Beginners Guide To Kayaking In Georgia

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Are you craving an adventurous weekend? Do you long to be surrounded by nature, in the great outdoors while paddling down exciting rivers, or floating along calm scenic lakes? If this sounds like an adventure you’d be interested in, then kayaking in Georgia is the perfect activity for you.

Georgia is an excellent State for kayaking with multiple bodies of water that can be explored. With such a diverse range of waterways, kayaking in Georgia is suitable for all skill levels as you can paddle through exciting whitewater rapids, explore scenic coastal areas or float along calming lakes.

With over eighteen different trails available, and multiple options from State Parks to the wildly popular Atlantic coastal destinations, it’s guaranteed you’ll find the perfect kayaking trip in Georgia. With a few things to consider, such as the best places to visit, the States kayaking laws as well as Park entry fees, you’ll have the perfect trip planned in no time.

Is Kayaking In Georgia Safe For Beginners?

Georgia has numerous waterways to kayak, making it perfectly safe for beginners. The American Whitewater Association created a difficulty rating for all waterways around the globe, making it easier for inexperienced paddlers to avoid rivers that would be unsafe for their skill level.

As a beginner, you should ensure that you do not plan a kayaking trip on a river that requires an intermediate level of experience. If you’re looking to be more adventurous, kayaking down rivers with Class I-III rapids is still appropriate for kayakers with little to no experience on the water, provided you take a guide with you.

Whitewater Rapid Difficulty As Classified By The AWA

The International Scale of River Difficulty assesses rivers across the globe to categorize them according to their levels of complexity.

Class A Rapids – They are described as Stillwater, which is usually flat lakes that have no perceptible movement. These rapids are perfect for beginners with no experience in kayaking or families who wish to spend time on the water with their children.

Class I Rapids – These rapids are the smallest on the scale. They have little to no waves, moving water, and relatively no rocks or obstacles in the water. They are ideal for kayakers with little to no experience.

Class II Rapids – These rapids have small waves and are accompanied by fast river sections and a few rough patches of water. Even though they are a little more thrilling, these rapids are still suitable for kayakers of all skill levels.

Class III Rapids – These rapids have larger waves, with much faster currents and rough sections throughout the river. In certain river sections, you may even experience a little drop. Beginners are encouraged not to try and kayak these rapids without a proper guide present.

Class IV Rapids – The waves with these rapids are much larger. There are also many obstacles and rocks in some of the river sections. In some parts of the river, you may encounter considerable vertical drops. An intermediate degree of skill and experience is needed for these rapids.

Class V Rapids – These rapids are reserved for experts in kayaking with a mastery level of skill and experience in whitewater. An entire team of kayakers is necessary, as these rapids are extraordinarily technical and hazardous. You will need a high level of maneuvering and physical endurance to conquer these rapids.

Class VI Rapids – These rapids are perilous and may cause injury and even death to those who attempt them. They have massive drops, huge waves, rocks, and obstacles. Class VI rapids are best avoided even by experienced kayakers. Most guides will not agree to kayak through Class VI rapids.

The Top 8 Kayaking Spots In Georgia

While it’s true that there is an abundance of places to go kayaking in Georgia, we definitly wouldn’t want you to miss out on the best-rated spots.

Chattahoochee River

The Chattahoochee River is perfect for both experts and beginners. The river is situated along the Alabama-Georgia state line. This river has a 48-mile-long water trail, so whether you’re looking for a leisurely paddle or an exciting whitewater adventure, this river has both!

The Chattahoochee River National Water Trail is effortless to navigate. This is because there are mile markers along its banks. The river has 17 different access points, allowing you to make your trip as short or long as you want.

You’ll find Class I-II rapids along the calmer slow-moving sections of the river. However, some points of the river have Class III-IV rapids. It is imperative that you research the water levels and rapid classifications at the different river sections before your trip.

Altamaha River

The Altamaha River is undoubtedly a unique location to go kayaking. Nature Conservancy named it “one of 75 last great places in the world”. It is the second biggest watershed in the Eastern United States and is home to over 130 rare and endangered species.

With 138 miles along the Altamaha Canoe trail from Lumber City to the Atlantic Ocean, as well as over 29 access points along the riverbank, the Altamaha River is any kayaker’s dream. It is common to be able to spot bald eagles, otters, mink, and even the endangered West Indian manatee while you’re paddling.

The Altamaha River is so vast; there are no rapid sections to note. It is classified as moving flatwater. This means it is perfect for beginners or families who want to spend a relaxing day enjoying the local wildlife on the water.

Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek (situated in the Sweetwater Creek State Park) is an incredible place to go kayaking. Located just minutes outside of downtown Atlanta, you’ll find this hidden gem of peaceful wilderness.

The Creek itself has a rapid classification of IV-V rapids. However, there is a reservoir in the park which spans 215 acres and has a rapid classification of Class A: Stillwater. Therefore, whether you have experience with kayaking or not, there is a spot for you at Sweetwater Creek State Park.

Not only is the surrounding scenery breathtaking, but it is also historical. A trail passes the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, which was a textile mill that burnt down during the Civil War.

Fort Yargo State Park

Fort Yargo State Park is conveniently situated between Atlanta and Athens, located in Winder, Georgia. The park is home to a 260-acre lake, perfect for those seeking a calm and relaxing day on the water.

The State Park often hosts paddling events led by rangers for anyone aged five and over. It is a great place to practice your paddling skills if you are still new and unsure about kayaking. The Rapid classification at Fort Yargo State Park is Class A: Stillwater.

