paddle georgia 2021

Tugaloo River Celebration Paddle


Tugaloo River Celebration Paddle: May 29, 2021

Trip Overview

  • 10 miles
  • Flatwater
  • Beginner
  • Approximately 6-7 hours with a 1 hour lunch break

Along the Georgia-South Carolina line, the Tugaloo River Water Trail takes you over gentle shoals to the backwaters of Lake Hartwell. All skill levels are welcome to attend as we explore this historic 10-mile stretch of river and enjoy educational presentations along the route.  At lunch time, we will take a side trip to the majestic Long Nose Creek Falls and eat a scrumptious box lunch provided by X-Factor Grill.  After we paddle together, we’ll celebrate and dine together.  Join us for a ribbon cutting at Broken Bridges attended by commissioners, dignitaries, stakeholders, and local leaders as Georgia River Network designates the Tugaloo River as an established Water Trail. Following the ribbon cutting, sit down to enjoy a live performance by the Solstice Sisters band and a gourmet low country boil dinner prepared onsite by the chef of Currahee Club. Beer will be provided by local distributers Lazy Hiker Brewing Company and Terrapin Beer Company. COVID-19 safety guidelines will be followed at this event. 

Registration Fees:  Adults–$95, Youth 7-13– $80 and Children 6 and under are free. Lunch and dinner are included in the registration fee.

Trip Waiver

Very important! You must sign your American Canoe Association liability waiver in order to participate in this adventure. Please click on the link below, fill out the online form and submit it. Once you’ve done that you will receive an e-mail. You must respond to that e-mail to complete the waiver submission!

About The Water Trail

The Tugaloo River Water Trail features unparalleled natural beauty as it winds for 10 miles from Panther Creek and the Yonah Dam area south to Broken Bridges at Georgia Hwy123 and Lake Hartwell. From a historic point of view, the Tugaloo River is extremely important to the state of Georgia. In the 18th century the Tugaloo River Corridor and its tributaries were home to a number of Cherokee towns and villages, including Estatoe, Noyowee, and Tugaloo Town, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Following the Revolutionary War, the Tugaloo Corridor became the ‘Gateway to the West’ as tens of thousands of settlers began their trek westward on Georgia’s first interstate highway—the Unicoi Turnpike.

Schedule & Trip Details


8:30 a.m. – Paddlers arrive at Panther Creek Access at Yonah Park

5:00 p.m. – Ribbon cutting at Broken Bridges access at Stephen County Park

6:00 – 8:30 p.m. –  Performance by the Solstice Sisters band at Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park

The Solstice Sisters are Maggie Hunter, Susan Staley and Anna Hiers three women harmonizing old time country ballads, traditional folk and 40’s styled swing. Joining with the Sisters are Lee Hiers on Dobro and Mike Harrison on bass. Known not only for their lovely three part harmonies, but also for their spontaneous and energetic live shows. They have performed at many festivals in Northeast Georgia including Bear On The Square and were regulars at the Mountain Music and Medicine Show, a live radio show taped at the Holly Theater in Dahlonega, Georgia. They have performed at WUGA’s radio broadcast “Once In A Blue Moon” and “It’s Friday” and were featured on the statewide public radio show “Georgia Gazette.” Click here to visit their Facebook page.

6:30 – 8:30 p.m. – Dinner at Tugaloo Bend

Put In:  Yonah Dam

Panther Creek Access at Yonah Park |  34.678838    -83.338704   |    MMH6+GG Tallulah Falls, Georgia

Take Out: Broken Bridges

Broken Bridges Access at Stephen County Park  |   34.610348    -83.213875   |       JQ6P+4C Toccoa, Georgia

 Dinner Venue:

Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park   |   2104 Yonah Dam Rd. Toccoa, GA 30577  |  34.6655.    -83.3084  |   MM7R+R3 Toccoa, Georgia

Click here for directions.  


Meal Information

Lunch and dinner are included with the registration price. Lunch will be provided by X-Factory Grill and dinner will be provided by Currahee Club.



