14 Stunning Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking in Atlanta
By Natalie Ringel
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Updated November 17, 2022
When the weather gets as hot as it does in Atlanta, Georgia, there is no better escape than hopping in a boat and paddling down some of the most stunning waterways in the U.S. From tranquil creeks hidden under a canopy of trees to sparkling blue lakes, a day spent kayaking in Atlanta is an awesome way to explore the city’s natural beauty.
Canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta is plentiful and diverse. Full weekend trips and quick paddles are both ways you can spend your time exploring Atlanta. With so many great spots, it can be hard to navigate which ones will offer you the best outdoor experience! Below is our complete guide to the most beautiful places to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta.
Best Places to Go Canoeing and Kayaking In & Around Atlanta
As the first established National River Water Trail, paddling along the 48 miles of the Chattahoochee is an epic water adventure!
Beginning below Buford Dam, Chattahoochee offers some of the most beautiful sites in Atlanta! This spot is perfect for families and beginners looking to get outdoors. The Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail is especially good for novice paddlers. The river is relatively calm, although there are some Class I/II rapids along the route. The river is open for kayaking year-round, but water temperatures never really rise above 50 degrees- so make sure to bring a jacket.
With lush greenery on all sides, Chattahoochee is a prime spot for spotting wildlife and taking long, leisurely paddles. Visitors can also paddle past Civil War sites and historical mills while enjoying the beautiful scenery. With rich biodiversity and cool historical landmarks, there is certainly a lot to check out at Chattahoochee.
There are 17 different launch ramps along the river if you plan on bringing your own boat. Otherwise, you can rent all your kayak essentials from High Country Outfitters.
How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N to I-985 N. Then, take exit 4 and continue on Buford Rd west towards the dam.
Only minutes from downtown Atlanta, Sweetwater Creek State Park is a great spot for both history fans and kayak enthusiasts! With miles of outdoor trails, Sweetwater Creek State Park is known for its beautiful rocky bluffs and flowers.
Beginner kayakers will love this scenic creek. Its flat waters are surrounded by trees and flowers, and it is also super easy to navigate. Besides the sheer beauty of the park, visitors can also enjoy paddling past a textile mill from the Civil War Era and places used in filming The Hunger Games.
Sweetwater’s close proximity to the city makes it very convenient and accessible to all paddlers. If you have a limited amount of time but want to spend it outside, definitely check out Sweetwater Creek State Park. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful paddle or to catch some fish, kayaking in Atlanta has it all.
You can launch your own boat inside the park for free. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks, canoes and SUPs onsite.
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-20 W and take exit 41 for Lee Rd. to Lithia Springs.
With over 200 miles of connected waterways, Ocmulgee River Trail gives you total control over how long you want your water adventure to last. With 25 access points, it is easy to enjoy the flat waters and Class I rapids of this epic waterway.
Ocmulgee River is ideal for longer paddling trips. There are tons of mini islands to explore and camp on. Wide-open blue waters, sand bars, and forested islands all come together to make Ocmulgee an awesome weekend destination. However, there are alligators in the lake and sometimes on the islands- be careful!
Before or after your kayak expedition, check out Little Ocmulgee State Park. These gorgeous acres have rustic cabins if you want to stay overnight.
You can launch your boat for free all along the river. Eventually, this river way turns into the Altamaha River. If you need to rent kayaks or are looking for a guided tour, Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions has you covered.
How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S to GA-83 toward Monticello.
The pristine aquamarine waters of Lake Blue Ridge make it one of the most beautiful mountain lakes to kayak in Atlanta. With 65 miles of shoreline and a connection to Chattahoochee National Forest, kayaking around Lake Blue Ridge must be on your list of places to explore in Atlanta this summer.
Lake Blue Ridge’s calm waters make it a serene spot for paddling of all kind. Locals and visitors alike love Lake Blue Ridge not only because of its unique water color, but also enjoy the National Forest, campsites, and miles of sandy beach shorelines.
