Kayaking in Georgia is one of the most enjoyable pastimes available during the warmer months. The water is so attuned for kayaking that the Ocoee Whitewater Center was the canoe slalom during the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics. If you aren’t quite Olympic-level just yet, consider taking a safety course before you hit the waters. Once you’re ready, check out these five excellent places for beginners to start kayaking in Georgia.
Reach Balus Creek by way of Lake Lanier Park in Oakwood, Georgia. Balus Creek is a winding waterway stretching a total of 4.5 miles and provides the perfect place for beginners to get their kayak bearings. The enclosed creek has clear, clean water, without any of the tides or currents other waterways might have, which allows new kayakers to learn to paddle without worrying about undue hazards. Be warned: you’ll need to bring your own boat with you, but several launching points exist once you arrive.
Fort Yargo State Park is a popular destination for any number of outdoor activities. Conveniently located in Winder, Georgia, between Atlanta and Athens, the park’s main feature is the 260-acre lake. Kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle boarding, and pedal boating are all frequent activities on the water, with seasonal rentals available on-site. The water is mostly still, making for an easy location to pick up the sport.
The Chattooga River is famous for its depiction in the movie “Deliverance,” and Southern Living Magazine calls rafting in it “The #1 Thing Every Southerner Ought to Do.” Chattooga River has several sections cordoned off based on difficulty level for kayakers. Section III is ideal for beginners or intermediate riders, particularly families with children age eight or older. Consider booking a tour with one of the many popular guide companies to truly experience the natural splendor of this unadulterated preserve.
The Okefenokee Swamp covers over 400,000 acres in total stretching across southern Georgia and into Florida, and is the largest blackwater swamp in the country. Take part in a guided tour at the east or west entrance, or paddle through the swamp by yourself to enjoy the diverse array of wildlife and fauna, including birds, alligators, and Spanish moss. Okefenokee Adventures, on the east entrance of the swamp near Folkston, Georgia, offers guided overnight swamp paddles, and Stephen C. Foster State Park at the west entrance near Fargo provides sunset paddles.
The Toccoa River starts as Lake Blue Ridge and has options that range the gamut from Olympic-level to beginner, but families will have the most luck kayaking in the Toccoa River section. Consider renting your kayak from any of the many rental places around the area. Start off at the Toccoa Valley Campground and enjoy the serendipity of the gentle waters, beautiful vistas, and quiet nature around you.