Paddling Guides in Georgia: Broad River

Paddling Guides in Georgia: Broad River

Multiple access points along the Broad River allow for paddling trips of different lengths. This is a guide to almost 45 miles of river from Georgia Highway 281 to Thurmond Lake.

The Broad River is, along with the Chattooga, one of the major northern tributaries in the Savannah River watershed. With 50 miles of navigable river from its inception to Thurmond Lake, the Broad offers nearly year-round opportunities for canoeing and camping except in periods of extreme drought. The 6 miles of river in the upper section contain most of the river's rapids. In the lower section, the Broad becomes a pastoral stream eminently suited for beginning canoeists and those desiring a relaxed canoeing-camping experience. Locals consider the Broad to start at the confluence of its two largest tributaries: the Middle Fork and Hudson Rivers. For those interested in floating the entire length of the Broad River, US 29 provides access to both of these rivers upstream of the confluence VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP.  For paddling guides to more rivers and streams in the Savannah River Watershed, see the links below.

This is a paddling guide to the Broad River in two sections: GA 281 to GA 172, a distance of about 5.7 miles; and GA 172 to Thurmond Lake, a distance of about 38.7 miles. The trip may be broken up into smaller sections using the map and shuttle directions below. VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP.

SECTION I GA 281 to GA 172

SUMMARYClass, II (III); Length, 5.7 miles; Time, 3 hours; Gauge, USGS website and visual;Level, 2.5; Gradient, 8 (17); Scenery, B VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP

DESCRIPTION: It is in this popular section that the Broad River is at its most exciting. The river widens considerably but maintains the wilderness quality found upstream. Frequent shoals offer 5.7 miles of Class I and II rapids at normal water levels. Take out at the GA 172 Bridge on the left side, or call in advance to arrange use of the outfitter-owned take-out 0.5 mile below the bridge on the right.

At high water levels, the Broad is for expert boaters only. With its large watershed, the water gets big, particularly in the winter and early spring. Rapids increase in difficulty to Class III, with at least one Class IV. At levels over 5 or 6 feet, the waterfall on the river's right, down stream of the major pipeline crossing, turns into a keeper hydraulic that works in tandem with a ledge downstream of it to create a serious threat (akin to the hole at Woodall Shoals on the Chattooga River), particularly for anyone caught out of a boat. With the wide characteristic of the river, a bomb-proof roll or strong self-rescue skills are necessary at higher water levels to avoid permanent loss of boat.

SHUTTLE: From Danielsville, go north on US 29 to a right-hand turn onto GA 281; follow GA 281 to another right turn onto Transco Road. Follow this road less than a mile to a left turn onto David's Home Church Road. After 3.7 miles, turn left onto GA 172. The take-out path is on the far side of the bridge. An alternate take-out is available, with permission, at the outfitter's property 0.5 mile farther downstream. To get there, turn right onto the dirt road just before the bridge. To return to the put-in, backtrack to GA 281 and turn right. The put-in is ahead on the right at the outfitter's, before the bridge.

GAUGE: Data is available on the USGS website for the Broad near Carlton. This is miles downstream of this section. Using this gauge, the absolute minimum is 2.5 feet, though a more enjoyable and lass scrape-prone minimum is 3.5 feet. The ideal level for this section is 4 to 4.5 feet. Water starts getting pushy above 6 feet. Waves start to increase in size as water rises above this level; the river has been played by expert boaters at levels as high as the teens and twenties. There is a visual gauge at the GA 281 Bridge that gives readings approximately 3 feet lower than the website-available USGS gauge downstream.

SECTION 2 GA 172 to Thurmond Lake

SUMMARYClass I (II); Length, 38.7 miles; Time, up to 4 days; Gauge, USGS website and visual; Level 1.5; gradient, less than 2 feet per mile; Scenery, B. VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP

DESCRIPTION: The gradient slows and the river adopts a pastoral character below GA 172. Multiple access points along the remaining 38.4 miles of river allow for trips of varying lengths. The river is ideally suited for relaxing, multiply-day trips since it passes through miles of undeveloped woodlands and farmland. The Broad feels remote because it has managed to avoid industrial development.

The only noteworthy rapid on this section is Anthony Shoals, just above Thurmond Lake (formerly Clarks Hill Lake). Anthony Shoals is a very long series of rapids of Class II difficulty. Here the river is quite wide, so even though the gradient is steeper, the river is shallow and its force is diluted. At low water levels, the only feasible route is through the channel cut through the ledges to accommodate the barges that formerly traveled upstream. The shoals have three sections, the last of which is a channel with standing waves that end at the lake. At higher water levels, the rapids at the shoals wash out. It is possible to take out on river left above Anthony Shoals using county roads for access.

At the shoals, many grassy islets and the rocky streambed combine with the rushing water to make a picturesque setting. This is the only place on the Broad River that supports the rare shoal lilies that live on the fall line rivers of the Southeast. The area also includes remains from previous settlements, including Native American mounds and the ruins of old mills and factories of the 1700s.

Camping and secure parking is available at the last take-out for the river at Broad River Campground, maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. The campground is located on the right side of the lake, one mile below Anthony Shoals.

SHUTTLE: From Elberton, take GA 72 east; turn right onto GA 79 and proceed to the lake. Access is at the Broad River Campground. The highest put-in for this section is reached by returning to Elberton via GA 79 and GA 72. In Elberton, take GA 17 northwest to a left turn onto GA 172 at the town of  Bowman. Proceed to the bridge over the river. Put-in at the bridge, or secure permission to use the put-in owned by the outfitter 0.5 mile downstream on river right. Most of the mid-run access points are at the junction with state highways. There is a public boat ramp at GA 17, making it the easiest place mid-run to get down to the river. Other access points are available at GA 72 west of Elberton and at GA 77 south of Elberton. There is one additional access point above Anthony Shoals that can be reached from CR 193 in Wilkes County.

GAUGE: Using the USGS website reading for the Broad above Carlton, the minimum level is 1.5 feet and the maximum is 12 feet.

MAPS: USGS maps: Carnesville, Danielsville North, Carlton, Elberton West, Jacksons Crossroads, Broad, Chennault. County: Franklin, Elbert, Madison, Oglethorpe, Wilkes, Lincoln.

Tagged with: Broad River Paddling Guides Savannah River Watershed


Related Listings

Broad River Outpost

Broad River Outpost Danielsville, GA, Guides and Outfitters
Broad River kayak and canoe rentals on exciting beginning whitewater or scenic slow water floats.
Broad River Outpost says:

The BRO offers kayak and canoe rentals and shuttles to all public access points on Broad River.  The BRO is located at the end of the mild upper sections and the beginning of the popular whitewater section.  We’re open March through October. 706.795.3242

Michael Moody says:

broadriveroutpost.com has been giving the public access to the beautiful Broad River for over 25 years.  A family owned and operated business that works with environmental groups to protect this awesome public resource.  Now with the most stable boats on the market.  Friendly staff who are know the river and care about you and the environment.  Go with the BRO

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