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The Etowah River

Updated on January 26, 2012

The Etowah River begins in the mountains of Lumpkin County north of Dahlonega, and flows south and southwest into Lake Allatoona over the course of about 60 to 75 miles. The river provides many different resources to the environment and the communities it flows through. In 1941 the river was dammed to help create Allatoona Lake and provide hydroelectricity to surrounding areas. Due to the damming of the Etowah, much of the usable drinking water for surrounding counties comes from the Etowah. This is one impact the Etowah has on our environment, but what effects have we had on the Etowah?

Electricity and Drinking Water

The river provides surrounding areas with electricity from the dam as well as up to 90% of the drinking water for multiple counties, such as Bartow and Cherokee. This is a great benefit to the human population of this area, however this unnatural structure disrupts the natural cycle of the area. Because of this other species are feeling the bad effects from the very thing that benefits us in so many ways. Below the dam the natural habitat has been changed very much, for example there are roads and even whole neighborhoods underwater from when the river was dammed, so under the dam the natural habitat has been forever changed, but above the dam more of it has stayed the same.

Disruption Of The River

Since humans have dammed the Etowah, we have disrupted its natural flow and natural conditions. Above the dam, where the biodiversity is mostly intact, the river is home to more imperiled species (17 Fish 16 Invertebrate) than any other comparable river in the country. The species of most concern in the Etowah River are the Amber and Etowah darters (listed as federally endangered), the Cherokee darter (federally threatened), and the federally endangered upland comb shell and the southern and ovate clubshells, as well as endangered plants such as the large-flowered skullcap, Tennessee yellow-eyed grass, and the federally-threatened small whorled pogonia.

Threatened Species

So with all of these threatened species, how are we helping to protect them? Because of the large amount of endangered and threatened species in the Etowah; local governments, business officials, and private citizens are working together to keep urban growth, which is the largest threat to the river, in suitable areas that are less sensitive or away from the river entirely. With proper conservation these species will begin to repopulate rather quickly.

The River Provides Many Opportunities

The river also provides many recreational opportunities for people from all walks of life. The Etowah is renowned for its recreational fishing, as it has even been seen on the Animal Planet show River Monsters. During the summer months fish such as striper, buffalo, whites, and hybrids all make their spawning runs up the river, thus making for great fishing and eating as well. The river also provides rushing rapids, which range from class III to low level IV rapids providing a great environment for river rafting, kayaking, and tubing. The Etowah River provides a wide variety of resources ranging from natural to man made. The Etowah provides its surrounding counties with so many resources, while sustaining a diverse ecosystem within the limitations and variations placed on it by man.


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