Upper Ochlockonee River Report
(Hadley Ferry Bridge - Georgia)

View: More Upper Ochlockonee River reports, Tallahassee and West Locations 

Report By:  jlpaddle    Date: 7/9/2015 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 20 photos     Map & Directions: View

If you seek adventure or need a little pain in your life, this is the river for you. If you’ve committed despicable acts during your mis-spent youth and require penance, this is the perfect setting to settle the score.

My Report:

It was hard to find anything written about the section of the Ochlockonee between Hadley Ferry Rd and CR-12 (Fairbanks Ferry Rd.). There is a reason for this and my guess is that few survived the ordeal and, those that did, found it too painful to recall. Since I have not yet recovered form the trauma, and the aches and pains are still with me, and the drugs have not worn off, I can relate this painful story.

Early on Thursday morning Gwen, Don S. and John set out on an exploration of a 10.8 mile section of the Ochlockonee. The water level at the Hadley Ferry Bridge was reported on the website as 3.78 ft. and the cfs was 120, while at the takeout CR-12 Bridge the cfs was 170 and the water level was 25.62 ft. The cfs is a little above the median level, but not by much.

Gwen set a blistering pace for the first few miles and when she stopped for a short time Don and I were able to catch up with her and plead for her to slow down. Over the next few miles, the river is not very wide in some places and the willow trees are always willing to give you an affectionate embrace all along the river. Then came a slide-under that I could not easily get under, so I managed to go swimming after showing off my limb walking skills…or rather my lack of them, when the water beckoned. Needless to say the water felt very good on this hot summer day. We continued on for about 6 miles of interesting paddling and there was even talk of taking beginning paddlers on this trip. However, 6 miles of good paddling on a 10.8 mile trip does not always provide a good example for a beginner trip, as we soon found out.

There comes a point where the river splits into two different routes. The left is shorter and has faster water, while the right is wider and looked more inviting. At the beginning of the left route there was a willow tree partially blocking the way, so I went to work cutting a branch out of the way. While was cutting I had Don check out the other route more closely. When he came back and reported it looked OK, I had cut through the limb and pulled my kayak on through over the rest of the tree. In the spirit of exploration, compounded by heat and being tired I figured it would not be that big of a deal to split up for a short time. Bad decision!

I continued on the left by myself in the narrow and fast water, until I came to a large log laying parallel to the stream in the water. The water got shallow, so I got out, pulled my boat through, and was quickly on my way. Then came faster water, which would have been fun, except for about 5 or 6 limbs blocking the way about a foot or so above the water. I took a short portage to the right in shallow water. Back in the kayak I came up on a very large log with about 4 inches of it above the water. The pull over was going well until I did not quite get my left leg in the kayak and it started filling with water. I got out to find that while the river was not wide it was deep. I swam a short distance before I could find a submerged log to stand on and partially empty the water out of my boat. Paddling with a lot of water still in the boat made maneuvering difficult, but it did make going under the next set of trees a lot easier.

With great difficulty I found a spot to get out and empty out the water. The bank was very muddy and slippery. I had to hang on to a tree to get out, since the bank so steep and the water very deep. It was like trying to get out of a swimming pool with little to hang on to and no place to put your feet…Circus Soleil has nothing on me!

I continued on and saw what I thought might be the right side coming back in with the left. Since I could hear the car traffic on the takeout bridge I figured they may have gone there to look for me. I paddled to the takeout found no one, so I went back to where the two routes came together. I paddled up the right route a short distance and it became clear that it was very rough going and no one had come through there recently. I then paddled up the route I had taken ‘thinking’ that maybe Gwen and Don had changed their minds and come the way I had. All this time I was blowing my whistle to try to get them to respond. After a short distance I went back to the confluence of the two routes and waited, blowing the whistle every so often. About a minute after my last whistle I hear a disturbance in the trees and Gwen and Don appeared. They had not heard my whistling (does this mean that the whistles are loud…but the volume doesn’t carry very far? Not my first experience with this happening with the whistles.) We were very happy to see each other and relieved, but I did have to inform them that they still had two slide-unders to deal with before the takeout.

