Catching the elusive Talking Rock Creek is a bit like sighting a rare and beautiful bird. Its watershed is narrow, making it difficult to find the creek at a navigable level that will hold out for the two days normally required for Talking Rock Creek kayaking. Journeying through a small gorge environment that remains mostly wild and remote even by today’s standards, Talking Rock after a good rain serves up a rollicking fast Class II ride that is worth the wait.
Get an Overview of the Coosa River Watershed where Talking Rock Creek is located.
USGS and County Maps for Talking Rock Creek Kayaking
Oakman (USGS); Pickens, Gilmer, Gordon, Murray (County)
GA 5 Alt to Carters Lake Reregulation Reservoir
Class: I-II (III); Length: 19.4 miles; Time: 10 hours; Gauge: Web; Level: 300 cubic feet per second; Gradient: 19 (30+) feet per mile; Scenery :A-B
Talking Rock Creek is navigable from the old GA 5 in Pickens County to the Carters Lake reregulation reservoir where the creek merges with the Coosawattee River. At its highest possible access, the stream is quite small as it flows through a valley toward Swan Bridge, a distance of almost 2 miles. Although this section of Talking Rock Creek kayaking is scenic and pleasant when the water is high, most boaters prefer to put in downstream of this point. Below Swan Bridge, the streamside environment becomes much steeper and the flow volume is more conducive to easy floating due to Town Creek’s entry just above the bridge. Shoals become more frequent but are not extremely difficult to negotiate.
Below the first crossing with GA 136, you will enter an isolated 14-mile stretch of Talking Rock Creek kayaking unspoiled by bridges. The terrain becomes rugged, and sheer walls often rise 100 feet or more above the stream. The seclusion in this section is interrupted by a smattering of human settlements that have carved homesteads out of the banks of the creek, exposing large swaths of unprotected and eroding earth. For the time being, the density of this activity is low and the forested hills quickly prevail.
There are many rapids on this section, some quite long, but few beyond Class II difficulty. Numerous deep, quiet pools give ample opportunity for swimming, fishing, or just relaxing. There are sites suitable for camping, and this section is long enough for two full, relaxed days. Attempts to traverse it in one day should maximize daylight time on the river. There is no good access until GA 136 crosses for the second time.
Of particular interest is the natural scenery along the entire route. At low water levels, there are many small islands of river grasses and flowers in midstream that create a maze for canoeists. Sheer rock walls will often be on the sides of the stream. The name Talking Rock Creek probably came from the echoes that reverberate from the cliffs when any loud noise is made. One imposing bluff on the right side about two-thirds of the way down this section contains what appears to be the entrance to a cave that is well above stream level. The gorge also holds one of the last stands of virgin timber in the state.
Eventually, the rapids are stilled and you will enter the final leg of Talking Rock Creek kayaking across 2 miles of backwater formed by the Carters Lake re-regulation reservoir. Powerboat traffic can be encountered on the river after this point.
Talking Rock Creek kayaking is subject to rapid fluctuations in water level, and the difficulty of navigation is appreciably increased in extreme high water. Because of the lack of easy access and the difficulty of evacuation should problems arise, inexperienced boaters are advised to float this section only when the water is moderate to low.
To the take-out, take GA 5/515 north from Atlanta; above Jasper, turn left onto GA 136. The put-in at GA 5 Alt. is an immediate right turn. Return to GA 136 west to get to the take-out. Alternate access points are passed along the way at Swan Bridge Road and the first crossing of the creek with GA 136. Continue on GA 136 another 8.2 miles past the first crossing to get to the take-out at the second. Ignore signs to turn right for the Carters Lake boat ramp, and turn left instead onto the small paved but unmarked road next to the GA 136 bridge.
Real-time data for the creek levels at Hinton are available on the USGS Web site. The bare minimum level is 200 cfs or 1.5 feet; a more enjoyable minimum is 300 cfs. While planning your trip, keep in mind that the flow drops rapidly. The maximum is 4 feet for open boats and 6 feet for decked.
This Talking Rock 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.