There are two main entries to Lake Blue Ridge that offer different opportunities. First, the Day Use/Boat Ramp area provides easy access into the water and has short trails along the coastline. The other entrance, Morganton Point Recreation Area, has a beach and swimming area great for children, and is a more developed part of the coastline. While you can launch from both of these areas, the Day Use area is more rugged and focuses on the water and Morganton is better for families looking to set up camp.
You can launch your boat for free at Lake Blue Ridge. Or, you can rent gear and find guided tours of the area from Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters. Kayaking in Atlanta doesn’t get much better than this!
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N to US-76 E and head to Lakeside Dr.
About 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the “Lake City” of Acworth is home to two amazing lakes for kayaking. Lake Acworth is a large outdoor space great for beginners. But for those looking for a challenge, I recommendLake Allatoona.
Intermediate and advanced kayakers will love exploring Lake Allatoona. The lake touches Cobb, Bartow, and Cherokee counties and has views of the magnificent Red Top Mountain Area. In addition to these natural beauties, Lake Allatoona is also a famous Civil War battle site with historical markers along the route.
Visitors can enjoy paddling around the large lake area, or take a mile detour and enjoy the Allatoona Falls around Little River. Between the lake’s open waters and the Falls, avid kayakers will love paddling around Lake Allatoona.
There are a few full-service marinas and boat ramps on the shores of Lake Allatoona where you can launch your own boat for free. Otherwise, feel free to check out Lake Allatoona Kayak for kayak rentals and awesome guided tours.
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N and take the exit for Bells Ferry Rd. There are several boat ramps accessible from this branches off of this road close to the lake.
Spend the day kayaking the Chattooga River. It has different sections to accommodate all ability levels. About 2.5 hours from downtown Atlanta, exploring the diverse Chattooga River is an awesome weekend getaway.
Beginners looking to go kayaking in Atlanta should check out Tugaloo Lake. Opening up into Lake Tugaloo, Chattooga River’s wild waters become nice and calm- perfect for novice paddlers. Tugaloo State Park is also an awesome outdoor destination.
Intermediate and advanced paddlers will have a blast kayaking the whitewater waves of the Chattooga River. Notorious for the legendary Five Falls, Chattooga River’s rocky whitewater runs provide epic trails for skilled kayakers.
You can launch your own boat on Chattooga River, but guided tours are recommended because of the rough waters. Chattooga Adventures has kayak rentals, whitewater tours, and weekend clinics to help you along this epic water adventure.
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville, then take US-23 N toward Clayton. Tugaloo Lake is near Tallulah Falls, and the Chattooga river stretches the state border north of the lake.
Kayaking around Georgia’s Tybee Island is one of the best ways to explore the coast. Visitors can kayak and SUP around tons of different areas like marshes, creeks, estuaries, and more.
The southern end of Tybee Island is best for beginners. There, Tybee Creek and Chimney Creek have calm sheltered waters and sandbars which provide an easy and safe area for novice paddling. Novices and families may also enjoy the shorter scenic paddles around Little Tybee Island and Skidaway River.
Kayaking at Tybee Island also has great spots for more experienced paddlers too. Experienced paddlers can head to the north end of Tybee Island for more challenging waters that surround the historic lighthouse of northern Tybee, Cockspur Island and Fort Pulaski. Bonus- you can spot dolphins here too!
From the quiet waters of the marsh to the exciting ocean waves, Tybee Island has something for everyone! You can spend an afternoon paddling around the different areas or take longer trips out to nearby barrier islands.
You can launch your own boat at Tybee Island for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours from North Island Surf & Kayak, a family-run business specializing in eco-tours of the area.
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 S and then exit onto I-16 E toward Savannah. Continue on Islands Expy to US-80 E.
Known as the “Little Amazon”, the Altamaha River is one of the mightiest river sources flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Home to over 100 rare and endangered species, paddlers interested in wildlife and birdwatching should add the Altamaha to their list.
