Follow a Historic Native American Trade Route on Georgia’s Oostanaula River

oostanaula river kayaking
The Tennessee Valley Canoe Club on the Oostanaula River. Photo by TVCC

The name Oostanaula is a derivation of the Cherokee phrase for “Shoal River. ” The inspiration behind the name is a mystery since the gradient of the stream averages less than 1 foot per mile. There are occasionally ripples, but rapids are nonexistent as Oostanaula River kayaking loops lazily across Gordon and Floyd Counties on its way to Rome, where it combines with the Etowah to form the Coosa River. Less than 50 miles in length, the Oostanaula is formed by the union of the Coosawattee and Conasauga rivers.

Get an Overview of the Coosa River Watershed where Oostanaula River is located.

USGS and County Maps for Oostanaula River Kayaking

Calhoun North, Sugar Valley, Calhoun South, Plainville, Armuchee, Shannon, Rome North (USGS); Gordon, Floyd (County)

Oostanaula River Kayaking from GA 225 to Rome


Class: I; Length: 49 miles; Time: 5.5 days; Gauge: Web; Level: N/A; Gradient: 1 foot per mile; Scenery: C-D


The Oostanaula River stands prominently in Cherokee history as a major artery for trade and the site of the Cherokee Nation’s capital, New Echota, located at the head of the Oostanaula where the Conasauga and the Coosawattee meet. The town was the center of government and culture for the Cherokees, and was where, in 1826, Sequoyah began printing the Cherokee Phoenix, a newspaper printed in the Cherokee alphabet. Although the Cherokee people won the legal battle to retain the sovereignty of their nation, President Andrew Jackson refused to obey the ruling, resulting in the tragic removal of the people who had inhabited these lands long before the arrival of the settlers. The New Echota State Historic site, located in what is now known as Calhoun, memorializes the historic Cherokee presence and is part of the Chieftains Trail of historical sites that thread through northwest Georgia.

Navigation for Oostanaula River kayaking is uncomplicated. The current is slow and downstream momentum is dependent on the will and stamina of the paddler. The streamside environment is agricultural, with some woodland. The scenery is visually pleasing, but the river begins and ends in urban areas, with accompanying sewage treatment facilities. The city of Rome, which grew from the Cherokee trading village of Chiaha, anchors the mouth of the Oostanaula where it meets the Etowah. Man-made flood control levees in Rome block some evidence of the city’s presence and create a park-like atmosphere.


The last opportunity to take-out on this Oostanaula River kayaking trip is on river left immediately before the entry of the Etowah on the same side. Access is from the parking lot located behind the buildings at the corner of West First Street and Broad Street in downtown Rome. See the Google Map for access points upstream.


Data is available at the USGS Web site for gauges located at Resaca and Rome. The river is large and usually runnable, unless at flood stage.

See more Georgia Rivers

This Oostanaula River kayaking guide is adapted from Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia by Suzanne Welander and Bob Sehlinger and published here in cooperation with Menasha Ridge Press. Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia covers thousands of miles of Georgia waterways from whitewater to wilderness swamps and everything in between. It’s an indispensable guide to anyone interested in paddling Georgia’s rivers and streams. Order directly from Menasha Ridge Press. See a comprehensive list of other Menasha outdoor publications indexed by title, author, category, and region.

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