Plants: We saw one small stand of pink marsh mallow (Hibiscus), one lone coreopsis, trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) and American Buckweatvine (Brunnichia ovata)with very small yellow flowers that were covered with bees . Animals: There were a large number of great blue heron, white heron, one ibis, kingfisher, woodpecker and other little birds.

Don’s comment on the trip was “I did learn that my auto-inflating PFD worked as advertised when I went swimming and the water felt really fine.” And I would not do it again. Gwen’s write-up is attached below.

At the takeout Gwen had enough sticks in her boat for a small bonfire and together we had enough spiders for a meal for six people. After leaving the takeout sadder and maybe wiser we ran into a light rain. To anyone foolish enough to try this trip I suggest you first paddle upstream a mile at the take-out to the confluence of the two routes and take a hard look at what you would need to go through.

How to reach you doom on the Ochlockonee River: From Tallahassee go north on North Meridian Rd. (about 16 miles from I-10) to turn left on Hadley Ferry Rd. it is 2.7 miles to the bridge (put-in is on the northwest side-left) the road is hard to see (30.732332, -84.236228). If you think live to see the takeout you go back to North Meridian Rd turn right then right on CR-12 (Fairbanks Ferry Rd.) 4.2 miles the put-in is on the northwest side (left) 2.7 miles. The road is marked by a number of dumpsters.

Gwen’s write-up.
Upper-Upper Ochlockonee River: GA 154 (Hadley Ferry Rd) to CR 12: 7/9/15

A couple folks in our canoe club have been checking out new places to paddle. So far, John Lorenz and Kathy Newman have led weekday paddles on Spring Creek in Georgia, Lower Dry Creek in Marianna and the Upper Ochlockonee River from CR 12 to Old Bainbridge Rd. On Thursday, July 9, 2015, three of us (John Lorenz, Don S and myself) set out to explore the Upper-Upper Ochlockonee River from GA 154 (Hadley Ferry Rd) to CR 12. We wondered why no one paddles this section. Now we know.

The 10.8 mile section began beautifully with a cafe au latte river framed in wispy weeping willow trees creating charming pathways through the canopied overhang. Trailing tendrils of soft green swept downstream following the lazy current that was turbid with runoff from recent summer rains. It was warm but there was a gentle breeze that teased the hot humid air and brought respite from the summer heat. I was charmed. It brought back memories of childhood and summers at my Aunt Nonie’s house eating ripe melons under a willow tree.

The first 5 - 6 miles progressed quickly as I planned the logistics of offering this trip to the other members of the canoe club and FTA. Sometime after our lunch break, my reverie was interrupted by our first pull-over that required hauling our boats over a large log. John took the opportunity to refresh himself in the brown water. The pull-over maneuver was accomplished easily enough and was soon followed by a wealth of duck-unders, scoot overs and slide overs along with our usual displays of technical expertise as we threaded our way through a myriad of downed trees and overhanging willows. I think we were all getting a little tired but surely we must be near the end of our paddle so we persevered. We couldn’t have been more than 3 miles from the take-out when we came to a divergence in the channel.

During flood stage, the swollen river had sought a course of least resistance and it had resulted in the cut-off of a rather long meander. We couldn’t determine which was the best channel, the old channel or the new channel. John was sawing away at small trees that blocked a narrow aperture into what we later determined to be the cut-off. Don and I checked out the old channel and thought it provided the greater flow. He decided to take that route and I agreed. That was a mistake. Our group of three was split and we had not chosen wisely.

The old channel was beginning to fill in with sediment and small trees had taken root in the shallow water. Tree limbs, logs and debris were caught up in the maize of vegetation obscuring the channel and creating an obstacle course that was not easily circumnavigated. We “Ramboed” our way through thick vegetation picking up boatloads of debris and whole families of spiders and bugs. We got out of our boats and hauled ourselves over one log after another, negotiating tight turns and crashing through the brush and debris. It went on forever. I was beginning to worry that we would not be off the river before the afternoon thunderstorms swept through.

