As the heat and humidity start to rise, finding water to cool off in is a must. So a Georgia kayaking trip down some of our many scenic waterways makes for the perfect summertime adventure.
You can also spot a good deal of wildlife, from the beautiful birds soaring above you and the myriad fish and turtles swimming beneath you to deer, chipmunks, and other animals along the shore.
Whether it’s your first time paddling and you’re seeking calm waters, or you’re more experienced and ready for the rapids, there are also plenty of local outfitters who can help you gear up for your day on the water .
Read on to learn more about 10 of the best kayaking rivers in Georgia, including the top features of each river and info on local outfitters that can help facilitate your adventure!
Best Kayaking Rivers in Georgia Guide
- Toccoa River
- Chattooga River
- Cartecay River
- Chestatee River
- Etowah River
- Broad River
- Altamaha River
- Savannah River
- Chattahoochee River
- Flint River
Kayaking in North Georgia
1. Toccoa River
(Suches GA into Tennesssee)
The Toccoa River technically has two names, the Toccoa River and the Ocoee River. It’s referred to as the Toccoa for the 56 miles it flows through the state of Georgia, and the Ocoee for its remaining stretch through Tennessee.
If you’re looking to combine kayaking in North Georgia with fishing, the Toccoa River is a premier trout fishing location. So you’re practically guaranteed to get at least a nibble or two.
2. Chattooga River
(Cashers NC into Lake Tugaloo GA)
Made famous by the 1972 film, Deliverance, the Chattooga River (whose headwaters begin in Cashiers NC) offers a mixture of sights, from falls and rock channels to deeper pools and rapids.
Tugaloo is known for being one of the region’s more primitive lakes, with dense forests and mostly undeveloped shorelines.
In the summer, white water kayaking is popular for advanced paddlers. But the river also accommodates other skill levels across its different sections.
Section II is great for beginners, while Section III will suit intermediate level paddlers. But Section IV should really be reserved for experienced kayakers only, as it has some of the most challenging rapids east of the Mississippi!
They also offer one- to three-day clinics in white water kayaking, where you can improve your paddling skills on the Chattooga River with guidance from expert instructors.
Wildwater Chattooga is technically located in South Carolina, but it’s less than 20 minutes from Clayton GA.
3. Cartecay River
The Cartecay River merges with the Ellijay River to form the Coosawattee River, which is another well-known Georgia waterway.
The land alongside the river is largely undeveloped, but it does flow through some residential areas and passes by some awesome riverfront cabin rentals in Ellijay.
When it comes to North Georgia kayaking there are two main paddle sections: Lower Cartecay Road to Stegall Mill Road and Stegall Mill Road to DNR.
The water is relatively calm but both sections do have a few Class II/Class III whitewater rapids you should be aware of.
4. Chestatee River
The Chestatee River starts at the confluence of Dicks Creek and Frogtown Creek, and is a major tributary of the Chattahoochee River.
A popular spot for Dahlonega locals and visitors alike, this river is incredibly family-friendly.
It’s arguably one of the best places in Georgia to kayak for first-time paddlers, or for more advanced paddlers looking to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
There are a few small rapids along the way, but they’re easy enough for most paddlers to navigate.
Dahlonega kayaking is also gentle enough to cast a fishing line while you float. The most popular Chestatee River fish species include striped bass, spotted bass, and largemouth bass.
Appalachian Outfitters can set you up with everything you need for a day out on the river offering kayak rentals as well as a personal shuttle.
5. Etowah River
(North of Dahlonega to Rome GA)
The 164-mile Etowah River is one of the major rivers in Georgia and one of the most historical rivers in the state.
Along the Etowah’s banks, you’ll find historic sites like the Etowah Indian Mounds and antebellum estates.
Another cool fact about the Etowah River is that it ranks among the most biologically diverse rivers in the U.S., with over 70 native fish species.
In terms of kayaking rivers, the waterway can accommodate all skill levels. Beginners should stick to well-worn areas, whereas more experienced paddlers can explore the more remote areas of the river.
