Here’s some good news: there’s a really neat waterfall over near Woodstock. Cutting right to the chase, it’s Allatoona Falls on Toonigh Creek.
But here’s the challenge: it’s hard to get there.
In fact, even though the waterfall itself is on Lake Allatoona, it’s surrounded by private property. There’s no “start here to see the falls” parking area. Because the land around the falls is private, you’ll have to find another way to get there.
In other words, you pretty much can’t get there from here, unless you have a boat
I remember my first trip to this waterfall several years ago. A friend and I had gone to Little River looking for white bass. We had his canoe, and we also had high hopes of great fishing. But our success turned out somewhere between “slim” and “none.” We must have made a thousand casts to places where white bass should have been, but all to no avail. They just weren’t there.
“Let’s go find the waterfall instead!” my friend said.
Because Allatoona Falls most easily accessible by water, the process of getting to it has everything to do with water levels in the lake. Right now, the lake level is probably around 835 feet. I say “probably” because as we speak the lake level is coming up from its wintertime low. It edges up a little bit every day and will likely keep doing so until the first of May. You can check out predicted levels on the Corps of Engineers site, water.sam.usace.army.mil.
At levels below about 836 or 837 feet, Toonigh Creek may only be a few inches deep as you approach the falls – much too shallow for power boats. That definitely keeps the crowds down, at least for a little while.
But low water is less of a problem for kayaks and canoes.
There’s no doubt about it either. It’s truly neat slip in there in a shallow-draft boat, paddling up the creek to check out the falls.
So how do you get there by kayak or canoe? The easiest way is to start at Olde Rope Mill Park on Little River near I-575. Put your boat in the water and paddle downstream, following the right bank as you make your way below I-575, past a sand plant, and around several bends to the mouth of Toonigh Creek. Then paddle upstream to the falls. That’s all there is to it.
Are there any particular paddling challenges along the way? Not really. At low lake levels, two rock-encased utility crossings below I-575 create very minor rapids. But as the lake comes up, they’ll soon be submerged and the faster water will disappear. Pretty soon, you’ll have essentially flat water all the way to the falls.
How will you know when you arrive at the mouth of Toonigh Creek? That one’s easy. The river suddenly and unmistakably widens, and you’re there. At that point, stay right to enter the creek and make your way upstream.
The Toonigh Creek channel may be braided, depending on the water level. The easiest going is usually on your left as you head upstream. You’ll zig and zag a bit and then there it is – Allatoona Falls.
What’s this waterfall like? That depends a great deal on the level of the lake.
If the lake is low, as it is right now, you’ll find a wide, multi-tiered waterfall with two main drops and a total height (depending on the lake level) in the neighborhood of 25 feet. As the lake comes up over the next few weeks, however, that lower tier will eventually be all but submerged. You’ll still have a nice waterfall, especially for this neck of the woods, but a chunk of it will be underwater.
Higher lake levels make the waterfall accessible to deeper-draft boats, and as spring moves toward summer you can expect to find many others up Toonigh Creek enjoying Allatoona Falls. When the lake’s up, powerboats and jet skis often make the run up the creek to the falls. Keep an eye out for them. Stay out of the main channel in areas where motorized watercraft might be present – and always wear your PFD (life jacket).
At the falls, be aware that the rocks can be very slick. Proceed solely at your own risk. Be aware, too, that much of the land around the falls is private. Be sure that you stay on public (Corps of Engineers) land, and don’t trespass onto private property.
But what if you don’t have a boat? Is it still possible to access the falls? Yes, but you’ll need to stay on Corps of Engineers land. We’ll talk about how to do it in a future column.
Meanwhile, expect to see me out there over the next few weeks – but as the water warms I’ll probably be looking for those white bass instead of hiking!
And speaking of white bass…
Want to learn more about springtime white bass fishing in Georgia? On Thursday, March 29, I’ll be presenting a seminar on white bass fishing in Georgia from 7-9 p.m. at Alpharetta Outfitters. It’s free, but you need to let ‘em know you’re coming. We’ll be talking about the how, when and where of springtime white bass fishing in Georgia. Find out more at alpharettaoutfitters.com