The Best Guide to Kayaking and Rafting in North Georgia

Known for abundant wildlife, breathtaking scenery, and thrilling outdoor recreation, the North Georgia Mountains are an ideal destination for nature lovers and explorers alike. For those who are particularly passionate about the water, North Georgia’s rivers offer a year-round playground for paddlers of all ages and feature tons of opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, rafting, and more. Beginners can get their sea legs on Class I trips, and heart-pumping Class VI excursions are available for brave experts. No matter what your skill level is, kayaking and rafting in North Georgia offer opportunities to get out and enjoy the fresh air and cool water. For more local insight about the region’s best activities and attractions, be sure to download our free Vacation Guide!

Where to Go Kayaking and Rafting in North Georgia

Tallulah GorgeTallulah gorge state park, which offers some of the best kayaking and rafting in north georgia

History of Tallulah Gorge Kayaking

Tallulah Gorge kayaking dates back long ago, to a time when the Tallulah River carved its way through the Tallulah Dome rock formation and naturally created beautiful rapids and rushing waterfalls through the 2-mile gorge. But in 1913, the river was dammed to create Tallulah Falls Lake and hydroelectric power. For more than 80 years, the Tallulah River was only a shadow of its former self, but in the mid-1990s, kayakers were given the opportunity to reclaim their North Georgia playground.

At that time, the Federal Agency Regulatory Commission was forced to look at alternate uses of the Tallulah River as part of the relicensing process for the Georgia Power Company Hydroelectric Projects. This gave whitewater groups and conservation groups the chance to petition the Georgia Power Company to vary the amount of water released over Tallulah Dam. It was agreed that periodic releases would enhance the beauty of Tallulah Gorge and expand the possibilities for its uses. As a result, the river has seen an increased daily flow of water, intermittent aesthetic releases, and whitewater releases since that time.

The Rapids at Tallulah Gorge

If you are interested in Tallulah Gorge kayaking, you are not alone. The April and November whitewater releases draw avid kayakers from around the world. Please beware that the rapids created by the release are not for the faint of heart. The normal water flow through the gorge is 35-40 cubic feet per second (CFS), but during a whitewater release, the flow can increase to 700 CFS. The water flow is typically 500 CFS on the Saturday of a release weekend and 700 CFS on the Sunday of a release weekend. The river deserves the respect and responsibility associated with the Class IV-V rating assigned to it during this time. Tallulah Gorge kayaking requires Class-V skills on most occasions.

Those participating in kayaking or rafting the rapids will take the approximately 600 steps down the south side steps to put in. Kayakers will then navigate their way through Oceana, Gauntlet, Tom’s Brain Buster, and Twisted Sister. After the whitewater subsides, there are about 1.5 miles of flat water. This will eventually bring you to the takeout is at Tugalo Dam.

The November Water Release at Tallulah Gorge

If all of this sounds exciting, but a little too risky for your taste, don’t worry! You can enjoy the experience of Tallulah Gorge kayaking without kayaking! Non-kayakers may observe the release for free from the roadside overlook porch at Tallulah Point Overlook, or onlookers may enter Tallulah Gorge State Park to hike the North or South Rim Trails and observe the release from there.

Chattooga River

With both easy and challenging spots, the Chattooga River is a good rafting option for all ages and skill levels.

Lake Rabunlake rabun, which offers some of the best Kayaking and Rafting in North Georgia

Quiet and secluded, Lake Rabun is the place to go for a peaceful afternoon on the water. Located in the town of Lakemont, this serene area offers stunning views of beautiful lakefront properties and North Georgia’s natural beauty.

Lake Seed

Gorgeous views surround Lake Seed, making it a wonderful place for kayaking in Georgia! Fishing is another popular activity here.

Tallulah Lake

Another popular kayaking, canoeing, and fishing spot is the Tallulah Lake! You’ll love this scenic area for your calm paddling experience.

The Best Kayaking and Rafting Companies in North Georgia

Southeastern Expeditions

In order to have the best kayaking experience ever, take a trip with a fantastic outfitter who knows these waters well! Southeastern Expeditions has a team of friendly, professional guides who can help you have the best day ever kayaking in Georgia. They offer a wide range of different excursions so you can choose the one that best suits your skill level and preferences.

Wildwater Limited

Another fantastic kayaking company is Wildwater, an outfitter that provides river rafting, zipline tours, and much more.

The Nantahala Outdoor Center

After leading whitewater rafting trips in Georgia since the 1970s, Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has become an excellent resource for having an amazing day on the water. Their rafting tours last about 5-6 hours and are perfect for the whole family. You are guaranteed to love spending time floating through Georgia’s hidden wilderness!

Stay Near All of the Best Kayaking and Rafting in North Georgiaglen ella springs inn distance shot from backyard

After your incredible kayaking or rafting adventure, head back to Glen-Ella Springs Inn and put your feet up in of our peaceful rooms or suites. Each of our rustic-chic accommodations offers warm beds, gorgeous views, and even rocking chairs for enjoying the fresh mountain air! When you’ve worked up an appetite, enjoy a delicious gourmet meal in our on-site restaurant that will have you feeling refreshed and ready to explore again the next day. Between our premium amenities, breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Foothills, and delicious food, you might not even want to venture back out!

Book your stay with us in the North Georgia mountains today! We even offer an Adventure Package perfect for our outdoorsy thrillseeker guests. We can’t wait to hear about where the river takes you.