Lunch Sandwich Choices:

  • Peanut Butter & Jelly, or
  • Turkey & Cheese, or
  • Veggie Wrap (flour tortilla stuffed with squash, zucchini and pepper strips with ranch dressing)
  • and includes chips, apple and a cookie



Dinner Menu:

  • Beaufort Stew (Low Country Boil) with corn cobettes, red bliss potatoes, shrimp and hearty kielbasa sausage seasoned and boiled to perfection
  • Vegetarian option: Beyond Bratwurst with sweet potato and corn succotash
  • Fresh garden salad with carrots, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and red onion with choice of buttermilk ranch or Italian dressing
  • Fresh fruit salad with cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple, grapes and strawberries
  • Brown Butter Peach Cobbler for dessert

Beer provided by Lazy Hiker Brewery, Molson Coors and Terrapin. 

Boat Rentals

If you do not own a kayak or canoe, you can rent one for $30 per day from Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park. Their inventory includes sit in kayaks, sit on kayaks and seat canoes. Rental times are 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Included in your rental is a PFD and a river map with access points and areas of interest.

Contact Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park at (706) 282-7636 or click here to visit their website.


Free Camping Nearby

There is free camping available for registered participants at Tugaloo Bend Heritage Park (34.664773, -83.309337). Tugaloo Bend is an 87 acre historic track, which was the site of Estatoe, a Cherokee Indian village. Later it became a working farm for most of the 20th century. The property is now owned and operated by The Stephens County Foundation, a community-based non-profit organization. The park has primitive camping, 4 miles of hiking trails, a picnic area, a covered pavilion, along with restroom facilities.

2104 Yonah Dam Rd. Toccoa, GA 30577

Learn more at:


COVID-19 Guidelines

All Paddle Georgia events will follow CDC guidelines to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Please note that guidelines and safety measures will be strictly enforced.

To consider before the trip:

  • If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, please stay home. 
  • If you are an older adult or have a serious underlying medical condition, please consider staying home. 
  • Please consider being tested for COVID-19 prior to the trip to ensure that you are not carrying the virus. 
  • During travel to and from the event, please minimize your contact with other people and always wear a face mask and practice social distancing. 

During the trip:

  • Wear a face mask when you may be in close proximity to other participants (launch/take out sites, etc.)
  • Do not share equipment, food, water and other supplies
  • Maintain social distancing of 6 feet
  • Wash your hands frequently




Paddle Georgia Policies

  1. No alcoholic beverages are permitted on the river.
  2. All participants must attend the pre-launch safety briefing. Participants must adhere to the safety guidelines presented.
  3. Participants must wear a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved personal floatation device at all times on the river.
  4. Participants under age 18 are the responsibility of, and must be accompanied by, a parent or guardian.
  5. Sorry, no pets allowed.
  6. All participants must sign a Medical and Emergency Contact Information sheet and a Waiver of Claims and Release of Liability form. Parents must sign for children under the age of 18. (These forms will be sent in the information packet.
  7. Person-powered watercraft only.
  8. All participants must respect private property along the river.
  9. All participants must possess basic paddling skills and be capable of self-rescue in the water.
  10. No more than 2 children under the age of 12 per adult guardian.
  11. All children must have a designated seat in the vessel in which they are traveling. (no children on decks of kayaks or as “passengers” in cockpits of solo kayaks)
  12. Georgia River Network is not responsible for any personal property that may be lost, damaged, or stolen during the trip.

Code of Conduct

At Georgia River Network, we like to think of our river adventure participants as our “river family.” We come from many different backgrounds, but the river is the great equalizer and our common bond. We want all participants to treat one another as family.


  • Be respectful of all participants, including their property, their person and their personal views. On our river adventures you will paddle, eat and camp with people that are very different from you. Please respect and celebrate those differences.
  • Be helpful. If you see someone that needs a hand in camp or on the river, please lend yours.
  • Be courteous. Be prepared to wait in lines for restrooms, shuttle buses, meals and more. Remember, we are all in the same boat; only by working together can we get everyone safely down the river.


  • Use inappropriate language. This is a family event with participants of all ages.
  • Verbally or physically intimidate or abuse other participants.
  • Become intoxicated or under the influence of mind-altering drugs.
  • Violate quiet hours by engaging in loud talk and disruptive behavior between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Violations of these policies and our code of conduct can result in the participant being removed from the event without refund.

