South Carolina is home to spectacular rivers, lakes, creeks, and coastal inlets. In this post we’ve collected the best kayaking spots in the Palmetto State.
Georgia is one of the south’s most beautiful states, with countless amazing tourist destinations to enjoy, lovely things to see and do, and fun for the whole family.
But it doesn’t get more enjoyable than kayaking in Georgia!
The Peach State offers countless lovely kayaking locations, with rivers both calm and whitewater-rough, breathtaking lakes, even some coastal waters where you can explore the Atlantic Ocean and challenge your skills against the sea.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best places to go kayaking in Georgia, along with some helpful information that will make every paddling trip you plan in Georgia easier, safer, and more relaxing. We’ve even included a few answers to the most commonly asked questions so you can know all the important details about what it’s like paddling in Georgia.
15 Best Places to Go Kayaking in Georgia
1. Broad River
This river has a little bit of everything, with plenty to keep any paddler of any skill level entertained. If you’re a newbie looking for a relaxing trip downstream, there are many stretches of the 70-mile river that will allow you to drift along on slow, lazy currents that will carry you around the lovely twists and turns. Along the banks, you can enjoy the views of wildlife—everything from turtles to beavers and otters to bald eagles and kingfishers. Or, if you’re an angler, cast out your line for some bass, redhorse, or the catfish that grow large in these waters.
But if you’re a more experienced paddler looking for a real challenge, try your hand at the faster-paced stretches of water. Throughout the year, there are a number of Class II rapids where you can test your mettle against the whitewater. If you visit during the high water times, you’ll find they transform into Class III and even Class IV rapids!
2. Toccoa River
The Toccoa River is one of North Georgia’s best fishing destinations, a great place to hook yourself a lovely trout for supper. In fact, the fish are so abundant that even newbie anglers will have little trouble catching a fish. As long as you’ve got the right bait and lures, you should walk away at the end of the day with your cooler full.
But the river is also an amazing place for wildlife lovers to do some sightseeing. The river meanders through Chattahoochee National Forest, home to countless flowering trees and fields of wildflowers. If you come at the right time of year, you’ll see a landscape covered in an explosion of colors—truly enchanting to your senses. Newbie kayakers will feel right at home on the calm waters of this lovely Georgia river.
3. Chattahoochee River
The Chattahoochee River is located near Columbus, right on the border line between Alabama and Georgia. Whether you’re driving through the state on a cross-country trip or visiting Columbus, this river is a must-see. Though it’s only 48 miles long, there are 17 different access points along the waterway where you can put in or take out—meaning it’s great for planning a multi-hour or multi-day paddling trip.
Though most of the river is slow and calm, there are a few stretches where the current picks up and the water starts to flow fast. Mostly you’ll encounter Class I rapids, but there is one span where the rapids shift up to Class II, a bit more challenging for beginner whitewater paddlers. Be aware that there are no campsites along the edge of this river, and trying to pitch camp “just anywhere” may get you in hot water with the National Park Service that patrols the waterway.
4. Crooked River
Crooked River is a waterway that spans just 28.5 miles, but what a lovely 28.5 miles those are! The river cuts through Camden County in southeastern Georgia, heading out toward the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, it will meander through the Crooked River State Park, home to plenty of water trails where you can branch off from the main river to explore smaller waterways and hidden loops.
The closer you get to the ocean, the greater the chance you’ll spot a dolphin or two. There are also islands just off the coast you can explore, including sandy trails and gorgeous seaside bluffs that will take your breath away. For a truly unique experience, Crooked River is absolutely a place you’ll want to visit while kayaking in Georgia.
5. Altamaha River
The Altamaha River stretches for a full 138 miles, called “Georgia’s Amazon” or “The Little Amazon” because of its size and the myriad wildlife that make their home along its banks. As you paddle downstream, you’ll have plenty of chances to see otters, minks, bald eagles, and if you’re really lucky, catch a rare glimpse of the west Indian manatee, an animal that is on the endangered species list and is only infrequently spotted.
