Just a few miles east of the Outlet Mall extravaganza in Dawsonville, Ga, awaits a serene 9 mile section of the Etowah River that flows through the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area owned by the City of Atlanta.
Like on many north Georgia rivers, Great Blue Herons, wild turkeys, and Kingfishers are frequently spotted as well as deer, Wood Ducks, Red-tail Hawks, and occasionally otters and beavers. Anglers have also reported excellent fishing for River Catfish, Red Eyed Bass, and Bream.
The Etowah River runs for 164 miles beginning northwest of Dahlonega, Ga and eventually flowing into Lake Allatoona.
A popular day trip (approx. 4 hours) is a 9 mile run that travels through the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area. You can split this trip up by opting for primitive camping in the forest.
Put-in: From Atlanta, take GA 400 North to the North GA Premium Outlet Mall in Dawsonville. Turn left onto Dawson Forest Road. Drive 4 Miles to Highway 9 and turn right. The put in is 1/5 mile ahead on the left. Parking is free and the park offers a nice boat ramp, restroom facilities and picnic table.
Take-Out: On Highway 9, drive South 1.6 miles. Turn right on A.T. Moore Road, go about 1 mile and take slight right on Kelly Bridge Road. Continue for 6 miles until you cross the bridge over the Etowah and park in field on the right. There is a very nice boat ramp making the take-out easy. This is private property and requires a $3 fee per person – envelopes available at the gate.
Often the locals will refer to the “radiation caves” located along the river. In the 1950’s this area was owned by the U.S. government who had a secret nuclear facility on the property. You can still see the remaining bridge abutments and hot cell building. Read more about the history and urban legends.
This Youtube video includes pictures and maps of the facility.