The Upper Coosa River Basin occupies three different physiographic provinces including 1. Blue Ridge, the core of the ancient Southern Appalachians 2. Ridge and Valley, the largest province with primarily limestone geology 3. Piedmont, gently rolling hills south and east of the Blue Ridge. The Coosa River system begins as tiny springs in the Cohutta Mountains of Northwest Georgia (headwaters of the Oostanaula River) and in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Central Georgia (headwaters of the Coosawattee and Etowah rivers).
Please click on the map for a larger view. This map shows the towns and cities along our rivers as well as the five major river basins in the Upper Coosa--the Coosa, Oostanaula, Etowah, Conasauga and Coosawattee.
The Conasauga River (headwaters of the Oostanaula), beginning in the Cohuttas, flows out of the Blue Ridge southward into Northwest Georgia’s Ridge and Valley region through the city of Dalton and on toward Calhoun. The Conasauga is 47 miles long, and ranks fourth nationally for the number of federally threatened and endangered species in a single watershed.
The Coosawattee flows about 25 miles from the town of Ellijay to Calhoun. The Coosawattee is formed by the confluence of the Ellijay and Cartecay rivers with their headwaters in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is dammed to form Carters Lake. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Dam is the tallest earthen-fill dam in North America and creates a 400-foot deep reservoir that is 2nd deepest in the eastern United States. A second, re-regulation dam is located downstream of this dam. Below the dam, the river flows southwesterly to its meeting with the Conasauga. Two crayfish and a fish are endemic to the Coosawattee River system.
The Oostanaula River is formed by the confluence of the Conasauga and Coosawattee rivers near the New Echota historic site. From here is flow 47 mile southward, through Calhoun and the Ridge and Valley province to Rome where it meets the Etowah to form the Coosa River. The Oostanaula contains the last remaining population of a critically imperiled snail.
The Etowah River, beginning at Hightower Gap along the Appalachian Trail, about 15 miles northwest of Dahlonega flows 160 miles through the Blue Ridge, into the Piedmont passing the city of Canton and then through the Ridge and Valley province, flowing past Cartersville and then to Rome where it meets the Oostanaula forming the Coosa River. It drains a total of 1,858 square miles. At least four species of fish, a crayfish and an aquatic insect are endemic to the Etowah system. Major Tributaries include Amicalola Creek, Long Swamp Creek, Shoal Creek, Little River, Pumpkinvine Creek, and Euharlee Creek.
Formed by the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula River in Rome, the Coosa flows 600 miles to the Mobile River and Mobile Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. From Rome, the Coosa winds to Weiss Dam near Centre, Alabama. Below Weiss Dam the with the Tallapoosa, forming the Alabama River.
Major tributaries of the Coosa between Rome and Weiss Dam include Big Cedar Creek, Little River and Chattooga River.