Paddle Georgia 2009 on the
Coosawattee & Oostanaula Rivers
Paddle Georgia 2009 is unique in that both the start and the finish of the trip mark the “beginnings” of a river.
From Ellijay, our journey will start at the headwaters of the Coosa River system that stretches from the mountains of North Georgia to Mobile Bay in Alabama. Just upstream from our initial launch site, the Ellijay and Cartecay rivers join to form the Coosawattee. Our final takeout will actually be on the Coosa River within site of where the Oostanaula and Etowah rivers join in downtown Rome. Along the way, we’ll even have the opportunity to paddle up the Conasauga River, the Coosawattee’s Northwest Georgia sister that helps form the Oostanaula. These webs of rivers and their tributaries support 183 species of fish, crayfish, snails and mussels, including 30 species that are found no where else in the world. This treasure trove of biodiversity makes the Upper Coosa North America’s most biologically diverse river basin. That’s right, not even the mighty Mississippi or beautiful Columbia can match the Coosa when it comes to biodiversity.
So, hop in your boat, and join us on this “virtual tour” of the Paddle Georgia 2009 route. More importantly, get out from in front of that computer screen and join us June 20 for the real thing. Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby…
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To dance a jig, you must be springy and sprightly. To paddle the Ellijay Jig, you’ll need to be as lively with the paddle. This 13-mile river run dishes out steady Class I and II rapids and in places half-mile runs of almost continuous shoals and rapids. With the exception of the last three miles of lake paddling, it is a true whitewater run.
The day begins at the riverside park that annually hosts Ellijay’s Apple Festival each fall. You’ll drift below the Ga. 5 bridge and from there the pace quickens. A Native American Fish Weir, evidence of the region’s earlier culture, signals the entrance into modern day river dwellings. The Coosawattee River Resort, an expansive residential development, will flank the river the next six miles.
Although the scenery is often interrupted by homes and docks, the run is beautiful. Tiny mountain streams spill down steep ridges to join the river and rock gardens, ledges, and shoals keep the flatwater to a minimum.
An alternative take out at mile six will permit beginners to bypass the most difficult whitewater of this section further downstream.
Near mile seven as the river approaches its confluence with Mountaintown Creek, a series of ledges lead to a continuous run of swift moving water that ends at the mouth of Mountaintown. From Mountaintown, the rapids pick up again for another mile and a half before ending abruptly in the flooded backwaters of Carters Lake.
Paddling across the last shoal and entering the lake is akin to watching a funeral procession. The sounds of rushing water fade away and are replaced with the peace and stillness of the lake. It’s hard to shake a somber feeling as you watch a free-flowing river die—bottled up behind concrete and steel some 10 miles downstream. And, of course, with no current, forward progress is wholly dependent upon the paddler.
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