Flat Shoal Creek Paddling Guide
By SUZANNE WELANDER
Flat Shoal Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee in middle Georgia, flows southwestward, draining portions of Troup and Harris Counties north of Columbus. Take the name literally: the section described below is mostly flat-water followed by a single, nearly mile-long shoal. Following a fairly constant gradient throughout its length, the shoal sports a dazzling display of shoal lilies in mid-may.
TRIP SUMMARY: Class: I-II; Length: 5.2 miles; Time: 3 hours; Gauge: visual; Level: 3.5 feet; Gradient: 3 feet per mile (83) Scenery: B-
DESCRIPTION: An intimate stream except at the broader shoals, Flat Shoals Creek is shady and inviting. The creek runs between steep, sandy, clay banks averaging 4-to-6 feet in height, surrounded by an oak-hickory forest with a plentiful sprinkling of loblolly pines on the rocky points. Paralleled by 1-85, this is one of the most easily visited streams in the Piedmont. Though runnable below the US 27 bridge, logjams punctuate the stream in the upper sections. Downstream the channel is clearer, bur access is a major problem since very few take-outs are available. Described here is a relatively painless 5-mile run from GA 18 to GA 103, flowing through 4 miles of pleasantly forested flat-water followed by long, delightful, and attention-demanding Class II + shoals. In these shoals there are no big drops, but the ledges follow one another almost without interruption. The going here is frequently technical and requires good water-reading ability and quick thinking. In low water expect to get stuck a few times. In high water beginners may be in for a long tumbling swim. Scout or portage from the right bank as water levels require. The shoal lilies, when in bloom, cluster on the banks and grow in patches within the shoals themselves. When the water is up, they add another dimension of difficulty to the shoals as you maneuver to avoid them while attempting to find a suitable channel through the rocky ledges. An endangered species indigenous only to the fall-line shoals of Piedmont streams, their habitat is shrinking due to dams and increased siltation in the rivers.
SHUTTLE: From 1-85 near West Point, take Exit 2 and get onto GA 18 east, then take GA 103 south. Proceed to the bridge crossing the creek; this is the take-out. For the put-in, go north to GA 18 and turn right. The put-in is on this road.
GAUGE: A gauge is located at GA 103. The creek is runnable most of the year, more reliably in winter and spring. At 3.5 feet the water barely covers the rocks in the shoals and begins washing out the channels.
MAPS: Cannonville, Whitesville (USGS); Troup, Harris (County)