For my 15th birthday last year, my parents gave me a canoe! It wasn’t brand new, but it was a good brand (Old Towne) and didn’t leak! I was so excited; for many years I had wanted a boat, kayak or canoe so I could float down a river or paddle around a lake. The first places my dad and I thought of going to test the canoe were a lake in Fort Yargo State Park and Lake Chapman in Sandy Creek Park. We went to both many times and it was fun, but I was looking for a new adventure, a new place to explore in our canoe, like a river.
One weekend, my dad and I set out to find a river to paddle on. We decided to try canoeing the Toccoa River, but when we got there we found out the water levels were too low for a canoe. When we got home, we did some research and found some great resources and information about paddling rivers in Georgia and even right here in Athens.
If you want a couple of hours of fun without going very far, try the Middle Oconee River that runs right through Athens. Big Dogs on the River has everything you need including kayaks, equipment and transportation up the river, which is where you will start your trip (all for $15-20). You won’t even feel like you are still in a city as you paddle this beautiful 3.5-mile river trail. You’ll see lush vegetation, wildlife, and some class l or ll rapids (depending on water level). This is a great activity for groups who often have a barbeque or picnic when they finish their trip back at Big Dogs.
For a longer trip, just drive 30 minutes north to the Broad River. On this scenic river you can paddle for 70 straight miles without stopping, but most people do either a five- or 10-mile stretch which includes some fun Class ll rapids. These half-day or full-day trips are easy and fun to do with rentals and transportation from either of two outfitters, Broad River Outpost or The Sandbar.
Now, if you have your own canoe or kayak like I do, you may want to venture a little farther to explore other great rivers in Georgia. The best source for great information that we found was the Georgia River Network (www.garivers.org) which is a non-profit based right here in Athens. Their site has maps and information about all the rivers and water trails in GA. They also list outfitters for each river and groups that are planning trips for a day, weekend and even longer. Their goal is to encourage safe and responsible use of Georgia rivers. They want more people to support their primary mission, which is to preserve and protect our incredible natural water resources.
One of the best suggestions that April Ingle, executive director of the Georgia River Network made to us is that we should go on some planned river trips with local river groups listed on their site. These groups are led by people who are experienced on Georgia rivers and they will make most of the arrangements for the trip, including transportation back to your car. This makes your trip safer and more enjoyable, plus you get to meet other people who also like to paddle. My dad and I are planning to do a couple of these this spring and summer and hopefully by next year we will be ready to Paddle Georgia.
No, I don’t mean we will paddle the entire state of Georgia. Paddle Georgia is a weeklong paddle trip on one of Georgia’s Rivers. Each year, 350 people of all ages paddle approximately 100 miles, camping, eating and forming friendships along the way. Last year’s trip started in Athens at Big Dogs on the River and ended in Dublin, GA. Proceeds from these trips are donated to local riverkeeper and protection organizations. The Paddle Georgia Coordinator is Joe Cook, who has paddled the entire state of Georgia with his wife and is considered to be the expert on paddling in the state.
I’m so glad that I got a canoe for my birthday. It has already been a lot of fun to get out and spend time with my dad doing something that we both love to do. We are looking forward to exploring the rivers and water trails of Georgia but I don’t plan to stop there. Canoeing and kayaking is something I will probably do for the rest of my life and I know I will see a lot of beautiful places and meet some great people doing it.
If you haven’t tried canoeing or kayaking, give it a try. Paddling is something anyone and everyone can do to get outdoors, have fun and get active. I’d love see more people out there enjoying all benefits paddling has to offer. See you out on the water!
Where to paddle and places that rent canoes or kayaks:
Georgia River Network &
Big Dogs on the River
Broad River Outpost
Georgia State Parks