Kayaking and Canoeing Near Atlanta

The “City in the Forest” is home to more than just hiking and running opportunities. There’s no better place in the Southeast for watersports fun. Here's a local guide to kayaking and canoeing in and around Atlanta.

Most people come to Atlanta for its amazing restaurants, lively culture and nightlife, but what many don’t know is how great it is for outdoor lovers. There are plenty of outside activities to indulge in that are close to the city and will keep you busy all weekend long. This list dives into the top places to kayak in and around the city, so you can enjoy a well-rounded trip. 

Here are a couple of things to be mindful of when planning to go out on the water. First, always think and plan ahead. Be sure to pack essentials such as a swimsuit, sunscreen, water bottle, sunglasses with a strap, a drybag if carrying things that need to stay dry and towels. Second, always make sure you pay attention before, during and after getting into a body of water. If it is a river, make sure the current isn’t too strong, and be careful of your footing, as most times it is rocky on the bottom. For more information, read Paddling Safety and Rescue Gear and How to Do a Kayak Self-Rescue.  

Now that we are prepared, we are going to explore eight of the best places to go kayaking or canoeing in or near the Atlanta area. Remember that if you’re interested in joining a group or becoming a more confident kayaker or paddleboarder, you can always sign up for a local class with REI Co-op

Lake Allatoona 

  • Location: Acworth 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best For: Beginners and families 

Lake Allatoona is located about 35 to 45 minutes from the city and is a popular spot to visit during the warmer months. The lake is fairly calm throughout the year, so it’s perfect for family canoeing and kayaking trips. Lake Allatoona Kayaking provides canoe, kayak and paddle board rentals. Also, they conveniently set up a drop-off location and meet you there to bring you your boat. Once you are settled, there are many places to explore and things to do while on Lake Allatoona.  

One of the more popular spots on the lake is Acworth Beach. You’ll want to add this spot to your route to spend some time on the beach and soak in the sun. Lake Allatoona is also a great place for fishing, with plenty of different species to catch.  

Chattahoochee River 

  • Location: Atlanta 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best for: Exercising and exploring 

The Chattahoochee River is a must-visit location that draws many outdoor enthusiasts. Shoot the Hooch is a popular rental company among locals, but there are also canoeing, kayaking tours and rental locations nearby that offer other unique experiences. The river is close to downtown Atlanta, allowing easy access for people to come and enjoy whether they are just visiting or want to have an outdoor weekend activity close to home.  

Dams along the river control the flow of the water, and it is fairly calm throughout the metro area the majority of the time. Therefore, you don’t need to worry about super rough waters or having to maneuver down a waterfall. There are many shallow, rocky areas, so be sure to use caution when navigating down the river. Also, consider wearing rubber-bottom shoes for the times you need to step out into the water.  

Sweetwater Creek State Park 

  • Location: Lithia Springs 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best For: Kayaking and canoeing in peaceful waters 

Sweetwater Creek State Park is close to Atlanta, but still gives you the opportunity to escape the city and be connected with nature. There is a $5 parking fee to enter the park. From here, you are able to launch your own canoe or kayak, or rent one from inside the park.  

The waters at Sweetwater Creek are perfect for first-time kayakers and canoers. The park has beautiful scenery all around and historic landmarks to explore while on the water. One fun fact: Parts of the Hunger Games series were shot near this location, so fans may recognize a few sights. Sweetwater Creek is also well-known in Atlanta for its fishing. So to all those who love an opportunity to grab their rod and reel, make sure you pack your gear!  

Etowah River 

  • Location: Rome 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best For: Experienced kayakers looking for an all-day excursion 

Known for its connection to many different historical and scenic sites, plethora of wildlife and “underground river,” the Etowah River is certainly a serene place to escape and get in tune with nature. The river is fairly calm, so this is a good place to peacefully paddle along. Euharlee Creek Outfitters is a local shop that has paddling equipment for rent; no need to worry about having or buying the proper gear.  

If you plan to be in the area of the river where the underground portion is (really just an abandoned gold mining tunnel) and plan to go inside, then you’ll want to bring a flashlight. Sometimes the tunnel will be blocked off for safety reasons, but if it’s open you are free to carefully explore. You can even go all the way through to another portion of the river.  

Lake Lanier 

  • Location: Gainesville 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best For: The opportunity to recreate at an Olympic site 

Less on the secluded side in comparison to the other locations, Lake Lanier is one of the most popular places near Atlanta to go canoeing, kayaking and more. Although it may be busy at times, it’s still a fun place to look at the neighborhoods of luxurious lake homes and all the scenery. There are multiple access points to the lake and you can rent canoe and kayak gear from the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club, located at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Venue. 

The Club also provides many different classes and unique experiences, including a night paddle under the stars. The water conditions offer various levels of difficulty for visitors. Beginners may want to stay in the calmer waters and enjoy a peaceful paddle, while paddlers looking for more of an adventure can head to areas where the lake connects to the Chattahoochee River. If you enjoy fishing, this lake offers a great selection of fish species too. 

Morgan Falls Overlook Park 

  • Location: Sandy Springs 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best For: Families and large groups 

Also connected to the Chattahoochee River, Morgan Falls Overlook Park is a fun place to take a dip in the river and have a good time with the family. The waters are fairly calm, making it suitable for beginners and great for kids. Canoes and kayaks can be rented from the nearby High Country Outfitters Paddle Shack between April and October. 

The area around the park is very tranquil: You’ll see several wildlife species while paddling around, such as whitetail deer, river otters and quite a few box turtles. It’s also an excellent place to bring your fishing reel and tackle box because of the many different species of fish.  

Blue Ridge Lake 

  • Location: Blue Ridge 
  • Rentals available: Yes  
  • Best For: Families looking for exercise 

Blue Ridge Lake is a must if you are planning to kayak or canoe north of Atlanta. You can access this lake from two locations. One is the Boat Ramp, which will be more of a rough ride due to the terrain. If you’re interested in a more sporty experience, you’ll want to use this entrance. The other entrance is the Morganton Point Recreation Area. This one is a lot more family-friendly and the entrance is easier to get in, which allows for a calmer experience.  

This splendid lake is perfect for adventure, and the waters are calm, so your paddle through the scenic route is even more enjoyable. If you need a rental, they are located at the Lake Blue Ridge Outfitters. The river runs near the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, giving it many different access points to campsites along the shore. You can pull off to one of the banks or campsites and enjoy a nice riverside picnic.  

Chestatee River 

  • Location: Dahlonega 
  • Rentals available: Yes 
  • Best For: Group adventure 

The Chestatee River provides a great experience for beginner paddlers and also has some excitement for experienced paddlers. The river itself is not that long, only spanning about 6.5 miles; however, there are many notable features that make the trip worth it and give beginners a next level of paddling experience. To access the river, you’ll want to put in at the Chestatee River Adventures location. This is also where you can pick up a rental if you need one. Be sure to make a reservation early because the kayak and canoe rentals will sell out in the busy season. 

Throughout your paddle, you will encounter some Class 1 rapids here and there. Nothing to worry about getting soaked by, but a good feature to keep your ride a little more interesting. About halfway down the river, you’ll find Big Bend Beach, where many paddlers will stop and have a snack and hang out. For the rest of the trip, you will come across some more small rapids. Overall, you will have a great time conquering the Chestatee River. 

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