Located at the southern end of the Appalachian Mountains, the Tallapoosa River winds 258 miles from western Georgia into eastern Alabama. The river gets its name from the people who lived along the lower stretch of it in the eighteenth century. The Tallapoosa flows through stretches of lush countryside that help preserve its natural beauty and solitude. The Tallapoosa is so unique that the Alabama section has been designated a part of the Alabama Scenic River Trail.
Naturalists, historians, and adventurers are quick to point out that the crown jewel of the Tallapoosa River lies in east central Alabama within the borders of Tallapoosa and Chambers Counties. Along a 25-mile stretch of water, visitors discover the tranquility in a mighty waterway that winds and spills along the Piedmont. Pause along your journey to witness the unique perspective of a fierce battle fought long ago and wonder in the beauty of the shoal lily while catching a glimpse of a soaring bald eagle.
About Harold Banks
Harold Banks is a man of many talents— historian, forester, storyteller, explorer, and outdoorsman. But in Tallapoosa County, he is best known for his red canoe and his expertise on the river. In 2009, he became the first person to solo paddle the entire 258 miles of the Tallapoosa River from its origins in Paulding County, Georgia, to its end at Fort Toulouse near Wetumpka, Alabama. In 2015, the 25-mile stretch of the river located in Tallapoosa and Chambers Counties and cherished by Harold was named in his honor. He resides in Dadeville, Alabama.
Water Level Info
The Tallapoosa River may be floated year-round, but the best time is in the spring and summer. Paddlers are strongly recommended to check the U.S. Geological Survey website (www.usgs.gov/water) before floating the Tallapoosa River for current streamflow conditions, levels, and discharge rates. Specific data for the Tallapoosa River can be found from two gauges located at the bridges in Wadley and Horseshoe Bend (near New Site).
A favorable discharge rate is between 1,500 and 10,000 ft3/sec.
A rate above 10,000 ft3/sec may be dangerous and is not recommended.
A rate below 1,500 ft3/sec may present low areas and some dragging.
Public Access Points
Jay Bird Creek – 1897 Boone Valley Road, Jacksons Gap, AL
Peters Island – 1586 Peter’s Island Road, Daviston, AL
Horseshoe Bend – 10689 Horseshoe Bend Road (Hwy 49 North), Dadeville, AL Germany’s Ferry Access – 1387
Germany’s Ferry Road, Daviston, AL Bibby’s Ferry Access – 12449 County Road 62, Wadley, AL
Welcome to the Harold Banks Canoe Trail!
A peaceful, family friendly adventure, the trail is a combination of flat water and shoals rarely above class 1 (easy) in the International Scale of River Difficulty. But the level, flow, and volume of the Tallapoosa River are seasonal and dictated by Alabama Power and its hydroelectric Harris Dam located upstream near Wedowee, Alabama. Paddlers are strongly encouraged to monitor the online water level gauges kept by the U.S. Geological Service at the Wadley Bridge and Horseshoe Bend Bridge.
The Tallapoosa County Canoe Trail is divided into three sections and manageable float trips:
Section 1 (8.25 miles, 5-hour float) begins with public access at Bibby’s Ferry, just across the Tallapoosa County
line in Chambers County, and ends with public access at Germany’s Ferry Bridge. This section features unique spots such as the Baptistry and the Fish Trap, brisk shoals, great fishing, a campsite, and stretches of flat water paddling.
Section 2 (9.75 miles, 6-hour float) begins with public access at Germany’s Ferry Bridge and ends with public access at Horseshoe Bend Bridge. This middle section begins with blue water paddling and includes fishing spots, mile-long Griffin Shoals, with a brisk side channel, and ends with reminiscent paddling through historic Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.
Section 3 (6 miles, 4-hour float) is the most popular and considered by many to be the most scenic. It begins with public access at Horseshoe Bend Bridge and ends at Jay Bird Creek public access. This lower section has several patches of Shoal or Cahaba lilies, is known to have bald eagles in the area, and features Peters Island, Laura’s Leap, side chutes, Irwin Shoals, and a campsite at Jay Bird Creek. Bear left or right to take the swift side chutes for more excitement!
Fish weirs are structures built within a stream or river designed to route fish to a particular area, such as shallows or into a trap where they can be captured. Native Americans and early settlers stacked stones to build V-shaped dams in the river to create a rock weir to trap fish. The “V” pointed downstream with a narrow opening at the apex. Often in normal or high water, the rocks were not evident; one might only notice watery ripples showing the weir’s pattern. In the summer when the water ran low, the Native Americans caught fish by herding them into the weir, where a trap made of baskets or cane was positioned at the apex. Indian oral tradition notes that women and children would enter the weir and splash with their hands, canes, or sticks to scare fish toward the trap. There the fish could be speared, netted, or caught.
