The History of the Tugaloo River

It's where the Cherokee and Creek Indians once lived.

The Tugaloo River Water Trail includes a 10 mile stretch along the Tugaloo River from Yonah Dam and Panther Creek to Broken Bridges and the upper reaches of Lake Hartwell. This area is referred to as the Tugaloo River Corridor, which comprises the only remaining unimpounded section of the Tugaloo River.

It is also the northern-most navigable point on the Savannah/Tugaloo watershed. In the 18th century, it was the major crossroads and center of the Cherokee Lower Towns.

During this historic period, no less than 14 Native American towns and villages were located along the Tugaloo River and its tributaries. This same area contains the beginning of Georgia’s first interstate highway, the Unicoi Turnpike.

Quick Facts about a Water Trail.

A Water Trail can be enjoyed as a day-trip in a canoe or kayak, though many in Georgia vary in length and are used by paddlers, anglers, hikers, and picnickers of all ages and ability.

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) must be worn at all times. Bottled water, sunscreen, and snacks are necessities. Always use caution when you are on the water. While the river is flat water, there are hidden rocks and logs from fallen trees beneath its surface. So, always be careful when entering the river from your boat.

When is the best time to paddle the Tugaloo River? Year-round! Though the water is much cooler in the winter months, the Tugaloo River Water Trail is fun to paddle any time of the year.

Responsibility for the Tugaloo River Water Trail belongs to a Tugaloo River Water Trail Stakeholder committee made up of community leaders and concerned citizens. We also partner with the Stephen County Foundation. Check out the nearby historical facility at Tugaloo Bend where you can rent a kayak or canoe (scroll down to the bottom of that page) or just have lunch. Restroom facilities are located here.

If you think you would like to serve as a volunteer on the Tugaloo River Water Trail, email us at tugalooriverwatertrail@gmail.com.


Our Mission Statement

Our mission is to preserve the natural environment of the Tugaloo River through partnering with residents, key members of Stephens County and other stakeholders in our area. Our goal is to offer educational and recreational experiences for all to enjoy. This includes those who come to paddle, study, bird watch, and get up close to the natural environment along the Tugaloo River. As a Water Trail in the State of Georgia, we adopt the goal to protect this fragile river environment, so that the generations who come after us have the same opportunities we have today: to learn, play, and enjoy the natural beauty of the Tugaloo River.

The Tugaloo River Water Trail is in the process of becoming a 501(c)(3) tax exempt non-profit organization.

Tugaloo River Stakeholder Members:

Executive Team: Angie Ramage, president; Anne Shurley, treasurer; Patricia McGarvey, secretary.

Stakeholder members include: the executive team, David Jalovick, Lloyd and Jeanne Fox, Diana and Jody Prather, Greg Corbett, Evan Hellenga (City of Toccoa Commissioners), Michelle Ivester (Stephens County Commissioners), Sandra Campbell (Army Corp of Engineers), Jeremy Spradlin (Georgia Power). 


On May 29, 2021, representatives from Stephens County and the Georgia River Network cut a ribbon naming the Tugaloo River an official Water Trail in the state of Georgia! Gratitude and thanks go to the Stephens County Commissioners, Main Street Toccoa, and the City of Toccoa for their tireless support.