunswick, Georgia..

  • The lower Ocmulgee and the entire main stem of the Altamaha flow un-impounded for over 300 miles with a gradient of only about one foot per mile.

  • There are approximately 13 facilities, including industries and municipalities, authorized to discharge wastewater into the Ocmulgee River Basin pursuant to NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permits.

Health of the River

In the Ocmulgee River Basin, there are about 48 rivers and streams listed on the 2002 303(d) list as waters not meeting their designated use of fishing. (Two of those 48 also do not meet their designated use of drinking water.) These impaired waters include roughly 415 miles of rivers and streams in the Ocmulgee River Basin. Additionally, the following lakes/reservoirs are included on the 303(d) list as not fully supporting designated uses:

   1. Big Haynes Reservoir (Black Shoals Lake) - 650 acres - drinking water
   2. High Falls Lake - 699 acres - recreation
   3. Lake Jackson – 4,752 acres - recreation
   4. Little Ocmulgee State Park Lake – 224 acres - fishing

Tourist Sites / Significant Parks Pertaining to River:

Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, GA – www.nps.gov/ocmu

Oconee River

 Quick Facts about the River:

 General Information:

  • The Oconee’s headwaters, the Middle and North Oconee Rivers, originate in Hall County and each flow 55-65 miles before joining south of Athens to form the main fork of the Oconee River. The Oconee then flows freely for about 20 miles until its waters are slowed and stilled in Lake Oconee. This major lake is formed by Wallace Dam, near Greensboro. A second impoundment, Lake Sinclair, is found immediately below Wallace Dam and is formed by Sinclair Dam.
  • The Oconee River downstream of Sinclair Dam flows un-impeded with the exception of one abandoned diversion dam near Milledgeville. Below that point it flows for about 143 miles to its confluence with the Ocmulgee River to form the mighty Altamaha River.
  • In general, the Oconee River flows in a south-southeasterly direction for most of its course and drains a total of 5,330 square miles.
  • Upstream of Sinclair Dam in Milledgeville, the river contains 10,973 acres of lake water, yet below Sinclair Dam there are no major impoundments.

River Uses

      Drinking Water, Hydropower, and Thermoelectric

  • The Oconee provides drinking water through 14 surface water intakes and has an equal number of wastewater effluent discharges.
  • There are currently no commercial navigation or commercial fishing operations on the Oconee River, though these have been uses historically.
  • Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair are Georgia Power Company impoundments created for the production of hydroelectric power at Wallace and Sinclair Dams; the lakes formed by those dams also provide opportunities for recreation.
  • The waters of Lake Sinclair also provide water for steam and cooling of a coal-fired thermoelectric power plant at Plant Branch on the lake just north of Milledgeville.


  • There are recreation opportunities on the Oconee River, which including fishing, swimming, canoeing and kayaking, boating, visiting historic sites, and walking along the river via established greenway trails.
  • Fishing can be good on many stretches of the Oconee River, and many species may be found there such as Largemouth Bass, Altamaha Redeye Bass, Bream, Catfish, and many other non-game fish.
  • Since the Oconee is a historically navigable river downstream of Milledgeville, the river from Sinclair Dam to the Altamaha is a great place for multi-day camping for the experienced paddler. 

      Land Use in the Oconee Basin:

  • The Oconee River basin is primarily rural with few large cities or areas of industry.
  • Poultry and dairy farming, and cattle grazing for beef production are land uses found in the watershed.


Oconee River History:

Natural History

  • The Oconee River is born on the slopes of the southern Appalachian Mountains, runs through the Piedmont, and then meanders through the coastal plain before meeting the Ocmulgee River to form the Altamaha River.
  • The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest in the world, making the Oconee one of our oldest rivers. There are aquatic flora and fauna that have been evolving for hundreds of millions of years in the Oconee.
  • Because of its relative age, the Oconee River basin supports a diverse, rich mix of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, and is home to a number of federally and state-protected species like the Altamaha Shiner and the Robust Redhorse, once thought to be extinct.

