The Oconee watershed is one of Georgia’s 14 major watersheds. The North Oconee and Middle Oconee rivers join to form the Oconee River about 6 miles south of Athens, Georgia. The river then flows south, with stops at Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair, to join the Ocmulgee near Lumber City and form the Altamaha River. The Altamaha then flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Altamaha Sound near Darien.
See all of Georgia’s 14 Major Watersheds
The Oconee Watershed System
The headwaters of the Oconee River rise at the base of the Chattahoochee Ridge between Atlanta, Georgia, and a point 10 miles north-northeast of Gainesville, Georgia, at an elevation of 1,000 feet above sea level. The North Oconee and Middle Oconee rivers join to form the Oconee River about 6 miles south of Athens, Georgia. From there the river flows south, with stops at Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair, to join the Ocmulgee at a location known as “The Forks,” near Lumber City and form the Altamaha. From the junction of the Ocmulgee and the Oconee, the Altamaha flows 137 miles to join the Atlantic Ocean at Altamaha Sound near Darien, Georgia. More water flows into the Atlantic from the Altamaha Basin (including the Oconee and Ocmulgee basins) than from any other river in the Southeast. Read an Oconee River Paddling Guide
How the Oconee Got Its Name
Oconee Old Town, the name of a Creek settlement, was located a few miles south of present-day Milledgeville. The Indian village gave its name to the Oconee River. The meaning of the word is unknown.
Experiences in the Oconee Watershed
Listed below are locations where you can see or experience the Oconee Watershed.
This historic park features one of four log forts, or blockhouses, built in 1792 by settlers for protection against Creek and Cherokee Indians. Located between Atlanta and Athens, Fort Yargo offers a unique camping and fishing experience for families. Within the park is Will-A-Way Recreation Area, a facility specifically designed for special populations, with cottages, a group camp, food service facilities and picnic and fishing area.
The Oconee Watershed Connection: Fort Yargo is on the Apalachee River, which flows into the Oconee, which eventually merges with the Ocmulgee to form the Altamaha.
A challenging 18-hole public golf course is one of the attractions of this park near the antebellum town of Madison in central Georgia. It is believed that the name “Hard Labor” was given to the area either by slaves who tilled the fields in summer or by Indians who found the stream difficult to ford.
The Oconee Watershed Connection: Hard Labor Creek flows into the Apalachee River just above its confluence with the Oconee. The Oconee merges with the Ocmulgee to form the Altamaha.
Read an Oconee River Paddling Guide