North Georgia contains many rivers. The Conasauga River originates in Fannin County and flows for about 60 miles to where it merges with the Coosawattee River to form the Oostanaula River. The Coosawattee River begins in downtown Ellijay at the confluence of the Ellijay and Cartecay rivers, forms Carter’s Lake, and then merges with the Conasauga River. The Ellijay River originates in the mountains of Gilmer County and flows to downtown Ellijay where it combines with the Cartecay River to form the Coosawattee River.
From its headwaters near the Georgia/North Carolina border, the Tallulah River flows about 20 miles to merge with the Chattooga River and form the Tugaloo River. The Chattooga River starts near the tri-state area of North Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina, and it also merges with the Tugaloo River. The Tugaloo River flows for about 25 miles and empties into Clarks Hill Lake. In North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the Oostanaula River flows from Gordon County southwest for 47 miles to join with the Etowah River at Rome and form the Coosa River. The Etowah River originates in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Lumpkin County. The Coosa River flows west for about 30 miles to where it crosses the Alabama state line.
The Chattahoochee River is one of the largest and most important rivers in North Georgia because it is used as a source of drinking water for the City of Atlanta. Blocking the Chattahoochee River with Buford Dam in 1956 filled up the region’s valleys and created a 38,000 acre lake, Lake Lanier, with 692 miles of thickly forested shoreline. In 1962 the Georgia State Legislature established the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority to manage and develop Lake Lanier as a recreational resort for the citizens of Georgia. Lake Lanier Islands Resort has evolved into a resort area that attracts 7.5 million visitors annually and it is well on its way to becoming Georgia’s first all inclusive, comprehensive resort destination.
Almost the entire length of the Chattahoochee River in North Georgia is a major source of recreation. Fishing, boating, canoeing, tubing, camping and hiking along its shores are all popular activities. Beginning at Buford Dam and continuing downstream for 48 miles through four counties to Peachtree Creek near downtown Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area provides outdoor recreation for more than 3 million visitors per year. The Chattahoochee National Recreation Area contains 16 park areas with numerous picnic tables, 50 miles of hiking trails, and rental facilities for canoes, kayaks and river rafts.
The Toccoa River
The Toccoa River flows down from mountains near the town of Suches in North Georgia and continues through the Blue Ridge Mountains for about 60 miles to where it crosses the state line into Tennessee at McCaysville in Fannin County. Blue Ridge Lake is located approximately halfway between the Toccoa River’s origin and its exit point from Georgia. The Toccoa River is very popular with tourists because it provides the perfect setting for a quintessential North Georgia vacation. During the summer, the upper Toccoa is a popular location for canoeing, kayaking and tubing. Flowing through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in North Georgia, the Toccoa River reaches Blue Ridge Lake where boating and bass fishing are the most popular activities. The lower Toccoa is renowned for being the best tail water trout fishery in Georgia.
The Toccoa River is also known for whitewater rafting. Stretching from the Deep Hole Recreation Area to Sandy Bottoms in Georgia, a 13.5 mile long section of the river features class I-II difficulty according to American Whitewater. There is also a 13.8 mile Toccoa River Canoe Trail that is ideal for beginning canoe paddlers who can traverse a few easy rapids. The Toccoa River Canoe Trail winds through pastoral scenery containing thickets of laurel and rhododendron, and it is renowned for being one of the best designated canoe trips in the United States.