Let’s say that you’re a watersports-loving kind of person that found themselves in the beautiful state of Georgia. It seems like a great fit; you’ll surely agree.
Rivers, lakes, even more rivers, and, well – the Atlantic Ocean! That’s all the reassurance I need that Georgia is the perfect kayaking state.
Well, that’s all great – but where should I go? Which spot should I pick?
That’s a fair question. It depends on what you’re looking for, though.
You can pretty much pick a location based on your mood.
You could go for a zen-like paddle down lake Blue Ridge. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take on the challenge of going against the wild waters of the Chattahoochee River.
I know, I know – I’m just throwing fancy names at you. You’ll need a little bit more than that to get you worked up.
I’ve put together a round-up of 8 perfect spots for the best kayaking in Georgia. Where should you start? Well, with this list, I guess.
Let’s see what Georgia has to offer – besides peaches!
Georgia’s Kayaking And Fishing Laws, Regulations & Everything Else You Need To Consider
I know that I made this huge deal about Georgia, enough to make you want to gather your stuff and head out on your kayaking adventure, but I’m going to need you to put your gear down and take a seat.
How about we take a look at the kayaking and fishing laws and regulations in Georgia first?
The more experienced paddlers are probably already doing their research. But I’m pretty sure there are beginners among you that might not even realize that you need to check all the kayaking rules and regulations before going down a river.
Don’t worry, though; I got you covered:
- Do you need to register a kayak in the state of Georgia? If the vessel doesn’t have a motor, it’s not a “vehicle” for Georgians – so no.
- Registration of a motorized kayak – If the vessel is equipped with a motor, you need to have it registered. Every mechanically-propelled boat has to be registered and titled in the state of Georgia.
- Operating license – Children under the age of 12 can legally operate a vessel under 16 feet in length that is either non-motorized or has a motor with 30 horsepower or less (only if accompanied by an adult). Ages 12 to 15 must complete a boater education safety course (if they’re not accompanied by an adult). Ages 16 and up need to have a completed boater safety course.
- Kayaking BUI Law – Georgia’s BUI laws consider a blood alcohol concentration of .08 as the legal limit for those 21 years of age and older. If caught boating under the influence, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.
- Kayak Light Law – If your kayak is shorter than 23 feet, you must display a 360-degree white light visible for 2 miles during the night or in conditions of reduced visibility.
- Kayaking Sounding Devices – Sound-making devices are needed for vessels longer than 26 feet; a whistle is generally recommended.
- Kayaking VFS Law – Night signaling devices are required for all vessels. Day signaling devices are not needed if you’re operating a manually-propelled vessel. When kayaking in controlled waters, your vessel is required to have a night VDS device that is US Coast Guard-approved.
- Do you need a life jacket? Yes – all vessels are required to have PFDs onboard.
- Do you need a license to fish in Georgia? Yes – individuals over the age of 16 have to have a current Georgia fishing license, whether they’re in fresh or salt waters. You can buy a fishing license online via the Department of Natural Resources website or from a local licenced retailer.
Where To Go Kayaking In Georgia – A Round-Up Of Your New Favorite Spots
If there’s one thing to know about Georgia, it’s that the state always has some scenery up its sleeve. Mountains, canyons, and waterfalls are pretty much the standard sight over there.
But while I do suggest just wandering around soaking in the scenery – well, maybe don’t just wander off, stay safe, kids – we‘re here to discuss paddling spots.
And boy, does Georgia deliver in that department.
So, if you’re stuck figuring out where to go, I’ll give you the eight best places to kayak in Georgia – well, in my humble opinion, anyway.
1. Toccoa River Canoe Trail
Best For: Moderate Kayaking and Scenery
This super scenic river is 13.8 miles of forests, pastoral lands, with welcoming wildlife greeting you along the way. It’s a perfect blend of moving scenery with a few rapids on the way – what more could you want?
Here’s what’s waiting for you along the way:
The trail starts in North Georgia at Deep Hole and goes down to Rock Creek Road Bridge. This first segment is about 1.5 miles long, and you need to bring your fishing equipment for it. It’s a highly popular location for trout fishing.
You’ll continue for about a mile until you reach Margaret, which is where the adrenaline kicks in:
The Margaret to Butt Bridge part of the waterway is about 5.8 miles long and is filled with rapids – mainly Class I and II – a suspension bridge and campsites.