Tallapoosa River is classified as Outstanding Alabama Water (OAW): high-quality waters that constitute an outstanding Alabama resource, such as waters of state parks and wildlife refuges and waters of exceptional recreational or ecological significance.
The Tallapoosa River Basin, a part of the greater Mobile River Basin, has long been treasured for the quality water it provides. The Tallapoosa River’s headwaters originate in Georgia’s counties Paulding and Carrol. It then flows into Alabama in Cleburne County and meanders southwesterly through Randolph, Chambers, Tallapoosa, and Elmore Counties until it joins the Coosa River to create the Alabama River. The Tallapoosa River forms two large reservoirs, Lake Wedowee and Lake Martin.
Total drainage area of the Tallapoosa
Basin equals 4,053 square miles in Alabama.
Float Trip Checklist
- life preservers
- dry bag and clothes
- drinks and food
- wide-brimmed hat
- car keys
- GPS (optional)
- lighter or fire-starter stick
- toilet tissue in zippered plastic bag
- cell phone, camera in zippered plastic bag
- hammock or camping gear (optional)
- Several landowners have given permission for public camping along the creek. Respect this privilege and camp only at designated campsites.
- All private land adjoining the creek is posted by Alabama law.
- Camping is by permission only and only in designated areas.
- Landowners who give permission for trespass have liability protection under the Code of Alabama 1975 Article 1 Section 35-15-1.
The two public campsites on the Tallapoosa River are all on private property. These sites are available by permission of the landowners, so respect this privilege by following these guidelines.
- Leave it cleaner than you found it.
- Collect firewood from dead material on the ground.
- Keep fire inside a stone ring and extinguish with water before leaving.
- Use the restroom away from the campsite area.
- Do not damage trees in any way, including using nails.
- Send a thank-you note to the landowner via the Tallapoosa County Extension Office, 125 North Broadnax Street, Rm 23, Dadeville, AL 36853. Reference the campsite name.
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
On March 26, 1814, General Andrew Jackson’s army made camp six miles north of Horseshoe Bend and the Red Stick village of Tohopeka. The next morning, Jackson sent General John Coffee and 700 mounted infantry and 600 Cherokee and Creek allies three miles downstream to cross the Tallapoosa and surround the bend. He took the rest of the army—about 2,000 men consisting of East and West Tennessee militia and the Thirty- ninth U.S. Infantry—into the peninsula and began an ineffectual two-hour artillery bombardment of the Red Sticks’ log barricade. At noon, Coffee’s Cherokee allies crossed the river and assaulted the Red Sticks from the rear. Jackson quickly ordered a frontal bayonet charge, which poured over the barricade. By dark, at least 800 of Chief Menawa’s 1,000 Red Sticks were dead (557 slain on the field and 200 to 300 in the river). Menawa himself, although severely wounded, managed to escape. In the battle, 49 of Jackson’s army were killed and 154 wounded, many mortally.
Though the Red Sticks had been crushed at Tohopeka, remnants of the war party held out for several months. In August 1814, a treaty between the United States and the Creek Nation was signed at Fort Jackson near the present day city of Wetumpka, Alabama. The Treaty of Fort Jackson ended the conflict and required the Creeks to cede 23 million acres of land to the United States. The state of Alabama was carved out of this domain and admitted to the Union in 1819.
In 1828, partly as a result of his fame from the battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans, Andrew Jackson was elected the seventh President of the United States.
Important Contact Numbers
- Tallapoosa County Extension Office – (256) 825-1050
- Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Office – (256) 825-4264
- Russell Medical Center – (256) 329-7100
- Horseshoe Bend National Military Park – (256) 234-7111
- Alabama Forestry Commission (to report wildfires) – (800) 492-3711
Tallapoosa County Extension – www.aces.edu/Tallapoosa
U.S.G.S (Alabama Stream Flows) – www.usgs.gov/water
Alabama Scenic River Trail – www.alabamascenicrivertrail.com
Alexander City Chamber of Commerce – www.alexandercity.org
Tallapoosa County, Alabama – www.tallaco.com
Outdoor Alabama – www.outdooralabama.com
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park – www.nps.gov/hobe
Google Earth – www.google.com/earth
For more information, contact your county Extension office. Visit www.aces.edu/directory
Shane Harris, County Extension Coordinator, Tallapoosa County; Bruce Dupree, Creative Services Manager, Auburn University.
Reviewed March 2022, Harold Banks Canoe Trail on the Tallapoosa River, ANR-2229