Rome Guide: A Captivating Journey from Outskirts to Downtown Delights

Embark on a year-round river adventure, where the waters flow gracefully, yet not without the occasional fluctuation caused by releases from the Allatoona Dam. Planning your voyage has never been easier; just call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at midnight to retrieve the daily release schedules.

Your journey starts at the Ga. Loop 1 launch site, where the nearest river gauge is located. Prepare your paddles and boats at Dixon Landing, a paved boat ramp nestled within the Rome-Floyd YMCA Sports Complex. Follow the scenic route from US 411, and you’ll find yourself at this picturesque spot where excitement awaits.

Before you set sail, remember that water released from the dam takes approximately 12 hours to reach Ga. Loop 1. Timing is key to ensure a smooth adventure. But worry not, for the anticipation only adds to the thrill!

As the river carries you downstream, be ready for nature’s surprises and breathtaking landscapes. From meandering through serene stretches to tackling the Class II rapid over the dam, every moment is an opportunity for exhilaration and awe.

Your journey’s end offers two choices: the Lock and Dam Park, a tranquil Floyd County Park, perfect for camping and exploration; or the alternative take-out site at Downtown Rome’s Heritage Park, where the Coosa meets the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers. Both options promise unforgettable experiences.

To make this adventure truly unforgettable, you can rely on the Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome, the finest canoe/kayak outfitter, for expert guidance and equipment.

So, let the river’s current carry you on a voyage of wonder and serenity, and discover the magic that awaits along the captivating Coosa River!

Points of Interest:


This unique spring carves a pocket from the river bank sending up a gusher of clear, cold water through sand and sediment. It is visible during low river water left.

Callier Springs Country Club—Fore!

Watch for golf balls in this stretch. Founded in 1939, Callier Springs boasts of willow trees around the course’s water features that are offspring from a tree that grew on the gravesite of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Cattle Access—Mooo!

This site is an example of the damage to stream banks that can be wrought by livestock. While state agriculture agencies encourage cattle owners to exclude their animals from rivers and streams, no state laws mandate such practices. Livestock can denude riparian vegetation, creating erosion problems and animal manure can contribute to elevated bacteria levels.

City of Rome Water Intake

On average, the City of Rome pumps a combined 6.2 million gallons per day from this location and its primary pump station on the Oostanaula River. In recent years, the City has expressed interest in pumping all of its supply from the Etowah because it generally carries less sediment and other
pollutants than the Oostanaula.

Rome Floathouses and Brothels

During the early 1900s, and especially during the Great Depression years of the late 20s and 30s, many of the destitute turned to the rivers for survival, taking up residences on shanty boats or floathouses where the living was cheap and where a trotline could always supply dinner. Rome had its share of these. At the 2nd Avenue Bridge, one notable float house operated as a brothel, a line of business for which Rome became somewhat famous.

About a mile upstream and just north of the river was a brothel called “Peggy’s” that reportedly achieved national acclaim. A former textile mill worker, Peggy Snead operated what was considered a “clean house” and reportedly even paid city taxes on her services. City leaders looked the other way and the house worked quietly for several decades. An advertisement for the establishment even appeared in the 1963 Georgia Institute of Technology yearbook.

Battle of Hightower

On Oct. 17, 1793, somewhere near the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, a group of Creek/Cherokee Indians battled a U.S. force led by Gen. John Sevier. Sevier and his men pursued the natives from Tennessee after an attack on settlements there. In the brief Battle of Hightower, Sevier’s troops forded the Etowah and met resistance from the Indians led by the Cherokee chief, King Fisher. King Fisher was killed in the battle and the Indian force retreated east toward present-day Cartersville. A city recreational trail that parallels the river here is named in honor of King Fisher.

Myrtle Hill Cemetery

Rising above the South Broad Bridge in downtown Rome, Myrtle Hill and the cemetery on its flanks is the final resting place of 20,000 people, including some 370 Confederate and Union soldiers of the Civil War; Ellen Axson Wilson, the wife of President Woodrow Wilson (Wilson courted Miss Axson in her
hometown); and, believe it or not, the great grandparents of rock n’ roll legend, Jim Morrison.

Morrison’s forebears came to Rome around 1886 and operated the Morrison­Trammel Brick Company. A four­year­old Jim attended his great grandmother’s funeral at the cemetery in 1947. Early Romans chose this spot for a cemetery because of the river’s frequent floods.

Etowah & Oostanaula Confluence & Downtown Rome

Where the Etowah and Oostanaula meets to form the Coosa, you will find the heart of Rome, founded in 1834. Rome was a thriving river town during the 1800s and early 1900s. The 100­block of Broad Street is referred to as the Cotton Block because this is where cotton was loaded onto steamboats bound down river. In 1873, six steamboats operated out of Rome. Between Rome and Gadsden, Alabama, there were some 140 landings. When within their banks and carrying cotton, the rivers were a blessing, but the rivers’ periodic freshets were a curse.