The Lower Altamaha is the best place for paddlers to go canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. This section of the river has pretty tame waters and is surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife on both sides. Going downstream, paddlers can explore Stud Horse Creek, Lewis Creek, Rifle Cut, and Darien Creek- a stretch of about 17 miles.
Darien Creek, located at the mouth of Altamaha, is a favorite among paddlers. You can kayak to barrier islands, explore Georgia’s coast and the Altamaha’s flat waters all in one place! Kayaking along the Altamaha is usually done in large stretches for long paddle trips, but 29 different access points make it easy to get in and out whenever you choose.
You can launch your boat anywhere along the Altamaha for free, but it is best to steer clear of the raging water of the Upper Altamaha River. Rentals and guided tours are also available at Altamaha Coastal Tours.
How to Get There: If driving, take I-75 S toward Macon then continue to I-16 E and GA-169 S to the river.
Kayaking in Atlanta’s Etowah River is simply awe-inspiring. The Etowah River Water Trail is considered one of the most biodiverse rivers in the country and connects numerous historical landmarks, state forests, and conservation sites.
Besides these beautiful places, Etowah River has another hidden gem- the “underground river”. 3.5 miles from the Castleberry put-in in Dawsonville, an abandoned mining tunnel bridges together two sections of the river. Originally created to search for gold, the 1/4 mile tunnel makes for a spectacular water adventure if you’re brave enough to get to the other side! Please plan ahead and bring a flashlight for this journey, and check to make sure the tunnel is not blocked.
Between the abundance of wildlife, natural scenery, and unique places to explore, kayaking the Etowah River is a utopia for adventure-seekers. You can launch your own boat anywhere along the river for free. Or, you can rent gear from Euharlee Creek Outfitters.
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-75 N toward Emerson and take GA-293 N to the river.
Known as a whitewater kayak destination, Yahoola Creek is a fun place for intermediate and advanced kayakers to try out this summer.
Sections of Yahoola Creek have Class I to Class V rapids, so make sure you are prepared for a bumpy ride. Yahoola has two main gorges that have massive drops which make for an exciting ride. Twists and turns in the creek make turning every corner an adventure- rapids and drops come out of nowhere. That being said, it is best to have some experience paddling in rapids before tackling this hidden gem.
For less experienced paddlers, there is one portion of Yahoola Creek that is flat water. In addition to some epic kayaking, visitors also enjoy nearby Vogel State Park and hiking DeSoto Falls and the Blue Ridge Mountain area.
There are a few places to launch your boat for free on Yahoola Creek, but know that the rapids start right away. If you need to rent gear or want a guided tour of the area, check out Appalachian Outfitters. Kayaking Yahoola Creek will certainly leave you breathless!
How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N toward Chestatee, then take Yahoola Creek Farm Rd. to the water.
From regatta racing to luxury homes, Lake Lanier is one of the most popular destinations for canoeing and kayaking in Atlanta. Lake Lanier itself has wonderful waters for all ability levels, and its tributaries connect to more challenging portions of the Chattahoochee.
Paddling around Lake Lanier is certainly beautiful, but it is not the most remote or tranquil place to kayak. It has tons of lake activities for groups and families, making it a premier destination for outdoor lovers. With so many awesome programs, Lake Lanier is a great option for beginners or those looking for a more structured time paddling.
Around the lake, paddlers can cruise past luxury lake homes and cute houseboats on calm waters. Those looking for more rugged terrain should check out the tributaries connecting the lake to the Chattahoochee.
Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club offers rentals, tours, and classes for all ages. Visitors especially love the Moonlight Paddles where you can explore Lake Lanier’s natural beauty under the stars! Or, you can launch your own boat for free.
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N toward Gainesville. Then, take Jim Crow Rd. to Old Federal Rd.
Perhaps the best adventure for beginners in Atlanta, kayaking Chestatee River has the perfect water conditions for novice paddlers to feel confident in their skills. The river, however, is still exciting for advanced kayakers too.
