An intimate river with a piedmont flavor, the Yellow River Water Trail stretches from suburban Atlanta to Lake Jackson covering the counties of Gwinnett, Dekalb, Rockdale, and Newton with put-in and take-out points located approximately every five to ten miles. The 53-mile river is mostly flatwater, and has a wide array of wildlife and a rich history from prior mill towns and Native American Indian settlements. The upper suburban stretches offer locals a quiet, peaceful, paddling getaway from hectic life.
YELLOW RIVER OVERVIEW
FIVE FORKS ROAD BRIDGE ACCESS POINT
The Five Forks Bridge Access represents the upper point for year round navigable water depth. This suburban section winds between wooded neighborhoods. From spring through fall, paddlers will rarely see a house due to the thick canopy of trees. This is a beautiful section of flowing flatwater with the occasional small shoal. You may encounter a tree across the river that will need to be negotiated, although storm flows normally keep the river clear. As you pass the Killian Hill Bridge the river will slowly widen and, with occasional low water levels, become shallow. When you near the Yellow River Game Ranch, you will hear some of their animals and perhaps see some of their guests. The take-out is under the Hwy 78 bridge. You can combine your Yellow River paddle with a family visit to the Yellow River Game Ranch, and also enjoy a beverage and snack at Alcovy Coffee House, located on the scenic shore of Lake Lucerne, on Hwy 78 across from the take-out.
US HWY 78 ACCESS POINT
This section is known for its Class II-III+ whitewater. Please check that the water levels on the USGS website for the GA-124 Lithonia Gauge are at a height of 3.4 feet to 5 feet, or 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 600 cfs for a good whitewater paddling experience. Before you reach the rapids you will pass the beautiful Vecoma event facility, where weddings and other events are hosted on the riverbank. Please be respectful when paddling by. The whitewater section starts with a couple drops of 4 feet and 3 feet, and fun stretches of class I & II rapids on the left side of an island. Between the whitewater sections are flowing flatwater. This suburban section of river weaves between neighborhoods, but normally the tree canopy is thick enough to obscure sight of homes. Important! Annistown Falls at Annistown Road Bridge should be portaged, and only experienced kayakers with protective gear should attempt the Falls, due to the large rock at the bottom of the stream flow. After the falls there are a couple hundred yards of fun class II whitewater. Approximately 300 yards downstream from Annistown Road Bridge is Yellow River Park. Take- out at the large low flat rocks. You will usually see families playing in the river here.
YELLOW RIVER PARK GWINNETT ACCESS POINT
The Yellow River is scenic flowing flatwater along this section. You can combine your Yellow River paddle with a family visit to Yellow River Park, which offers long wooded hiking and biking trails through the woods and along the river. This beautiful park also has pavilions for patrons to use, and is a venue for special events throughout the year. The river banks are steep throughout Yellow River Park. The scenery becomes rural with few signs of civilization and more natural forest. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as Great Egrets, Spiny Softshell Turtles, and various species of swallow that dart back and forth across the river as they catch flying insects. You may find Native American artifacts such as pottery shards and spearheads on sandbars along the way. After passing under a powerline, you’ll be near the takeout at Norris Lake Drive, which runs next to the river. Take-out is at a large low flat rock below the road.
MT. TABOR BRIDGE ROAD ACCESS
Mt. Tabor Road access is the northern access point for the Yellow River Water Trail in Newton County. Wildlife is abundant in this flatwater, tree -lined section of the river. Great Blue Herons, North American River Otters, and American Beavers are just a few of the companions that you might encounter on your trip. You will paddle past historic bridge columns from the civil war era, under a working train trestle, Interstate-20, and local roads. At normal water levels, there are several sandbars suitable for picnics or fishing. Between I-20 and the Brown Bridge Road crossing there are two large tandem pipes that will require portaging, which is a simple navigation. If the river is three feet or more above normal water levels, this pipe will not be visible. As you arrive at Porterdale’s Yellow River Park, you will find an excellent boat launch area along with picnic tables and hiking trails near the parking area.
CEDAR SHOALS PARK - RIVER FRONT ROAD ACCESS POINT
This section of the Yellow River Water Trail begins at Porterdale’s Riverfront Park along Riverfront Road, where there are picnic tables and benches here courtesy of the City of Porterdale. At normal water levels, boats can be launched above the class I-II shoals located below the dam. This section transitions from shoals to a long and scenic flatwater paddle with very few sandbars or places to stop along the route. One area along the riverbank is home to a large number of vultures that are frequently seen sunning themselves in the tops of the trees. If you paddle quietly, you may be able to sneak up on other wildlife such as North American River Otters, Belted Kingfishers, and even one of Georgia’s threatened species such as Bald Eagles or Alligator Snapping Turtles.