Anglers will also love the river, as it’s home to bass, bluegill, sunfish, catfish, and crappie in abundance. Thanks to the countless access points along the way, it’s easy to put in and take out all along the stretch of river, making it easy to plan the length of your trip. Whether you’ve got a few hours to enjoy a quick paddle or a whole long weekend to really make the most of your time, you’ll want to get out on the Altamaha River for sure.
6. Chattooga River
Everyone who has seen the 1972 film Deliverance will know exactly how gorgeous the Chattooga River is. Here, you’ll paddle past gorgeous waterfalls, dense forests, and deep rock pools. There are even a few stretches of rapids where you can really test your skills. In fact, the rapids in the river’s “Section IV” are considered some of the most challenging in the southeastern United States. Definitely not for newbies to test their skills, recommended only for experienced kayakers.
Don’t be disappointed if you’re looking for a challenge to match your skill level. Section II and Section III both have more newbie-friendly rapids, as well as calmer waters where even first-timers will be perfectly safe in their kayaks. Here, you can also find “clinics” that will teach you the basics of whitewater rafting and kayaking. You’ll come away from a visit to the Chattooga River a much more experienced paddler for sure.
7. Flint River
Flint River is one of the state’s most famous waterways, not to mention its longest. The whole thing stretches for a whopping 344 miles, which will definitely put your endurance to the test if you plan to paddle it from start to finish.
It’s divided into two distinct parts with very different skill levels: the “upper” river, which is home to Class II rapids; and the “lower” river, where the water is calm, the current is gentle, and there are plenty of gorgeous sights to keep your head on a swivel as you paddle. You can go with the flow to enjoy bird watching, cast out a line to reel in a fish for supper, or push hard to try and paddle the entire 344-mile river to earn some serious bragging rights. It’s got something for everything, and it’s a truly lovely place to spend your time paddling.
8. Chestatee River
If you’ve never gone kayaking before, you’ll want to take your first trip out onto the calm waters of the Chestatee River. Here, you’ll find the slow-moving current makes it easy to stay on course, and you can learn basic kayak-handling skills along the way that will help you to navigate the slightly more challenging stretches you’ll encounter downstream. Even the few rapids you come across will prove a fairly simple matter to tackle—and who knows, it might just give you a taste for the thrill of whitewater kayaking?
Anglers will find plenty of spots along the way to cast out a line, too. The river is home to plenty of fish, including largemouth bass, spotted bass, and striped bass. If you’re lucky enough to catch enough for dinner, there are spots along the river’s edge where you can camp for the night and make a fire to cook your prizes.
9. Fort Yargo State Park
Located between Atlanta and Athens, Fort Yargo State Park is one of the best-kept secrets known only to local Georgia paddlers. It’s a popular destination for hikers, bikers, and campers, but paddlers will find the 260-acre lake offers plenty of water activities to keep them cool in the summer and enjoying the bright sunshine.
One great thing about the lake: there are no motorized vessels allowed, so you’ve got the calm waters all to yourself (and the other kayakers and paddleboarders out for a paddle). Beginner paddlers will have plenty of chances to test their skills safely near the shore, on water that is gentle and mirror-smooth on all but the windiest days. However, there are enough underwater obstacles in certain parts of the lake that it will feel like you’re on a real-life adventure and exploring wild waters.
10. Etowah River
The Etowah River is one of Georgia’s most historic rivers, and one of its grandest. Spanning 164 miles, it’s home to historic sites like the antebellum estates (plantation homes) dating back to the 1800s and the Etowah Indian Mounds. There are also fishing weirs built by the earliest Native Americans to make their home in Georgia.
For those who want to get in some quality fishing, the river is home to more than 70 different species, making it one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the entire country. There are plenty of remote areas with challenging waters that will test even more experienced paddlers, but beginners will have no trouble finding easy, newbie-friendly sections where they can relax and enjoy their day on the water.
11. Lake Blue Ridge
Lake Blue Ridge is located along the Toccoa River Trail, and happens to be one of the most gorgeous, scenic lakes in the entire state. Only 25% of the lake’s 65 miles of shoreline is developed; the rest is taken up by the gorgeous, dense woods of the Chattahoochee National Forest, all wild and ruggedly beautiful with a true “backwoods” feel to it.
