From tumbling streams to vast reservoirs, Northern Georgia offers a wide range of kayaking options, to the point that choosing the best destination is a daunting task. The best kayaking spot is largely a matter of personal preference, but whether you want to test your skills in torrential whitewater or quietly catch a few fish from your kayak, Northern Georgia has you covered.
The Free-Flowing Chattooga
The Chattooga River is one of few large rivers in the southeast that still flows freely, unencumbered by dams and man-made obstructions. The river rushes along the border between Georgia and North Carolina, where the whitewater flows hold a well-deserved reputation as some of the finest in either state. Novice and intermediate kayakers can learn the ropes at numerous Class II and III rapids around Earls Ford, while sections like the Class IV Bull Sluice rapids are for experienced paddlers. Don't neglect to cast an eye toward the scenery around the water. The river tumbles through rocky gorges and thick forest, often without a sign of human influence for miles. Chattahoochee National Forest provides numerous access sites.
Along the Toccoa River Trail
For kayakers in search of a more relaxed river experience, the Toccoa River Canoe Trail is calm and easily navigable. The 14-mile run flows between Deep Hole Recreation Area and Sandy Bottom Recreation Area in Fannin County. There are a few mild rapids along the way, but the water is mostly placid as it winds through the forest. Can cast a line for smallmouth bass -- a current Georgia fishing license is required -- or snap a few photos of the forests, fields and wetlands as you drift past. You can explore the entire trail over the course of a day or take it slow and camp overnight on the Forest Service land between Margret and Butt Bridge.
Miles of Open Water
Clarks Hill Lake straddles the border between Georgia and North Carolina, spanning more than 70,000 acres. The wide-open waters of the main lake are the domain of pontoon boats, powerboats and jet-skis, but sheltered bays and coves that form the lake's 1,200-mile shoreline are prime territory for kayaks. Clarks Hill Lake is best known for its fishing, and anglers are often rewarded with hefty stringers of largemouth bass, crappie, catfish and bream. Those fishing from a kayak can paddle to fish-attracting cover in shallow-and mid-depth waters, including weed beds, submerged timber, rocky shorelines and drop-offs. Launch points include Mistletoe State Park, Elijah Clarke State Park and Fort Gordon Recreation Area, among many others.
Through the Tallulah Gorge
The Tallulah River is a rare destination that provides just about everything a kayaker could want in a single river. The upper reaches are characterized by easy to moderate rapids in the Class II to III range, with sections of calm, slow-rolling water. The middle section is split into several large reservoirs, each open for kayaking and fishing. The lower portion of the Tallulah is home to the river's best-known feature, the rugged Tallulah Gorge, where water roars through narrow rock walls to form swirling rapids and surging runs. The gorge provides exciting whitewater action any time, but when water is released from the Tallulah Dam on five weekends every year, the river is transformed into the most thrilling (and challenging) whitewater in the state.
- New Georgia Encyclopedia: Whitewater Paddling
- About North Georgia: Kayak Adventures
- Blue Ridge Outdoors: Top Ten Flatwater Paddling Paradises
- BlueRidgeMountains.com: Toccoa River Canoe Trail
- US Army Corps of Engineers: J. Strom Thurmond Lake
- Rogue Paddler: Clarks Hill / J. Strom Thurmond Lake
- Georgia DNR: Clarks Hill Lake
- Canoeing & Kayaking Georgia; Suzanne Welander, Bob Sehlinger and Don Otey
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images