Kayak Middle Georgia’s Potato Creek, a Fault Line Stream With Intense Rapids

potato creek kayaking
Potato Creek. Photo by Mike Bishop

The sleek blue C-I completed the ferry above the big waterfall, spun, and plunged over the edge into the huge exploding hole at the base. A satisfied smile crossed the boater’s face as he punched the hole and cleared the rapid; eddying to the right, he watched as three more boats surged over the falls and plummeted into the hole. Now you might think it’s flat down south of Atlanta, but that’s not entirely true. A series of faults cross Georgia, creating spectacles like Potato Creek. With an average gradient in the I-mile rapid stretch exceeding 100 feet per mile, Potato Creek kayaking is intense.

Get an Overview of the Flint Watershed where Potato Creek is located

USGS and County Maps for Potato Creek Kayaking

Thomaston, Sunset Village (USGS); Upson (County)

Potato Creek Kayaking from GA 74 to GA 36

TRIP SUMMARY

Class: III (IV); Length: 6 miles; Time: 3.5 hours; Gauge: Visual; Level: 0; Gradient: 47 feet per mile; Scenery:B-

DESCRIPTION

An optional 3-mile, Class II warm-up precedes the popular whitewater stretch of Potato Creek kayaking that begins at GA 74. The bottom drops out about a half click below the GA 74 bridge with a remarkable 40-foot horizon line. The entire drop is divided by an island two-thirds of the way down. Both sides are runnable, but river left is the usual route, avoiding the undercut rock three-quarters of the way down. On river right a big vertical drop-Oh! Cool-plummets into a pool and is followed by several more smaller drops. A small pool below the island allows for regrouping and a good view downstream.

Horizon lines stretch off to the limit of sight. The Potato Creek kayaking drops are continuous and sometimes blind. The best lines are not always obvious and change with the level; it helps to have someone who knows them with you the first time. Fools Falls and Impact Falls are some of the most dangerous drops. Both are sheer and should be boofed or ski-jumped to avoid being pinned in the shallow water below. The rapids have ample play spots, especially a great surfing wave in Mr. Potato Head Rapid, located near the bottom of the run. The rapids stretch ends after about a mile with a long, technical, boulder sieve.

A mile of flat-water Potato Creek kayaking follows, and then you’ll arrive at the takeout bridge just before Potato Creek Falls. You can hear the falls well before you see its horizon line. Falling over 80 feet, three back-to-back waterfalls comprise the cascade. Paddle down to the lip to check its runability; the bridge is an acceptable takeout and the last completely legal one. Meat Grinder is the first of two sliding drops and ends in a shallow pool. Run on the right or center. Then comes Mashed Potato, another sliding drop; run on the far right. The last drop, Potato Creek Falls, is about 20 feet through a very steep, twisting slide into an enormous exploding and curling hole. Don’t worry; it usually doesn’t hold boats, especially since you are moving at such a great speed. Following the falls are sets of nasty boulder sieves on either side of an island dividing the stream. The take-out is on the left. This is a semi-private road, so be brief and mind your manners.

SHUTTLE

Potato Creek is in the vicinity of Thomaston, south of Atlanta. To get there follow GA 74 west from Thomaston towards Woodbury. Turn right on FS 69, immediately after the Potato Creek bridge. The put-in is via the tiny feeder stream that runs under the bridge and into Potato Creek. Be courteous, as this might be private land. The take-out is back to Thomaston, then a right at the light onto GA 36 west. Park at the bridge. It is possible to take the last left before the bridge, but this is a private road and you will need to ask for permission to park there. The three drops-Meat Grinder, Mashed Potato, and Potato Falls are all visible from the GA 36 bridge.

GAUGE

The gauge is painted on the bridge piling at GA 74. A level even with the bottom of the slab on the pillar at GA 36 is considered zero. While runnable at this level, high water runs start at 1 foot. It is usually runnable after rain in October through June.

See more Georgia Rivers

This Potato Creek 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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