Kayak Class I & II Rapids on North Georgia’s Untouched Tesnatee Creek

tesnatee creek kayaking
Tesnatee Creek. Photo by Treasurenet.com

A tributary of the Chestatee north of Atlanta, Tesnatee Creek kayaking provides an excellent Class 1 to 11 day-trip when water conditions are favorable. Draping hemlocks hang over the stream in places, and drifts of mountain laurel cluster with rhododendrons at the banks, making for a spectacular late spring display. Occasional 20-to-30-foot-high rock faces add to the scenic beauty of this untouched little creek.

Get an Overview of the Chattahoochee Watershed where Tesnatee Creek is located.

USGS and County Maps for Tesnatee Creek Kayaking

Cleveland, Dahlonega (USGS); White, Lumpkin (County)

Town Creek Rd to Old Copper Mine Rd of the Chestatee River


Class: I-II (III); Length: 7.2 miles; Time: 4 hours; Gauge: None; Level: N/A; Gradient: 25 feet per mile; Scenery: B+


Starting near Cleveland, Georgia, only 7 miles of the stream are navigable. The average gradient, however, is over 25 feet per mile, so the pace of Tesnatee Creek kayaking is usually lively. Most of the rapids do not exceed a Class II difficulty at normal water levels. There is one man-made hazard: a dam that is part of a refurbished power plant located approximately 2.5 miles below the bridge at Gene Nix Road. The easiest portage around the dam is on the right. Tesnatee Falls, a 20-foot drop, is immediately below the dam. If running the falls, scout right and portage the dam on the left to set up for the run, avoiding the rock outcropping on the far right.

Soon thereafter, the Chestatee River joins in from the right.

An easy paddle up the Chestatee takes you to the base of scenic Grindle Falls. The take-out for the trip is located 1.6 miles down the Chestatee at the bridge above Copper Mine rapid. Exit the stream on river left above or below the rapid, a moderate Class III drop. The Copper Mine rapid is described in the first section of the Chestatee River (see page 198).


From Cumming, take GA 400 north to the intersection with GA 60. Continue straight ahead through this intersection; you are now on Long Branch Road. Continue straight through the next intersection (with GA 52); the take-out is ahead on the left before the bridge. To reach the put-in for Tesnatee Creek kayaking, continue north to where the road ends. Turn right onto Cavender Creek Road. After crossing the Chestatee again at Grimes Bridge, turn right onto Dumas Road (the road name eventually changes to Sandy Flats). This road nears the river, providing an intermediate access point, then pulls away. At the stop sign, continue straight ahead (or turn right for the other mid-run access at B). When Sandy Flats ends, turn right onto Town Creek Road; access is available at the business on the left before the river. Ask permission before putting in.


There is no gauge on the creek. Use Chestatee River levels to get a rough idea of feasibility, and scout the river at access points before putting in. A level of 2.2 on the USGS Chestatee Internet gauge is a good minimum for the Tesnatee.

See more Georgia Rivers

This Tesnatee 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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