Kayaking in Athens Georgia
6. Broad River
(Stephens County into the Savannah River near Elbert County)
The best kayaking in Athens GA is on the 60-mile-long Broad River, one of the last true free-flowing rivers in the state.
The Broad River is a tributary of the Savannah River, and for the most part its waters are relatively calm. However, there are some areas that have small rapids and tend to run a little faster.
It’s a great place to go kayaking if you enjoy wildlife watching, as you can see a variety of turtles, beavers, otters and beautiful birds of Georgia .
If you want to cast a fishing line from your kayak, you’ll have a chance of catching bass, catfish, and redhorse.
The Broad River Outpost in tiny Danielsville GA is the original Broad River outfitter. They’ve been renting kayaks to take out on the river since the 1980s.
You can also visit The Sandbar in Bowman GA for kayak rentals, or to use their shuttle system if you bring your own kayaking gear.
READ MORE: The 15 Best Campgrounds in North Georgia
Kayaking in Savannah Georgia
7. Altamaha River
(Hazlehurst GA to Darien GA)
Often referred to as “Georgia’s little Amazon,” the Altamaha River is roughly 137 miles long and provides a home for over 130 rare and endangered species of wildlife.
The river is formed by the confluence of the Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers, running from central Georgia to the southeastern coast near Darien GA.
It’s one of a few un-dammed rivers in Georgia, and houses the second-largest watershed in the entire Eastern U.S.
When it comes to kayaking in GA, many people praise the Altamaha for its remoteness. It’s a great place if you want to paddle without running into many other visitors.
As a result, you’ll likely spot some wildlife. Animals commonly seen in the area include mink, otters, birds (including bald eagles), and even the endangered West Indian manatee.
There are around 29 access points along the river where you can launch your kayak and begin your adventure.
READ MORE: The 15 Coolest Covered Bridges in Georgia
8. Savannah River
(Hartwell GA to Savannah GA)
Forming the majority of the border between Georgia and South Carolina, the Savannah River flows for 301 miles.
It was formed at the confluence of the Tugaloo and Seneca River (which is now submerged beneath Lake Hartwell), and flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
Kayaking on this river may require a bit more skill, as there are some intense rapids and tricky rocky areas. So it’s best if you have a decent amount of paddling experience.
If you’re up for the challenge, Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental in Martinez GA can help gear you up for the trip. They provide kayaks for rent as well as launch and shuttle services for paddlers looking to explore the river.
They also offer their services for paddling on the Augusta Canal, which is fed by the Savannah River.
Kayaking in Atlanta Georgia
9. Chattahoochee River
(Helen GA to the Apalachicola Bay in Florida)
It’s also one of the largest rivers in the state of Georgia, measuring around 430 miles long.
The Chattahoochee River National Water Trail offers 48 miles of river trails for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and boating in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
There are 17 different access points where you can load your vessel into the water, so you can make your trip as long or short as you would like.
The water is mostly calm and slow-moving, but there are a few rapids on the northern end you should look out for.
For kayaking in Atlanta, Shoot the Hooch offers kayak rentals and shuttle services for people paddling from Powers Island to Paces Mill in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
READ MORE: The 25 Best Day Trips From Atlanta GA
10. Flint River
(Fulton County GA into Lake Seminole)
The Flint River flows from the Atlanta area (under the runways of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) through southwestern Georgia before entering Lake Seminole.
From there, the Flint River joins the Chattahoochee River and passes the Georgia-Florida border, where it becomes the Apalachicola River and spills into the Gulf of Mexico.
In total, the Flint River is 344 miles long, but it has 220 continuous miles that are un-dammed. This makes the Flint one of only 40 or so rivers in the U.S. that flow for over 200 miles unimpeded.
The river shifts between a wide, calm flow and more quick rapids, with a number of different access points where you can hop in the water.
For renting kayaks, the closest outfitter near Atlanta is the Flint River Outdoor Center in Thomaston GA. They offer tons of options, ranging from quick trips to two-day tours. -by Christina Maggitas, featured image via Canva