Lake Allatoona Backwater: A Nature Lover’s Paradise

Looking for an adventure that can be enjoyed throughout the year? Look no further than the scenic journey from Canton to Lake Allatoona! This picturesque route starts on a flowing river in Canton and takes you to the backwaters of Lake Allatoona, with varying water levels depending on the season and rainfall.

I remember embarking on this trip with a sense of excitement and wonder. The anticipation of exploring the river and witnessing its transformation into the expansive Lake Allatoona was exhilarating. As I launched my kayak down the steep river bank near the riverside picnic tables in Boling Park, I knew I was in for a memorable experience.

The river gauge information provided was invaluable, helping us stay informed about water levels and ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey. The river currents were noticeable for about six miles, creating a thrilling and dynamic paddling experience. However, as we reached Shoal Creek, we noticed the currents dissipating, marking the transition into the serene backwaters of Lake Allatoona.

Navigating the backwaters was like entering a whole new world. The tranquility and beauty of the wetlands at the mouth of Jug Creek left us in awe. Exploring the historic Donalson Furnace on Shoal Creek was a unique and educational experience, connecting us to the area’s rich history.

Donaldson’s Furnace

Throughout the journey, we encountered breathtaking natural scenery, abundant wildlife, and moments of pure serenity. It was a reminder of how essential it is to preserve and appreciate the beauty of our environment.

If you’re looking to embark on this adventure, consider Lilydipper Outfitters in Canton, the nearest canoe/kayak outfitter. They can provide you with the necessary equipment and expertise to make your trip enjoyable and safe.

Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner seeking a new outdoor experience, Canton to Lake Allatoona offers an unforgettable journey that celebrates the beauty of nature and the thrill of exploration. So, grab your kayak or canoe, and let the river and backwaters of Lake Allatoona take you on a remarkable voyage filled with discovery and wonder. Happy paddling!

Points of Interest:

Jug Creek Wetlands


On the river right where Jug Creek empties into the river is an extensive bottomland wetlands area. When water levels are appropriate, an adventure through this swampy realm is worth the side trip.

Shoal Creek Donalson Furnace

A venture up Shoal Creek will lead you to the remains of the Donalson Furnace, a Civil War-era iron furnace. The furnace was built by Judge Joseph Donaldson, one of the founders of Canton and the first to build a ferry across the Etowah in Canton. Reportedly, Donalson built the furnace during the war to protect his sons from conscription into the Confederate Army.

The construction of the iron furnace was a critical part of the war effort and would have exempted his sons from military service. Lending credence to this theory is the fact that the furnace was never fired and there was no evidence of iron or slag found in the area. However, other accounts of Donalson’s war efforts suggest he was an ardent supporter of the war effort. He was among the largest slaveholders in the county and outfitted an entire company of soldiers in 1861.

Lake Allatoona

Lake Allatoona-

About six miles below Boling Park, you will encounter the first backwater sloughs of Lake Allatoona. The river’s current slackens and the river itself spreads over 2 former bottomlands. Some 20 miles downstream, Allatoona Dam blocks the path of the river, creating the 12,000-acre impoundment. Completed in 1950 for $31.5 million, Allatoona Dam’s original primary purpose was to save the city of Rome downstream from routine flooding. Now, some six decades later, the federal impoundment does much more.

The powerhouse at the dam produces enough electricity to power 17,000 homes annually and the recreation/ tourism industry that hosts some six million lake visitors each year generates an estimated $250 million annually. The lake also enables one of the biggest controversies in Georgia’s water management policy—an interbasin water transfer from the Etowah to the Chattahoochee basin.

Each day, the Cobb-Marietta Water Authority withdraws millions of gallons from Lake Allatoona and pumps it to water users in the Chattahoochee basin. Much of that withdrawal is never returned to the Etowah, depriving the lake and downstream communities of the benefit of that water.

In part, it was the threat of water transfers to Atlanta, out of the Coosa River Basin which flows into Alabama, that prompted the State of Alabama to file suit to stop Atlanta’s play for more water in 1990. That lawsuit evolved into a “water war” that 22 years later remained unresolved. The lake itself has long suffered from poor water quality as a result of rapid land development and stormwater runoff in the lake’s 1,110-square-mile watershed. Nutrients, primarily phosphorus, have resulted in algal blooms on the lake that can lead to fish kills.

Georgia National Cemetery

Georgia National Cemetery

On river right here overlooking the Etowah is the 775-acre Georgia National Cemetery, dedicated in June 2006 and the second national cemetery in
Georgia. The Georgia National Cemetery opened for burials on April 24, 2006. It includes sites for 33,000 full-casket graves, 3,000 in-ground sites for cremation remains and 3,000 columbaria niches for cremation remains. The property was donated by the late Scott Hudgens, a well-known Atlanta land developer who was a World War II veteran himself.

Blankenship Sand Co.

Knox bridge sand

Blankenship Sand Company operates a sand dredge in the stretch of the lake above and below Knox Bridge. The company also operates a dredge upstream near East Cherokee Drive. Here they suck sand from the river bottom, helping to prevent the lake from filling with sediment—a process that is inevitable over the coming millenniums.

Each year, Mr. Blankenship and his crew remove about 100,000 tons of sand from the river—enough to fill 4,000 tractor-trailers. That 100,000 tons of sand represents 15 million gallons of storage capacity on the lake. Sand dredges are common on all Georgia rivers, but Blankenship is the only operator on the length of the Etowah.

Bottom Line

Embarking on the Canton to Lake Allatoona journey offers an enriching adventure that can be enjoyed year-round. From the flowing river in Canton to the backwaters of Lake Allatoona, you’ll witness the ever-changing beauty of nature.

Explore the wetlands at Jug Creek, uncover the history of Donalson Furnace on Shoal Creek, and marvel at the magnificence of Lake Allatoona. While navigating the serene backwaters, take a moment of reflection at the Georgia National Cemetery overlooking the Etowah River. Don’t miss the chance to observe Blankenship Sand Company’s efforts to preserve the lake’s ecosystem.

So, grab your kayak or canoe and let this scenic voyage take you on a remarkable journey filled with discovery and wonder. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a beginner seeking a new outdoor experience, Canton to Lake Allatoona promises unforgettable moments in the heart of nature. Happy paddling and exploring!