The Soque is a northern Chattahoochee River tributary with two lives. The top section, a Class I-II mountain stream near the border of the Chattahoochee National Forest, serves up a delightful Soque River kayaking of mountain forests on a flow volume similar to the upper Chestatee, with less dramatic thrills than the nearby upper Chattahoochee. As the river passes through the town of Clarkesville and Habersham Mills below, Soque River kayaking metamorphoses from a cool, clear, trout-supporting flow to a warmer, murky one that stains the Chattahoochee brown as it joins the larger stream.
Get an Overview of the Chattahoochee Watershed where the Soque River is located.
USGS and County Maps for Soque River Kayaking
Lake Burton, Clarksville Northeast, Clarksville (USGS); Habersham (County)
Soque River Kayaking from GA 356 to GA 197
Class: I-II; Length: 7.0 miles; Time: 4 hours; Gauge: None; Level: N/A; Gradient: 18 feet per mile; Scenery: B
The prettiest stretch of Soque River kayaking lies in this section. The river dances nimbly over its rocky bottom as it speeds through the mature forest, fragrant with the rich aroma of the ancient Appalachians. Hemlocks and rhododendrons cradle the banks. Rapids in the Class I range start the first mile of the trip, building to numerous Class II rapids that make up the meat of the run. The intensity of the drops falls again to Class I during the final third, as the take-out is neared.
It is worth noting that Soque River kayaking has been discouraged in the area for years by the largest local landowner, whose residence sits atop a prominent bluff overlooking the river in this section, enabling efficient policing of river usage. Ownership of this property is in a state of transition, which may result in conditions more hospitable toward paddlers. Strictly limit your on-the-ground activities to the public right-of-way found at state highways, and, as usual, leave no trace behind. Warning: The surrounding community believes that this river is not open to paddling, and is well-coached in how to communicate this. Some believe that this is motivated by an upscale trout-fishing resort on the river. Unless and until the situation changes, expect to be challenged.
Habersham Mills owns a big chunk of property on the river, south of Clarkesville. There are two dams on the river here, connected by a dry stretch of river that only runs during heavy rains. The lack of flow and public access points eliminates paddling through this segment. Access is also not available at GA 105, where a new bridge rises high above the streambed. For the determined, Hazel Creek provides an exciting Class III+ approach to the lower section of the Soque. Putting in at Main Street (US 441 Bus.) in Demorest results in a 9.2-mile run to the Duncan Bridge take-out on the Chattahoochee: 3.2 miles down Hazel Creek, 4.9 miles on the lower Soque, and 1.1 miles on the Chattahoochee. A dam is located where Hazel meets the Soque, and a rapid reminiscent of Bull Sluice is found below that. As with the upper section, keep in mind that you will be passing private property along the way and that landowners in the area feel strongly about their river being off-limits to boaters. Confrontations are not unusual. As the locals recite: “Try the upper Hooch. The rapids are better.” Maybe that’s not such bad advice.
From Clarkesville, take GA 197 north to a right hand turn onto Ben Jones Road. This is the take-out for this section. To get to the put-in, return to GA 197 and continue north to a right-hand turn onto Watts Mill Road. Access is also available where GA 197 crosses the river between these two points.
There is no gauge on this river. If the Chattahoochee gauge at GA 115 is registering 1.5 feet, the Soque is worthy of scouting to determine its runnability. The maximum is 6 feet.
This Soque 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.