It was a welcome sight to finally see John’s red kayak up ahead. He had chosen the shorter channel and was waiting for us. He told us we weren’t out of the woods yet. We still had two very low duck-unders to deal with. My boat was so lightweight that he had to push down on it while I flattened myself on the bottom of the boat to allow it to pass under one log. It was not the first time that I had found it necessary to stretch out in the canoe with my head under the forward thwart to get the boat under a downfall. Fortunately, that was the last major obstruction in the homeward stretch.

We rounded the bend with delight; bridge music never sounded so sweet. If you wonder, let me tell you bridge music is the rhymic thump, thump, thumping of hot tires on the concrete bridge and it is music to the ears of tired paddlers who just want to get off the river. We were tired. I had a boat full of debris, a big blister on my right hand and a wealth of bruises. My back was killing me. I’m guessing that John and Don have their own mementos of the adventure as well. If they’re like me, they never felt a thing while they were on the river. My adrenalin was pumping overtime and my brain was in problem-solving mode. I asked John how this section of the Ochlockonee compares with the section just downstream. He replied that the section from CR 12 to Old Bainbridge Rd is easy. Then he said “This was the trip from hell”.

We had put-in at 9:00 am and were finally off the river at 4:10 pm. It took 7 hrs to paddle the 10.8 miles of river. Most of that time was spent on the last three miles. The water level at CR 12 (Concord) was approximately 25.6 ft http://waterdata.usgs.gov/fl/nwis/uv/?site_no=02328522&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060 and the discharge was approximately 168 cfs. The water level near Thomasville was approximately 3.78 ft and falling. http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv/?site_no=02327500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00062.

To get there from Tallahassee, take Meridian Rd north to Hadley Ferry Rd. There’s no sign for GA 154 so look for Rock Hill Church on the corner. Turn left and proceed to the put-in on the west bank of the river. To reach the take-out, turn right out of the access road onto Hadley Ferry Rd and proceed to Meridian Rd. Turn right on Meridian and drive south to FL CR 12. It’s well marked. Turn right and proceed to the Ochlockonee River. The take-out is on the west side of the river. I give you this information but I don’t recommend that you paddle this section. And you guessed it; we won’t be offering this section to the canoe club or FTA.

If you seek adventure or need a little pain in your life, this is the river for you. If you’ve committed despicable acts during your mis-spent youth and require penance, this is the perfect setting to settle the score. It is indeed the perfect river to recommend to your most hated enemy, you know, that guy who trampled on your heart and walked away laughing. Otherwise, stick to the Lower Ochlockonee and stay tuned for more adventures as we explore new places to take you paddling. And by the way, as tough as it was, I think we all enjoyed the paddle. Thanks to John Lorenz for organizing this one. I can’t wait to see his next offering.

Get Map & Directions for this trip

Location Data:

Distance (miles): 10.8
Fees/Costs $: 0

Photos from Hadley Ferry Bridge - Georgia:    (Click image to view full size)

View of put-in No Comm
View of put-in
Tree1 No Comm
On the river1 No Comm
On the river1
Tree2 No Comm
Tree3 No Comm
Tree4 No Comm
Tree5 No Comm
Tree6 No Comm
Tree7 No Comm
Tree8 No Comm
Tree9 No Comm
Tree10 No Comm
Tree11 No Comm
Tree12 No Comm
Pullover No Comm

This is where the easy stuff ended.

Tree13 No Comm
Tree14 No Comm
Tree15 No Comm

John's first swimming spot

End of 2 routes No Comm
End of 2 routes
Takeout collection No Comm
Takeout collection

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsYou get to meet a lot of trees. Otherwise do one of the lower sections of the Ochlockonee that are above the damn but below CR-12 in Florida.

Post Date: 7/12/2015

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Notice: Reported conditions may change and there may be errors in this text. Florida Sea Kayaking Association and author(s) of individual reports shall not be held liable for any omissions and inaccuracies contained herein. Readers are cautioned to supplement reports with other sources of information when planning a trip.