The lake itself is huge—spanning nearly 3,300 acres—and offers stunning views of the nearby mountains, not to mention crystal clear waters that allow you to see every brilliant detail below. Plus, it’s one of the only places in the entire state where you can fish for smallmouth bass, so you’ll definitely want to bring your fishing rod.
12. Savannah River
The Savannah River is definitely one of Georgia’s best-known waterways, and one of its largest, too. It runs an impressive 301 miles right along the border between Georgia and South Carolina, stretching from the Tugaloo and Lake Hartwell all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean.
The river is home to some truly challenging sections, including rocky stretches and rapids where your paddling skills will be seriously put to the test. You’ll want to visit this river in the company of an experienced tour guide or someone who is familiar with the river’s unique obstacles.
13. Stone Mountain Park Lake
Stone Mountain Park is a gorgeous park, home to the breathtaking Stone Mountain, plenty of hiking and walking trails, and, of course, the Stone Mountain Park Lake. If you arrive first thing in the morning, you’ll have the lake all to yourself, though be aware that it will get more crowded as more and more people arrive at this well-known paddling spot.
The lake is calm and divinely smooth, surrounding by stunning views that will keep your eyes busy while your hands work the paddles. Newbies will definitely find this is the ideal lake for them. Not only is the water calm, but there are outfitters that will rent you the gear and teach you how to use it.
14. Okefenokee Swamp
Get ready for a truly unique Georgia adventure! The Okefenokee Swamp is a true paradise for wildlife lovers, as it’s home to myriad wildlife and bird species, and even alligators. That’s right: you don’t have to head down to Florida to see gators, but you can see them right in your own backyard in the Okefenokee Swamp.
It’s a calm paddle, but be aware that there are lots of submerged dangers that will put your kayak handling skills to the test. The experience is absolutely worth the risk, though, because you’ll enjoy every second you spend paddling between the Spanish moss-draped trees and hearing the music of the singing swamp birds.
15. Balus Creek
Balus Creek is an amazing destination for those who want a quick, easy paddle. The creek stretches just 4.5 miles, which you can easily paddle in around 2 hours. It’s far enough from any cities or towns that it will feel truly isolated, a relaxing, quiet place to enjoy the beauty of Georgia’s waters. With gentle currents, minimal change in tides and water levels, and gorgeously clear waters, it’s a place you’ll want to come back to time and again on your Georgia kayaking adventures.
If you’re a first-time kayaker or a parent looking to instill the love of paddling in their kids, this is the place for you. All along the creek there are plenty of spots to stop and make landfall so young paddlers can stretch their legs and run around.
Kayaking Tours in Georgia
While in Georgia, you’ll find there are so many lovely places to take your kayak out on the water, see the sights and sounds, and explore the myriad waterways that make Georgia the lush, fertile state it is.
If you’re lucky enough to live in-state or nearby, you may have easy access to kayaking equipment, as well as experience navigating some of the trickier rivers we mentioned above. But if you’re coming from out of town or you’re new to Georgia waters, it may be a good idea to consider working with local outfitters and tour guides who are familiar with the challenges you’ll face.
Kayaking tours in Georgia are a great way to stay safe while also having convenient (and affordable) access to quality kayaking gear. Plus, you can learn from locals who have been paddling these waters their entire lives, and who know how to properly use the equipment you’re renting. It’s the smart way to experience the rivers and lakes of Georgia as an out-of-state-er.
Here are a few of the top-rated kayaking tours in Georgia you might want to consider:
- Mill Pond Kayak (tours of George L. Smith State Park)
- Savannah Canoe and Kayak (tours off the coast of Savannah, including Tybee Island, Ebenezer Creek, and Little Tybee)
- Altamaha Coastal Tours (tours of the Altamaha River, the Altamaha River Delta, and the nearby coastal waters)
- Georgia 4H (tours of the salt marshes around Jekyll Island)
- Sea Kayak Georgia (tours around Little Tybee, Ebenezer Creek, and Tybee Island)
- Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking (tours on the Toccoa River)
- Broad River Outpost (tours of the Broad River, including the Class II whitewater rapids)
Other resources you can check out for kayaking tours in Georgia include:
- Trip Advisor – Here, you can find various outfitters, kayak rentals, and tours in the specific city where you’ll be visiting. If you know which Georgia city is your destination, it’s easy to input it into the search engine and see what comes up.