     Human History

  • The name of the river is derived from an early Creek Indian settlement in northeast Baldwin County called Oconee Old Town. Oconee is the Creek word for “the place of springs” or “the water eyes of the hills.” The Upper reach was also known as Etoho, and the Middle Oconee River was known as Ithlobee.
  • Native Americans, early Europeans, and present day Americans have been using the river for many uses that are common to most rivers in the United States like drinking water, fishing to eat, transportation corridors, and others.
  • The river was once used to transport timber, cotton, and other goods between towns along the river corridor, from Milledgeville all the way to the Darien at the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Rivers have been used as boundaries for eons, and the Oconee is no different. In the days of the Native Americans, the Creek and Cherokee Nations used the river as a boundary, as did the early settlers of the interior of Georgia.
  • The Oconee River was the boundary between the early English Colonies in Georgia, and the Native American frontier to the west.
  • All land in the region west of the Oconee River was controlled by the Creek Nation until 1802, when they surrendered their land to the U.S. at Fort Wilkinson near present day Milledgeville.


Tourist Sites and River Visitation

  • The Oconee River in Athens and Milledgeville boast Greenway Trails, which are public recreation paths that run along or near the river in those towns.
  • There is a historical mill site at Skull Shoals in Oconee National Forest, near Greensboro, GA.
  • There is a city park and boat ramp on the river at East Dublin, GA.
  • Hard Labor Creek State Park and Fort Yargo State Park are in the Apalachee River drainage, which flows into the Oconee. See www.gaparks.org for more information.
  • There is a proposed State Park on the river at Ball’s Ferry in Wilkinson County. Ball’s Ferry is a major river crossing and historically was a major Native American trail intersection. The site was also used to cross the river during the western expansion and was the site of a major battle during the Civil War. Today, there is a major road bridge just downstream of the original site.
  • There are several Wildlife Management Areas managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, that run along or adjacent/near the river like...

River Groups

  • Upper Oconee Watershed Network
  • Oconee Project of Altamaha River-keeper
  • Friends of the Apalachee:
  • Georgia River Network:
  • Save Lake Oconee’s Waters
  • River Rendezvous, sponsored by Upper Oconee Watershed Network, is an “annual watershed- wide monitoring event that provides a ‘snapshot’ of water quality for streams and rivers throughout the Upper Oconee.”


Environmental Concerns:


The Upper Oconee contains 5,467 impoundments, which cover 175 square km in the entire watershed. The Oconee River basin contains three major surface water reservoirs, Lake Sinclair, Bear Creek Reservoir and Lake Oconee. 

Fish Consumption Advisories:

Sadly, certain pollutants can stay in a river ecosystem and river food-chain for a long time, and some like mercury can be found indefinitely. Fish consumption advisories are issued by the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to inform the public what are safe amounts of certain fish to eat. The advisories are issued according to the waterway. Current advisories can be found on the web at https://georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us.

What Kind of Planning Makes Sense for Your Group

Question: I'm on the board of a nonprofit, and I was recently filling out a grant application that asked for a copy of our strategic plan. I’ve also been asked by major donors for a copy of our fundraising plan. We haven’t been doing planning, but it looks like we should think about it. What does a strategic or fundraising plan usually include, and how do we create them?

Answer: Planning is useful both for the people who are giving your organization money, and for your organization itself. It helps the funders know what direction you’re planning to go in the coming year, and it helps keep you from drifting away from what your board has decided are the best places to put your energy and time. Nonprofits create plans for many different aspects of their work, from IT to Communications to an overarching Strategic Plan. Here are some types of plans that are commonly created to help nonprofit organizations run smoothly.

Strategic Plan
Strategic planning is the process of designing a direction for an entire organization for a specific period of time. It looks at where an organization stands and where it is going over a period of (usually) 3-5 years.

 A strategic plan answers questions like:
1. "What do we want to do?"
2. "For whom will we do it?"
3. "How will we excel?"

In order to determine where it is going, the organization needs to know exactly where it stands, then determine where it wants to go and how it will get there. (It helps to think in terms of “programs” in laying out areas of work.) The resulting document is called the "strategic plan," which forms the foundation for all the other work done within the organization.

Annual Plan of Work
The Annual Plan is a matrix of task assignments and timelines for a particular year, based on strategies outlined in the strategic plan.

Fundraising Plan
For specific program areas or other projects (like the acquisition of office space, or the hiring of a new staff member), a fundraising plan brings clarity to how the organization will raise the funds to pay for what it needs. You can create a fundraising plan for an individual area of your work, or for the program work for the whole organization.

Campaign Plan
A campaign is an organized effort to influence the decision-making process within a specific group. Charitable nonprofits cannot campaign for a particular political candidate running for office, but they can run campaigns to get land protected, change laws, involve citizens in a particular issue, and so on.