For Parents and Guardians of Children

Parents and guardians are responsible for the welfare and safety of their minor participants at all times, both on the river and in camp. Understand that while Georgia River Network’s river adventure trips almost without exception attract uncommonly good and kind people, Georgia River Network does not screen participants or conduct background checks on participants.

What Should I Bring? (here’s a checklist of essential items!) First Aid Kit; Sunscreen; Necessary Medication; Water Bottles (at least 3 quart bottles for each person); At least two paddles for each boat; Flexible mindset; proper footwear for river and land; rain gear; whistle for signaling emergency; change of clothes.

What Shouldn’t I Bring? No alcohol Permitted

Paddle Georgia Safety Procedures

Paddle Georgia participants should be aware that this canoe trip is not a commercially-guided trip. While Georgia River Network and Paddle Georgia staff will be available on the river during each day’s paddle and participants with medical and/or First Aid training will be identified, we cannot personally ensure the safety of all participants. Unlike a commercial trip in which paid guides direct you through each bend of the river, Paddle Georgia is designed to be your adventure, and as such, you are responsible for your own safety. All participants are assuming risks (some of which are outlined below) while participating in Paddle Georgia.

For a reminder of basic paddling safety practices, watch this American Canoe Association Video.


Strainers—Strainers are branches, trees, vegetation or other partially or totally submerged obstacles in the river’s current often found along the river’s edge. These hazards allow only water to pass through freely. The current will pull anything else down, plastering it into place, similar to the action of a kitchen colander. It is best to approach submerged trees or logs along the river bank from the downstream side to avoid having the current pin your boat against the obstacle or flipped by the force of the water. You should also avoid grabbing on to low hanging branches of partially submerged vegetation as this action can often cause your boat to capsize. To avoid a multi-boat pile up, leave enough room between boats to allow each boat to safely navigate around these obstacles.

Weather—Strong thunderstorms and high winds are not uncommon. In the event of inclement weather that includes the risk of lightning, paddle to shore, secure your boat and find cover under a dense stand of small trees. Avoid open areas, especially open areas with solitary trees, and avoid gathering in large groups. By dispersing yourselves over a large area, you reduce the risk of lightning striking numerous individuals at one time. Squatting, with your feet on a personal flotation device or seat cushion, is a good idea when in the midst of a thunderstorm (while on solid ground—not in your boat!).

Sun and Heat—Hats and appropriate sun screen are recommended. If you get too hot, the river comes with built in air conditioning – get in and cool off. You should carry at least three quarts of water each day to avoid dehydration. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also recommended. The first two days are usually the most difficult as we acclimate from spending lots of time in air-conditioned buildings to spending all day in 80-90-degree heat. Prepare by drinking lots of fluids in the days leading up to the trip.

Water Temperature—The combination of cold water and a cold afternoon thunderstorm raises the risk of dangerous changes in body temperature. Be prepared with rain gear and layered clothing that stays warm even when wet (avoid cotton).

Water Quality – Due to a variety of conditions, water quality can vary and organisms that cause illness may be present. Swimming and submersion in the water increase the risk of contracting water-borne illnesses. Ingesting river water should be avoided and cuts and sores should be kept out of the water and treated if exposed.

Trash—Unfortunately, Georgia’s waterways collect refuse from surrounding communities. Proper footwear and exercising caution can prevent unnecessary injuries. Participants should wear sandals or shoes that provide adequate protection from broken bottles, rusted appliance parts and tin cans and anything else you might find at your local landfill.

Venomous Snakes—The land surrounding our paddle routes is potential habitat for three venomous snakes—rattlesnakes, water moccasins and coral snakes. If you encounter any snakes, simply leave them alone. Should you have the misfortune of being bitten, remain calm and get medical assistance as quickly as possible. Bites from these venomous snakes are rarely fatal, given proper medical attention. At any given moment on this trip you will not be more than a few hours from a hospital.

Terra Firma—Please step carefully when paying visits to land. And, remember, the Okefenokee is the “land of the trembling earth!” What looks like solid ground might sink when you put your weight on it! 

Your Fellow Paddlers—This is a journey involving many individuals with varying degrees of skill level. Space yourselves so that you do not interfere with one another when maneuvering around obstacles. Pileups on the river can be just as dangerous as those that occur on interstate highways.