The town’s most famous flood occurred in 1886 when parts of downtown were covered in more than 10 feet of water. During high water, the paddle wheeler “Mitchell” steamed up Broad Street, took a left on Fourth Avenue, and crossed the Oostanaula to save a horse. Some 30 homes were washed downstream along with three bridges, prompting the city to raise the level of Broad Street by eight feet. What is now recognized as the first floors of many historic downtown buildings are the former second floors.

An inspection of the iron railroad bridge over the Oostanaula at the confluence will reveal that this structure was designed as a pivot bridge allowing the span to swing parallel to the river from its center footing, permitting the passage of river steamers. Also note at the confluence the disparate water temperatures of the two rivers, especially notable during the summer months.

The Etowah runs noticeably cooler because of releases from the cold water at the base of Allatoona Dam—a change in river habitat that has, in part, caused the demise of many fish and mussel species in the Etowah.

The Dixie

Lying along the banks of the Etowah and Coosa rivers is the remains of the paddle wheeler, The Dixie. The wood structure of the boat can still be discerned in low water along with cribbing from the wharf where she once docked. The boat caught fire in 1914 while moored at a landing, reportedly after the cook’s fire got out of control.

Heritage Park & Flood Control

A boat ramp at the City’s Heritage Park provides a takeout location and views of the city’s extensive levee system. Completed in 1939 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the levee saved portions of Rome from the freshets but proved ineffective at preventing floods in the downtown business district.

Horseleg Creek & PCBs

This creek, which drains much of West Rome, has been impacted by PCB contamination from General Electric’s Medium Transformer Plant in Rome. A known carcinogen, PCBs left the GE facility in stormwater that emptied into Horseleg and other creeks. GE, under order from Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD), has done extensive excavation along Horseleg to remove contaminants.

During the years PCBs were used at the plant, an unknown number of GE employees used PCBs at their homes as a termite deterrent, dust suppressant, and wood treatment. And, an undetermined number of residents used PCB­contaminated sludge from Rome’s wastewater treatment plant as fertilizer for gardens and farms. Today, the extent of PCB contamination in the area is still not fully known, and PCBs continue to be found in fish of the Coosa River Basin, resulting in fish consumption advisories for most rivers and streams in the area. Clean-up of PCBs at the GE facility and in and around Rome is expected to take decades.

Marshall Forest

Located on the river right here, Marshall Forest is a 300­acre Nature Conservancy preserve that is home to one of the last remaining stands of old-growth forest in the Ridge and Valley province, a geographical corridor that runs from Pennsylvania to Alabama. More than 300 species of plants, including 55 tree species can be found in the forest. Designated Georgia’s first National Natural Landmark in 1966, the forest is said to be the country’s only old-growth forest within city limits.

Rome Water Reclamation Plant

Until 1965 when this facility was constructed, the City of Rome had limited sewage treatment. It’s said that Coosa River anglers of the 1950s routinely reeled in toilet paper on their lines. Beginning in 2001, the City, under the order of EPD, embarked on a $38 million upgrade to the plant that was completed in 2008. The facility can now treat up to 36 million gallons of sewage daily.

Blacks Bluff Preserve

The “bluffs”—500­million year­old Conasauga limestone—are visible on river left rising above Black’s Bluff Road which runs parallel to the Coosa. The Nature Conservancy has protected 132 acres along the river here because of its botanical diversity. A massive natural rock garden, the north­facing slope of the bluffs keeps things cool and moist and the alkalinity of the lime­rich soil provides habitat for endangered large­flowered skullcap and the state­endangered limerick arrowwood. The site includes limestone caves that are home to cave salamanders.

Mile 170.4—(34°12’1.48″N 85°15’25.48″W)—Lock and Dam Park & Popeye—

In the 1800s, this was the site of troublesome shoals known as Horseleg Shoals that made navigation difficult for the paddle wheelers. The solution was to build a small dam and a lock to move the ships and the cotton they carried up and down the river. The project was completed in 1913 and operated until 1941. Its most lasting contribution to the Coosa Valley and the world is as the birthplace of the cartoon character, Popeye.

Popeye’s creator, TomSims, was the son of a boat captain who operated ships on the Coosa River for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers including one called the “Leota”. The stories of Popeye are drawn from Sims’ childhood on the Coosa. Sims said, “Fantastic as Popeye is, the whole story is based on facts. As a boy I was raised on the Coosa River. When I began writing the script for Popeye I put my characters back on the old “Leota” that I knew as a boy, transformed it into a ship and made the Coosa River a salty sea.”