Toccoa River

The Toccoa River spans 13.8 miles and is a perfect destination for a weekend kayaking and camping trip. The entire river takes about five to six hours of paddling time. However, it is possible to shorten your trip.

What makes the Toccoa River an enjoyable paddle is the local wildlife, fantastic fishing opportunities, and exciting rapids that will keep you entertained. The rapid classification for the Toccoa River is Class I-II, with a small section of Class III rapids near the middle of the trail.

Broad River

The Broad River is situated near Athens towards the northern part of Georgia. It has similar waters to that of the Chattahoochee. The trail runs for about 70 miles and is one of the rare free-flowing rivers left in Georgia.

Local wildlife is abundant around this river. You can expect to see kingfishers, blue herons, bald eagles, osprey, and multiple species of otters, beavers, and turtles. If you enjoy fishing, you may be able to catch some redhorse, catfish, and bass.

The rapid classification for the broad river is Class I-II. However, when the water levels are raised enough, you may experience rapids as high as Class III-IV.

Stone Mountain Park Lake

If you’re looking to embark on a more family-friendly kayaking trip, Stone Mountain is certainly one of the best destinations in Georgia for a family getaway. Stone Mountain has various adventurous activities for the entire family to enjoy. In addition to these fun-filled activities, there are also great hiking trails in the Park. However, the main attraction is their picturesque calm lake.

Due to the Park being such a popular attraction, the best time to visit would be early morning, as the lake is guaranteed to be less crowded, and you can enjoy the calm waters. What makes Stone Mountain so unique is that you can even bring your dog on board your kayak with you, provided they have their own life vest to wear.

The rapid classification for Stone Mountain Park Lake is Class A: Stillwater. These rapids are ideal for beginners and families with kids or pets, as there are no waves or kayaking experience needed to enjoy a day paddling on this water.

Flint River, Albany

The Flint River in Albany is free-flowing for 200 of its 344 miles. It is located in Albany, Georgia, and is a popular tourist and family destination. This is because the river offers many local wildlife sightings, scenic views and a chance to visit the rivers’ awe-inspiring blue hole springs.

The river’s currents are incredibly mellow, making it an exciting family-friendly option. You are able to choose between a two- or five-hour trip from Kayak Attack Adventures or embark on a multi-day paddling journey where you can camp and fish along the riverbank. The rapid classification for the Flint River is Class I.

Rules And Regulations While Kayaking In Georgia

Each state in America has different rules and regulations regarding boating laws and personal watercraft. Before embarking on your kayaking journey, you must familiarize yourself with the laws in that state.

Georgia Kayak Registration

In the state of Georgia, all mechanically propelled vessels which are operating on public waterways must be registered and titled. Vessels that do not have mechanical propulsion, such as your kayak and canoe, do not have to be registered.

Minimum Age Requirement For Operating A Kayak In Georgia

Georgia does not have a minimum age requirement to operate a kayak. However, kids under twelve years old are prohibited from operating a watercraft longer than 16 feet. Children that are below sixteen years of age are permitted to operate a vessel shorter than 16 feet provided an adult accompanies them.

Georgia PFD Laws

The state of Georgia requires there to be at least one USCG (US Coast Guard) approved life jacket for each person onboard a kayak. Children under the age of thirteen must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD (Personal Floatation Device) while onboard any vessel under 26 feet in length.

Kayaking Clubs In Georgia

If kayaking is something you are passionate about, there are multiple different kayaking clubs in Georgia that you could join.

The Georgia Canoeing Association

The GCA (Georgia Canoeing Association) is a canoe and kayak club situated in Georgia. Their members range from beginners who join the club to gain more experience and experts who kayak some of the most challenging rivers in the country.

On any one of their paddling trips, you can expect to see people paddling on both canoes and kayaks. The GCAs purpose is to encourage recreational paddling, skill development, river safety, and river courtesy.

The Whitewater Club Of The University Of Georgia

The Whitewater Club welcomes both new and experienced kayakers and wishes to establish a community where everyone can grow their skills and eventually teach newer paddlers themselves. They host regular pool sessions where members are able to practice various rescue techniques and work on more advanced skills.

Lanier Canoe And Kayak Club

Lake Lanier is one of the finest places for flatwater paddling and rowing in the world. You can join the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club to practice your skills or compete in the Olympic disciple of Kayak Marathon Canoe, Kayak, and Dragon Boat or Flatwater Canoe.

They also offer different recreational kayaking and canoeing programs for multiple types of Flatwater paddling. They host a summer camp available to children aged seven to fourteen.

The North Georgia Paddling Club

The North Georgia Paddling Club was established to get like-minded people who are passionate about paddling together in Northern Georgia to go on group kayaking, canoeing, and hiking excursions on and around the rivers and lakes in North Georgia.

Entry Fees For The Top Kayaking Spots In Georgia

Various State Parks and National Parks and National Recreation Areas require you to pay either a day pass or parking fees.

Area  Kayaking SpotEntry Fee
Chattahoochee River National Recreation AreaChattahoochee River$5 per day
Altamaha River Run Canoe And Kayak ExcursionAltamaha River$10 per day
Sweetwater Creek State ParkSweetwater Creek$5 per vehicle
Fort Yargo State ParkFort Yargo$5 per vehicle
Toccoa River Canoe TrailToccoa River$5 per vehicle
Broad River GreenwayBroad River$5 per vehicle
Stone Mountain State ParkStone Mountain$20 per vehicle


Georgia is an excellent place to go kayaking, with multiple rivers and lakes as well as some of the last free-flowing rivers left in the state, a day out on the waters in Georgia is well worth the trip. Just don’t forget to check the states’ boating laws before embarking on your journey.