Paddle Georgia “Buddy System”

We will rely on the “Buddy System” to ensure that all participants arrive safely at the day’s take-out point. Before you get on the river, identify your “buddy boat or boats.” This will be the boat or group of boats with whom you will paddle for the day. The group is responsible for ensuring that if someone needs help on the river that someone is nearby to provide help and that no one is left behind. Do not lose sight of your buddy boat or members of your buddy boat group. Participants who have not identified a buddy boat for the day’s paddle will not be permitted to launch from the day’s put-in point. A sweep boat will bring up the rear of the day’s paddle to further ensure that no one is left behind

For tips on kayak safety, watch this American Canoe Association intructional video:

Other Considerations

What do I do if I capsize? On slow moving water, stay with your boat and swim it to shore or shallow water where you can dump the water and right your vessel. It floats even when full with water and can support you if you become tired. Make sure your belongings are secured to your boat to keep from losing them in the event of a capsize. Your fellow buddy boaters can assist in recovering any belongings and help you right your boat.In fast-moving water or rapids, get away and upstream from your boat until you reach slower moving water. Float on your back, feet downstream.  Don’t try to stand in fast-moving water.  Rocks or other objects can trap your feet and the force of the water can hold you under. Moving canoes filled with water can pin or crush paddlers against rocks or trees.

In the event of inclement weather…As noted above, thunderstorms are not uncommon, however, usually these afternoon-variety showers do not last long. If you are on the river during a storm event, take appropriate cover as described above, wait out the storm and continue your journey when it appears safe. Protective facilities along the river for large groups are not available.

We will make every effort to ensure that each day’s paddle is completed in full. However, if all-day dangerous weather is predicted, Spring on the Satilla will be cancelled for the day. Boats will be shuttled to the day’s next put-in point. Rain alone does not constitute dangerous weather. All participants are expected to paddle rain or shine, or they may make their own arrangements for moving themselves and their boats to the next put-in and campsite. Exceptions may be made for families paddling with small children.

Swimming…Swimming is permitted with PFDs, but of course, swim at your own risk. Water quality on this journey varies due to point and non-point source pollution. Water quality is generally at its least healthy immediately following rain events—this is especially true downstream of urban areas.

Private Property…As you will see, our route on the St. Marys takes you through many a neighbor’s backyard. Private property must be respected. It is illegal to trespass onto someone’s property, and it is an offense that is prosecutable by law. You may not enter someone’s property unless you have first received permission. At least one rest stop, with portable toilet facilities and/or restrooms will be available at the approximate midway point of each day’s paddle, therefore it is imperative that you make use of bathroom facilities when they are available. If nature calls, please use a camp trowel and cover all human waste appropriately or carry a sealable plastic bag to remove your waste with you.

Communication in the Event of Emergency…There will be cellular phones on the river at all times (one with the lead boat, one with the sweep boat and others in between). In the event of an emergency, attempt to signal or locate a boat with a cellular phone. If cellular service is available, the participants in these boats can communicate with land-based emergency personnel and on-the-water motorized boats where available.

Universal River Signals…Participants are expected to use universal river signals to communicate with other boats. They are as follows:

  • Stop: Potential Danger Ahead—Form a horizontal bar with your paddle and outstretched arms above your head. Those seeing this signal should pass it back to others in the party. Participants should wait for the “all clear signal” before proceeding.
  • All Clear—Form a vertical bar with your paddle, raising your arm and paddle above your head. The paddle blade should be turned flat for maximum visibility. This means the trip can proceed. To signal direction or preferred course through an obstacle, lower the all clear to a 45 degree angle toward the side of the river with the preferred route.
  • Help/Emergency—Wave paddle over your head and give three long blasts on your whistle. Whistles are best carried attached to your life vest. This means other paddlers should assist the signaler as quickly as possible.
  • I’m OK—Holding your elbow out to the side, repeatedly pat the top of your head with your hand. This signals that you are not hurt and do not need assistance.



Paddle Georgia 2021

Thank you to our event sponsors:

126 South Milledge Avenue, Suite E3, Athens, Georgia 30605 | (706) 549-4508 (phone) |