Located about an hour outside of downtown Atlanta, the serenity of Chestatee River makes it feel like you’re a million miles away. The river is about 6.5 miles long, which takes roughly three hours to paddle for beginners. Chestatee’s waters are calm throughout with some Class I rapids to keep things interesting at the beginning and end of the route.
Chestatee River is perfectly laid out for a relaxing afternoon or day trip. About halfway down the river, Big Bend Beach is a sandy oasis where you can take a break and have some lunch. After that, it is smooth sailing until the last few rapids at the end before the boat ramp.
You can launch your own boat for free. Or, you can rent gear and take guided tours with Chestatee River Adventures. This spot should definitely be on your list if you are a beginner ready to put your skills to the test!
How to Get There: If driving, take GA-400 N to US-19 N and turn onto River Knoll Way.
Visiting Fort Yargo State Park is the urban escape everyone is looking for this Summer! From the park’s wide-open waters to beautiful hiking trails, a day spent kayaking in Fort Yargo has no shortage of activities to try.
Fort Yargo State Park features two boat ramps for easy access to the water. Most visitors prefer using the ramp at the end of the park near the luxury yurts for the most scenic waterfront views. Paddlers can peruse the sandy beaches and enjoy miles of coastline on flat water.
After your relaxing paddle around the lake, make sure to check out Old Fort Yargo. Originally built as a defense against Cherokee and Creek tribes, it is now a historical landmark any history buff would enjoy.
With hundreds of acres of land, Fort Yargo State Park is a wonderful getaway with tons of outdoor recreational activities. Visitors love spending the day kayaking around the beach and staying overnight in the luxury yurts and cottages on the park grounds.
You can launch your own boat for free at either boat ramp in the park. Otherwise, you can rent kayaks and SUPS at Fort Yargo State Park.
How to Get There: If driving, take I-85 N toward Athens, then Highway 316 E. Turn onto GA-81 N and head to Yargo Area B Rd.
For families and novice paddlers, I would definitely recommend going canoeing, paddle boarding, or kayaking at Morgan Falls Overlook Park. Situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, Morgan Falls’ quiet creeks and tributaries provide easier paddling with amazing views.
Unlike other parks along the Chattahoochee, visitors can swim and paddle board at Morgan Falls. A new playground and fire pit also make it a wonderful destination for a low-key family get together. Kayaking this part of the river, technically called Blue Sluice Lake, takes about 2.5 hours. Paddlers can explore nearby marshlands and spot tons of wildlife along the coast.
If you’re looking for a low-key spot to get out on the water, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is an awesome place to explore this summer. Between the lake’s natural beauty and easy hikes along the shoreline, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a wonderful spot for families to enjoy the outdoors together. Bonus- it isn’t too well known, so you will probably have the lake to yourself!
How to Get There: If driving, start on I-85 N and take exit 5B toward Sandy Springs. Then, take Roswell Rd. to Morgan Falls Rd.
What to Pack for Kayaking in Atlanta
Swimsuit: Wearing a swimsuit is essential for being out on the water! When canoeing and kayaking, chances are you are going to get wet, so best to be prepared! Click here to compare men’s and women’s styles and prices for our favorite swimsuits.
Sunglasses: Being out on the water is beautiful, but the water can really reflect light! Make sure to bring a pair ofsunglassesand croakies to keep them from falling off.
Hat: It’s best to keep the sun off of your head to keep you cool. Whether you prefer a nice bucket hat or a vintage baseball cap, keeping cool will ensure an awesome trip.
Water Bottle: Keeping hydrated is no joke! Paddling is a great way to exercise and relax, but that means it takes a lot of energy too! Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout your trip withthese cool water bottles.
Sunscreen and Bug Spray: Don’t let the elements stop you from having an amazing paddle! I recommend bringingsunscreen and bug spray in the boat with you to ward off any pests and sunburns.
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