South Fork Broad River Paddling Guide
The South Fork Broad River is a short but sweet Broad River tributary. Rising in northwestern Madison County, it flows southeastward through predominantly agricultural land before entering the Broad River east of Athens. The most noteworthy rapids are found in the lower section. An extensive shoal that can reach up to Class III intensity is located below the dam at Watson Mill State Park.
This is a 21.6-mile canoe trip from GA 22 to GA 77 at the confluence with Broad River. Section 2 may be divided into two separate trips of 5.5 and 11.2 miles in length. VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP.
SECTION 1 GA 22 TO WATSON MILL STATE PARK GA
SUMMARY: Class I; Length, 5.3 miles; Time, 3.5 hours; Gauge, none; Level, unknown;Gradient, 3 feet per mile; Scenery, B- VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP
DESCRIPTION: At most water levels, the uppermost access for boating is at GA 22, just south of the city of Comer. The South Fork takes a lazy winding course with no measurable rapids down to Watson Mill State Park. The park is home to one of the few remaining covered bridges in Georgia. At 229 feet, the vintage 1885 bridge is the longest covered bridge in the state. Immediately downstream of the covered bridge is a small dam that must be portaged as you are continuing downstream. Take-out above the dam regardless. Picnicking and camping facilities are available at the park.
SHUTTLE: To the take-out from Athens, take GA 72 northeast toward Elberton. Follow the signs for Watson Mill State Park after passing through the town of Comer. To the put-in, return to GA 72 and turn left. At Comer, turn left on GA 22 and proceed to the bridge.
SECTION 2, WATSON MILL STATE PARK TO GA 77 AT THE BROAD RIVER
SUMMARY: Class, I-III; Length, 16.3 miles; Time, 1-2 days; Gauge, none; Level, unknown; Gradient, 8 feet per mile; Scenery, B- VIEW INTERACTIVE MAP.
DESCRIPTION: At Watson Mill State Park, the put-in for this section, there is a small dam with rapids below that may be run if water conditions are favorable. These rapids may reach Class III difficulty in high water. Put-in below the dam, or below the rapids. Beyond the park, the river continues its sinuous meandering to its junction with the main Broad River. A mid-section access point at Carlton-Lexington Road divides this section in two - 5.1 miles above and 11.2 miles below this point.
The only other shoals of appreciable difficulty appears below the bridge at Carlton-Lexington Road. A 3-foot dam at Andrew's Mill creates a slack backwater just downstream of the bridge. The dam should be portaged and the rapids below it scouted. The rapids are usually a solid Class II difficulty; at high water, they reach Class III difficulty. One final series of shoals is approcimately 2 miles farther downstream, just above the Broad River junction. The next access point is 8 miles down the Broad at GA 77.
SHUTTLE: From Athens, take US 78 east. Just past Lexington, turn left onto GA 77 and proceed to the bridge over the Broad River. To reach the put-in, continue northeast on GA 77. Turn left onto Jones Ferry Road and take it to GA 72. Turn left here. After passing through Carlton, watch for signs for Watson Mill State Park, the put-in for this section.
MAPS: USGS Maps: Danielsville South, Carlton, Elberton West; County Maps: Madison, Oglethorpe.
Scouting the South Fork of the Broad River
Expert Georgia canoeist (he has canoed the Broad River over 250 times) and University of Georgia professor Roger Thomas, and Broad River Outpost owner Michael Moody canoed the South Fork of the Broad River on August 19, 2009, to photograph and record GPS readings. Here is a selection of photographs taken during their trip beginning at Watson Mill Bridge State Park. The photos are arranged in down-river order. The photos are part of an interactive map accompanying Suzanne Welander's canoeing guide to the South Fork Broad River that includes this section of the river as well as a 5.3 mile section above it. All photos and photo descriptions are by Michael Moody.
Broad River kayak and canoe rentals on exciting beginning whitewater or scenic slow water floats.