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It might surprise some paddling enthusiasts to learn that Georgia has a diverse range of waterways to explore in a kayak. Here you’ll find whitewater rapids, scenic coastal areas, and relaxing lakes to match your idea of adventure. Whether you have your own gear or rent equipment from a local outfitter, kayaking is a really fun way to get active and explore the state’s natural landscapes. Here are our favorite places to go kayaking in Georgia!
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Did you know that the Nature Conservancy has named the Altamaha River in Georgia one of the last great places in the world? This is an undammed river that is a large watershed and home to many endangered species. There are 138 miles along the Altamaha Canoe Trail from Lumber City to the Atlantic Ocean, with about 29 access points along the way to put in. Guide companies often lead three-to-six-hour adventures on this river. You can rent kayak gear from Three Rivers Outdoors to paddle the Altamaha River and see the salt marshes, wetlands, and woodlands for yourself.
The Chattahoochee River flows through many parts of the state, including metro Atlanta and then down to the Gulf of Mexico. But for the best whitewater experience, head to the town of Columbus. This is where the USA Freestyle Kayak National Championships have been held, and it is consistently named one of the country’s top paddling destinations. Columbus offers a long, urban whitewater course with many exciting rapids ranging from Class II to Class IV. Whitewater Express is a guide company that provides gear to both kayakers and rafters on the Chattahoochee River.
The Crooked River offers some excellent flatwater paddling opportunities to locals and tourists, especially if you are headed to Cumberland Island National Seashore. The route from Crooked River State Park to Brickhill Bluff is a recommended one to take to start from the public boat ramp on the mainland. Recommended paddling trails in Crooked River State Park include the four-mile Cherry Point Trail, the six-mile Harriet’s Bluff Trail, and the eight-mile Grover Island Trail.
Whether you’re coming from Atlanta or Athens, Georgia, Fort Yargo State Park is a conveniently located paddling destination that is relaxing and peaceful. There is a 260-acre lake here that is calm and pleasurable if you’re looking for a chill day on the water. This is also a great spot to practice your skills if you’re just learning how to paddle. The state park sometimes hosts ranger-led kayak paddling events for adults and kids ages five and older. Canoes, SUPs, and pedal boats can also be rented here seasonally.
The Toccoa River is another excellent place to put in your kayak, especially if you enjoy fishing. This is a premier trout location in Georgia, and it travels into Tennessee beyond the Blue Ridge Dam. The Toccoa is a Class I/Class II river that’s ideal for overnight camping trips in Georgia’s remote wilderness. For a long paddling journey, consider taking the Toccoa River Canoe Trail from the Deep Hole Recreation Area and then about 13.8 miles along to Sandy Bottom. You can rent out gear from Jon Ron Toccoa River Outfitters to explore the Toccoa River at your own pace or with an adventure guide along for the ride.
If you’re looking for a weekend getaway that the whole family can enjoy in Georgia, then consider planning a trip to Stone Mountain Park. In addition to all the other adventure activities and hiking trails here, it is a great spot for kayaking on the lake. The best time of day to arrive is early in the morning because the lake is less crowded and more peaceful then. REI has a boathouse at the Stone Mountain Park Waterfront and offers classes and outings for half-day, full-day, and weekend-long rental periods. You can even bring your dog onboard the kayak if you have a life vest for him or her to wear.
Head over to Albany, Georgia for another fun day on the water, thanks to the excellent kayaking conditions on the Flint River. This river flows free for a couple of hundred miles and offers scenic views, wildlife sightings, and the fascinating blue hole springs. This is a fun trip for families with kids because the river’s currents are typically pretty mellow. You can start your journey under the Highway 96 bridge near For Valley. Also, Kayak Attack Adventures and Flint River Outpost are local outfitters that can help you get set up on the Flint River. It’s possible to camp and fish along the river for a multi-day kayaking journey here too.
Not to be confused with the Chattahoochee River, the Chattooga River is largely primitive, wild, and undeveloped. You’ll find a great place to paddle on it in Northeast Georgia, near the South Carolina state line. In the summer, whitewater kayaking is popular here. This river has not been obstructed by a dam, and you won’t even see any civilization for much of your journey. Head to Earl’s Ford for easy Class I and Class I rapids, or paddle over to Bull Sluice for more challenging Class IV rapids. Local guide companies that you can team up with include Southeastern Expeditions and the Wildwater Chattooga Adventure Center.
Many paddlers might not think of bringing their kayak gear to a Georgia swamp, but the Okefenokee Swamp offers some incredible landscapes and truly peaceful experiences. You’ll paddle between rows of trees draped with Spanish moss and see lots of birds here…maybe even an alligator! One of the best paddling spots for wildlife lovers at the swamp is Monkey Lake. Don’t worry if you do not have your own kayak, because you can rent one out at the east entrance of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge from Okefenokee Adventures or at the west entrance from Stephen C. Foster State Park.