Hike 0.5 miles on the easy-to-moderate Camp Creek Trail in Rabun County, Georgia, to see rapids on the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River and rosebay rhododendron displays along the trail and water’s edge in late spring.
By TIM HOMAN
Beginning to the right of the Forest Service bulletin board, the trail heads downhill on the easy, switchbacking grades of an old road. On the way down, the path winds through maturing hardwoods near the edge of Camp Creek’s steep-sided ravine. The route reaches a fork, where you can walk upstream or down, beside the Chattooga River at 0.3 mile. Here the main trail curls to the right and closely parallels the wide green river downstream, past sandy beaches and gentle shoals.
The trail ends at another fork just across Camp Creek, a small stream barely big enough to be called a branch. The old roadbed continues upslope and to the right. To the left a prominent path quickly leads to a level, heavily used campsite with the remains of a small stone structure.
If you want, you can follow a bushwhack path a few tenths of a mile farther downstream to the beginning of the Class V rapids – Corkscrew, Crack-in-theRock, Jaw Bone, and Sockem Dog. During periods of low water in summer and early autumn, it is possible to bushwhack, rock-hop, and wade even farther downstream from Camp Creek. Below the four Class V rapids, there is a very large pool just upstream from Tugaloo Lake. On the South Carolina side of the pool, you will find a beach where rafters often haul out and a small entering stream, Opossum Creek. You can follow the path up this creek to a surprisingly beautiful waterfall, labeled only as “Falls” on the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River map.
Note: Especially in the last few years, this trail is always eroded and frequently trashy. People in a hurry carrying heavy objects such as kayaks or beer coolers have cut down across the switchbacks, creating small eroding gullies. The parking area often has trash thrown down the banks. The rock-foundation campsite at trail’s end is obviously a party spot. A few years ago the campsite was disgusting; in late fall of 1997, it was beyond disgusting. Hundreds and hundreds of beer bottles and beer cans, milk jugs, and beenie weenie cans, were piled atop the rock foundation. The pile was so high that it had a slip face like a small sand dune, and its slumping angle of repose caused a trash slide down the bank toward the river.
Throughout: Late spring rosebay rhododendron displays along the trail and water’s edge.
Mile 0.5: Chattooga River – a series of Class V rapids, including Jaw Bone and Sockem Dog, is approximately 0.3 mile downstream.
From the Riley C. Thurmond Memorial Bridge in Tallulah Falls, travel on US 441 North for approximately 3.0 miles, then turn right onto paved Camp Creek Road. After driving approximately 1.5 miles on Camp Creek Road, turn left onto FS 511 (Water Gauge Road) just up the hill from a small concrete culvert bridge and immediately beyond a large house on the left. Continue on FS 511, a one-lane gravel road, for approximately 4.0 miles to its end at a gravel parking lot. The trailhead is to the right of the bulletin board.
This hiking guide to the Camp Creek Trail is adapted from The Hiking Trails of North Georgia by Tim Homan and is published in cooperation with the publisher Peachtree Publishers. With his meticulous attention to detail and accuracy, Homan has long been recognized as the authority on North Georgia hiking trail by serious hikers. His other books include Hiking Trails of Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock and Citico Creek Wilderness, Hiking the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness and others. For a complete inventory of his books see his Amazon Author Page.
For an inventory of Peachtree Publishers books including its Nature books for children, go to the Peachtree Publishers website.