Physical Description

The most accepted meaning of Tallapoosa comes from the Choctaw or Alabama words for Tali which is rock and Pushi for pulverized. A less likely translation is from the Creek Talepula meaning stranger. (Read)

The Tallapoosa River originates in Paulding County Georgia, just 40 miles west of Atlanta, at an elevation of about 1,145 feet. It flows in a south-westerly direction for about 195 miles into Alabama and then takes a big left hand turn to the west after meeting Uphapee Creek and continues westerly for 40 miles to join the Coosa River near Wetumpka. Its total length of 235 miles drains a watershed area of 4,680 square miles. Only 720 square miles lie in Georgia accounting for 15% of the total land area. The remaining 3,960 square miles lie in Alabama accounting for 85% of the land area. (GA DNR)


From its source, the river falls at a rate of 12 feet per mile for the first 15 miles, then descends at a more gradual rate of 3.4 feet per mile. In the lower reach from Thurlow Dam to its mouth, the river falls at a rate of 1.6 feet per mile. (Corps) The river’s width varies from 250 feet to 700 feet and has banks that are 20 feet high along the flood plain. (GA DNR)

The Upper Tallapoosa has one primary tributary, the Little Tallapoosa River, which originates slightly to the south of its older sibling, in Carroll County Georgia. Within Georgia, the Tallapoosa River and the Little Tallapoosa River form separate basins of almost equal drainage area. The Little Tallapoosa’s total drainage area is 605 square miles. The main stem enters Alabama at Cleburne County and the Little Tallapoosa enters as the border between Cleburne and Randolph Counties. The two merge when they flow into Lake Wedowee. (GA DNR)

Other principal tributaries include Sougahatchee Creek, South Sandy Creek, Uphapee, and Hillabee Creeks in Alabama. (GA DNR)

71% of the basin lies in the Piedmont physiographic province. This area is characterized by igneous and metamorphic rocks, which together are called crystalline rocks. The metamorphic rocks are extensively folded and faulted. The other 29% of the basin lies in the Coastal Plain province with elevations between 50 and 850 feet (generally less than 300 feet) and a sediment based geology. (GA DNR)(Corps)

Riverflows in the watershed measure approximately 2,500 cfs (cubic feet per second) in the upper reaches of the river near Heflin, Alabama. At about the middle of the basin flows average 22,000 cfs at Wadley, Alabama, and near the mouth, below Thurlow Dam, flows measure approximately 60,000 cfs at Tallassee. (GA DNR)

The Tallapoosa River basin is characterized by a moist and temperate climate with annual precipitation ranging between 49 and 53 inches per year. There is minimal snowfall in the region and a distinct dry season occurs from mid-summer to late fall. Rainfall is usually greatest in March and least in October. The mean annual temperature is about 61 degrees Fahrenheit. (GA DNR)