Campaigning can be very complicated, with a lot of uncertain outcomes, defeats and victories. A campaign plan is an effective way of objectively gauging the lay of the land before the campaign is underway: figuring out who the key players are, who will support you, who will oppose you, and who is undecided about your issue (and who will, therefore, need to be convinced by your arguments).

The process of campaign planning can help your group get a “bird’s eye view” of an issue, so it is easier to decide how to proceed later, when you’re in the thick of things!


Question: I’m on the board of a small watershed group and recently our board has decided that we need to create a website to keep our members updated on what’s going on.  The problem is, we don’t really have much money.  What’s the most affordable way to create an online presence?

Answer: First of all, having a web presence these days is not only a good idea; it’s a really great idea.  In the past decade or so, people have gotten so used to going online to find news or information about their favorite organizations; people assume it’s not a real thing if they can’t find out about it online.

Websites are relatively easy to create these days with simple online tools like WordPress.  Of course, if nobody on your board has any knowledge of how to create a website and everybody is scared to death of trying it, it’s probably a good idea to bring somebody in from outside to help you create your website and teach you how to manage it.  As far as how much this sort of thing usually costs, it really depends on how complicated a website you’re looking to build. But ask around-- someone on your board might know someone who can help you out at a discounted rate.  As always, it’s good to interview several web designers before you choose one, and make sure you go to them with concrete examples of websites that you like and make sure the board discusses in advance exactly how much information needs to be relayed through this website.  Also, make sure there’s a person on your board who is taking the lead on this project and always has a good grasp on what stage of development the designer is in and, most importantly, knows how to maintain the site after the web developer hands you the reigns.

All that said, don’t think that just because your organization doesn’t have the money to build a website that you can’t have a robust online presence.  Facebook, YouTube, Twitter or a blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress are free and easy ways to help you reach out to people really effectively.  For instance, many, many of your members are probably on Facebook, and if your organization has a page, any news you post will show up in the feed of the Facebookers who “Like” you.  Similarly, setting up a simple blog on Blogger or WordPress can provide a place for your members to go when they do a search for your organization.  And from there, you can post videos to a YouTube account and link them to Facebook or your blog.  You can use Twitter to update people as well. 

So, my advice is to first do some research into creating a website—you won’t regret it!  But if it proves to be too costly, look into these other social networking options while you raise money to one day create the website of your dreams! These platforms are free and with a little dedication to their upkeep, they can be just as effective as a website!

Good luck!

How to Get the Most for Your Advertising Dollar

Question: I want take out an ad in my local paper to educate people about an issue our group is currently working on.  Any suggestions about how to create the best ad possible?

Answer:  Well, you’re in luck, because there is a person put here in the world who can tell you exactly how to do this!  Eric Eckl of Water Words That Work has a website full of useful information about how to create ads, brochures, websites, petitions or fundraising letters that people will respond to. 

Here Eric suggests what NOT to do when making an argument to the public to protect our rivers:

  • Mistake #1: “If only they knew.” I hear this one from my clients a lot. “If only they knew they lived in a watershed,” “If only they knew they knew the storm drain went to the creek.” So they produce materials that are long on science education and short on action messages. As you might expect, these materials produce little action.

  • Mistake #2: Weak photography. Nature protection groups use a lot of pretty nature pictures. Pollution control organizations show a lot of pipes and oil slicks. No problem there, but when we pre-test those messages, test subjects often ask for photographs that demonstrate what action they can take.

  • Mistake #3: Professional jargon. Scientists, engineers, and lawyers tend to use professional lingo that sends the message to the public that your message isn’t meant for them. Pre-testing your materials is great way to uncover words that you thought were plain English, but aren’t.

  • Mistake #4: Too depressing. Sure, you have to convince people there’s a problem before they will do something to help solve it. But if you go to far, you will demoralize your audience.

  • Mistake #5: It’s all up to you. Let’s face it. Most of the things that everyday citizens can do to protect nature or control pollution make a pretty small difference — and they know it. But when we all do our part, it adds up to something big. So it’s very important to include in your message some words and pictures about the other people who are doing their part: donating, picking up after their dog, turning off their lights, signing that petition, etc.

Check out Eric’s website to find great examples of good media, as well as the not-so-good!