From there, you can paddle down for another 1.5 miles to the Dial Bridge, and eventually, you’ll reach Sandy Bottoms.
The put-in spot is located at the Deep Hole Recreation Area, a US Forest Service campground of highway GA 60, south of Blue Ridge. That same highway will get you to Lake Blue Ridge – a state landmark created after the Blue Ridge Dam was built.
I’m not just name-dropping these places for no reason; I’ll get back to Lake Blue Ridge later on, don’t you worry.
2. Crooked River State Park
Best For: Wildlife spotting
Crooked River is a 26.8 mile long tidal stretch of water located in Camden County in Georgia’s southeastern part near the wetlands and the Ocean.
The water is primarily tidal, but I won’t be talking about the whole river – just the beautiful state park on the south bank of the Crooked River.
Well, because it’s not just a state park. It’s home to a couple of fantastic trails and water-related activities that attract paddlers from the entire state.
Take the Cherry Point trail, for instance. This four-mile loop trail will take you about two hours to finish. Oh, and don’t be surprised if you see some Bald Eagles and large wading birds along the way. You could catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two, as well!
Not impressed? Well, I’m not done yet.
If Cherry Point isn’t your thing, maybe you’ll like Grover Island better.
The sandy shores of Gover Island give you access to the Grover Island Trail (such a creative name, I know) and the Harrietts Bluff Trail that will provide 8.4 and 6.3 miles of pure paddling pleasure, respectively.
Along the way, you’ll see – well, the dolphins again.
They’re really banking on those dolphins, huh?
Jokes aside, the park has plenty of camping accommodation and other fun things for you to do while you recharge your batteries from all that paddling.
3. Chattooga River
Best For: Whitewater kayaking
The Chattooga River stretches for 56 glorious miles through extreme northeast Georgia – near the South Carolina border – and is the main tributary of the Tugaloo River.
And it, without a doubt, offers one of the best kayaking in Georgia.
The river is split into several sections, featuring different classes of whitewater rapids. I’ll focus on the three sections that Georgia kayakers should know about – sections 2, 3, and 4 – though.
Section 2 is a moderate whitewater section suitable for novice paddlers and goes to Earl Fords. The section is seven miles long and includes Class I and II rapids.
Don’t let the word “novice” fool you, though:
There’s plenty to do along the way. You can stop and have a picnic on the boulders or fish some trout – if that’s your thing.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what about those looking for a full-blown whitewater experience?
I’d suggest the following two sections:
Section 3 – which goes on for 13 miles, starting at Earl Fords – is a bit more challenging. You’re in for Class I, II, III, and IV rapids, the most notable one being the Bull Sluice Class IV rapid.
Now that’s a serious ride, if I may say so myself.
Section 4 – one of the most well-known in the US – is reserved for advanced paddlers only. The currents kick things up a notch here, featuring Class II, III, IV V, and VI whitewater rapids. Make no mistake about it; this section is intense:
In just one-third of a mile, you’ll encounter five challenging Class IV rapids!
4. Flint River
Best For: Fishing trips with beautiful scenery
If you know anything about Georgia, you know about the Flint River – a 344-mile-long behemoth of a river that almost goes through the whole state!
If you plan on paddling the entire river – oh, the things we do for bragging rights – taking a break along its 344-mile course is more than recommended.
Now, the river can be split into two distinct zones – the upper and lower parts. The upper part is perfect for those looking for a nice run with some Class II rapids along the way.
Or maybe you’re not looking for that kind of excitement right now?
Well, no worries – just slide on down to the lower part of the river and enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way. This part of the river takes on a relaxed, scenic appearance, and the currents get lazy – which we all need from time to time.
You can stop for a fishing break, or if you want, just soak up the scenery, marvel at the blue hole springs, and set up camp somewhere along the way.
With all those miles under your boat, you’ll indeed have plenty to do. I’d say it’s about time you took a fun trip to Albany, Georgia!
5. Chattahoochee River
Best For: A whitewater/camping combination
Remember how I said that the Flint River almost goes through the entire state of Georgia? Well, as it turns out, that 344-mile giant of a river still takes second place – at least on this list, anyway.
The Chattahoochee River is roughly 430 miles long. It even helps form the southern half of the border between Georgia and Alabama.
It’s a tributary of the Apalachicola River – which I found a bit ironic, given that it’s a much shorter river.
Enough geography; where can you paddle?
