|Northern Georgia Canoeing, by Bob Sehlinger and Don Otey (Hillsborough, North Carolina: Menasha Ridge Press, 1980) is still the best guide, if you can find it. It is especially helpful because it indicates minimum flows at various river and stream gaging stations. The old Brown’s Guide to the Georgia Outdoors, edited by John W. English (Atlanta: Cherokee Publishing Company, 1986) is also helpful. And there’s lot’s of information online.
Local & Outdoors Info
You can run the Toccoa below the dam, but please be aware of your level of skill and the release schedule. There may not be enough water when the TVA is not releasing, and the water is very swift when the TVA is releasing. You can access the release schedule at www.tva.gov (click on “Lakes & Recreation”, then “Recreation Release Schedules”). Note that the release schedule is subject to change without notice, and be prepared. You can put in just below the dam at a public access area and take out at Horseshoe Bend Park, off Hwy 60 just south of McCaysville.
The river gage for the Toccoa above the dam is accessed off Aska Road. Cross the Shallowford Bridge, turn right, and go right at the first fork. The gage is shortly after the road comes down to the river again. Sehlinger and Otey consider the river runnable from .7 to 6 feet, but in my experience, a reading at this gage of 2.5 to 3.5 is necessary for sufficient flow. You can also access stream flows in cubic feet per second on the TVA site www.tva.gov/lakes/streams.htm. My observations indicate that 1000 cfs equals about 3 feet on the gage, and that 800 cfs would be about 2.5 feet. If anyone has similar correlations for other streams, please email me with that info.
A good put in point is at the Deep Hole Campground, off Hwy 60 south. There is a small parking fee. For progressively shorter trips, you can also put in at the Rock Creek Bridge (off 60 south), at Margaret (where 60 south runs close to the river, steep bank), at the Butt Bridge off Doublehead Gap Road (218) (access directly next to bridge, somewhat steep), or at the Dial Bridge (end of Aska Road, left on Newport, somewhat steep).
There are also two access points upriver from Dial, where there’s room to park a trailer, if no one else is using them.
The best take out points are either at Sandy Bottoms, the forest service facility on Old Dial Road (above the river gage) or a little downstream on the same road, upstream of the Shallowford Bridge and the cabins near it. I usually take out just before the island that’s a short distance upstream of the Shallowford Bridge, because I usually take on a lot of water passing by the island.
Note that there are some rapids and a drop a short distance below the bridge, where Aska Road comes close to the river and then curves away from it. This site is known locally as as “the Rocks,” and the county owns it now. You can run that drop if you’re brave, but if there’s any real flow, it sends you pretty close to the rock at head level, and there can be a suck in the hole at the bottom. I wouldn’t run it without a helmet.
The mileage, according to the forest service, is: Deep Hole to Rock Creek, 1.5. Rock Creek to Margaret, 1. Margaret to Butt Bridge, 5.8. Butt Bridge to Dial Bridge, 1.5. Dial Bridge to Sandy Bottoms, 4.