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
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 alternative 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 April and November Water Releases 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.
With both easy and challenging spots, the Chattooga River is a good rafting option for all ages and skill levels.
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.
Gorgeous views surround Lake Seed, making it a wonderful place for kayaking in Georgia! Fishing is another popular activity here.
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
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.
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!
Canoeing in North Georgia
You know just about everything there is to know about kayaking and rafting, but what about canoeing in North Georgia? Canoes and kayaks are fairly similar in design, but a canoe is heavier and completely open on the top. A canoe offers more room (for up to 2-3 passengers) than a kayak and looks more like a traditional boat. Canoes boast more depth (ideal for legs and gear) and weight, which make for a more laid-back sport. We highly recommend trying it on one of our beautiful North Georgia lakes! These bodies of water are relatively still, calm, and perfect for sightseeing from a canoe.
Stay Near All of the Best Kayaking and Rafting in North Georgia
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!