Well, it would be a bit counterproductive to say “Anywhere you want,” given the 430 miles ahead of you. But there genuinely are just too many places to choose from if you’re a fan of whitewater rapids.
More than 300 athletes from 30 countries will paddle the Chattahoochee River, competing in the Canoe Sprint World Cup in 2022 and ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships in 2023.
So… I guess just follow those guys?
All jokes aside, my recommendation would be the Chattahoochee Bend State Park. It offers the perfect combination of whitewater, wooded trails, wildlife, and fun activities.
From paddling and fishing to hiking trails, camping, and picnicking – this Georgia state park has it all!
6. Altamaha River
Best For: A blend of relaxing scenery and abundant wildlife sightings
The Altamaha River is a 138-mile stretch of beautiful wildlife conservatory that begins at Lumber City, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, and it’s the second-largest in the Eastern US, by the way, earning the nickname “Little Amazon.”
I used the term “wildlife conservatory” for a good reason; allow me to explain:
You’ll find no man-made dams along the river, and it has been designated as one of the 75 “Last Great Places” by The Nature Conservatory.
It’s a beautiful ecosystem – home to more than 130 endangered or rare species – that you get to admire as you paddle your way down this oh-so-peaceful waterway, passing through the scenic freshwater wetlands and marshes.
The best part’s that there are 29 access points total along the Altamaha River, so you can pretty much launch your ‘yak from anywhere in Georgia.
Okay, that might be an overstatement – but you get my point.
If you’re looking for some whitewater excitement, though, you may want to look elsewhere. This river is as calm as they come.
But I would say that, for nature-lovers, the opportunity to see so many endangered species will be reason enough to pack up their gear and head out on an Altamaha River kayaking trip.
7. Fort Yargo State Park
Best For: The complete state park package
The most zen-like part of this list is probably a spot that you might not think of right away when you’re looking for kayaking opportunities. Fort Yargo State Park is located between Atlanta and Athens in Winder, Georgia, and is packed with things to see and do.
The 260-acre lake provides you with plenty of calm water for a relaxing day of fishing or casual paddling. It’s perfect for a peaceful day in nature.
I wasn’t joking about all the stuff that you can do, either.
For instance, if you’re into hiking, there are about 20.5 miles of trails for you to discover by foot or on your bike.
I know, I know, it’s not exactly your kind of trail – but I promise it’s well worth the trip.
Fort Yargo is a place where you can escape and just kind of… relax. It’s a bit of a curveball after all that whitewater rapids talk, I know, but an escape in nature is sometimes just what you need, trust me.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it’s one of the best places to kayak in Georgia if you have kids. The waters are calm, and motorboats aren’t allowed; it’s as peaceful and family-friendly as it can be.
Plus, just take a look at all the activities that you can partake in:
- Biking (with the possibility of rentals)
- Kayaking and canoeing
- Pedal boat rentals
I could go on – but I hopefully made my point by now.
8. Lake Blue Ridge
Best For: Scenery
I already mentioned Lake Blue Ridge while talking about the Toccoa River Canoe Trail – but I can’t explain how much this paddling location deserves a mention of its own.
Georgia is a beautiful, scenic state that has so many things to offer. But if there’s one thing that stands out to me – and I’m obviously looking for water a bit more than I’m land spotting – it’s this lake.
It’s a picturesque 3.290-acre mountain lake with crystal clear waters, surrounded by campsites – 43 of them, no less – marinas, and picture-perfect Georgian scenery. The lake offers 65 miles of shorelines; 25% of it is developed, the rest belongs to the Chattahoochee National Forest.
But let’s not get caught up in beaches and campsites – you know you’re here for the kayaking opportunities.
The Toccoa River Canoe Trail is the one you should be heading to if you’re looking for an actual water trail.
Oh, and don’t forget your fishing rods:
Lake Blue Ridge is the only spot in the state of Georgia where anglers can catch small-mouth bass.
All in all, there’s plenty to do – and plenty to see. However, be mindful of the water levels and the scheduled dam releases.
Where To Go Kayaking In Georgia: Summary
Did you make up your mind yet?
It’s fine if you didn’t. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would pick first, either. Georgia kind of makes it tricky for us paddlers; there are opportunities everywhere you look. And sometimes, having a lot of options ends up being overwhelming.
Either way, one thing’s certain:
Whether you’re looking to go fishing, wildlife spotting, camping, or just casually paddling down a river – the state of Georgia has you covered!