- Georgia Conservancy – This state-run organization organizes kayaking trips in various locations around the state, including Sapelo Island, the Okefenokee Swamp, the Etowah River, Cloudland Canyon State Park, and so many more. Their website is regularly updated with more trips being planned.
- Google Maps – With Google Maps, you can search for “kayaking tours in Georgia” and see all the many options there are around the entire state, and use that list of results to narrow down which city you want to visit based on which kayak tour interests you the most.
You may also look at this interactive map of places to go paddling while planning your next kayaking adventure in Georgia.
Georgia Kayaking Laws
Kayaks are non-motor powered vessels
Because they are manually powered, there is no need to register the kayak nor obtain a license.
However, kayaks with trolling motors are categorized as “mechanically-propelled” vessels, and thus have to be registered.
There is no minimum age for operating a kayak
Within the state of Georgia, children under the age of 12 are legally allowed to operate a vessel under 16 feet long if a) it is powered by a motor of under 30 horsepower, or b) it is manually powered. However, they have to be in the company of an adult in order to do so.
Teenagers between the age of 12 and 15 must either be accompanied by an adult or have completed a boater safety course to operate a vessel alone. Anyone over 16 can operate any vessel, provided they’ve completed a boater safety course.
Kayakers must have one lifejacket on board per person
Children under the age of 13 must actually wear the lifejacket. Adults must simply have at least one lifejacket (U.S. Coast Guard Type I to IV) on the vessel, easily accessible and within reach, but aren’t required to wear it.
Kayakers must display lights at “low visibility times”
Between sunset and sunrise, and when there is heavy fog on the water, any vessel under 23 feet long must carry at least one 360-degree white light that is visible for a minimum range of 2 miles.
Kayakers are not required carry a sound-producing device
Only vessels over 26 feet in length are required to carry sound-producing devices. However, whistles and air horns are recommended.
Kayaks need to carry visual distress signals (VDS)
The VDS must be visible after dark, even on manually powered vessels like kayaks. Only motorized vessels are required to carry day signaling devices.
Kayakers absolutely can get a BUI
If you operate a kayak while drunk (with a Blood Alcohol Level above 0.08% for adults over 21, or 0.02% for those under 21) or visibly impaired, you will receive a BUI.
Note: If you are the owner of a boat, you are not only not allowed to operate the boat while intoxicated, but it is illegal to let someone else operate the boat if you are intoxicated.
The penalties for a BUI are:
- On your first offense, up to 40 hours of community service, up to 6 months in prison, and fines between $300 and $1,000.
- On your second offense, up to 30 days of community service, up to 12 months in prison, and fines between $600 and $1,000.
- If there is a minor under the age of 14 in the boat, you may be charged with “child endangerment”, which carries further (and harsher) penalties.
All offenders are required by law to complete a “DUI Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program”, and may be evaluated for alcohol or drug dependency.
Kayaking in Georgia FAQs
If you are operating a kayak without a trolling motor mounted, you do not need a license and your kayak does not need to be registered. However, if you have the motor mounted, even if it’s not in use, you will still need to register the kayak.
Yes! Because kayaks are manually powered, they are legal on all “waters of this state” (the state of Georgia).
It is illegal to drink alcohol on any vessel in the state of Georgia. Any law enforcement official is allowed to search your boat if they suspect you are drinking on board or operating under the influence.
If you plan on kayak hunting in Georgia, you are allowed to carry a gun on a boat provided you a) are licensed to carry it, and b) have the proper hunting licenses. Also, you have to make certain you adhere to the rest of Georgia’s hunting laws, especially those regarding hunting near state parks, on state-run waters, and near cities and towns.