Kayaking on the Little River Water Trail in Thomson, Georgia

Kayaking on the Little River Water Trail in Thomson

Four Fantastic Georgia Water Trails for Beginners

Get out on the water, and enjoy some of the most scenic views in the state.

Paddle Georgia's most pristine waterways through mountain gorges, secluded wilderness and scenic pastures. Water trails are like hiking trails for canoes and kayaks, with designated access points, informational signage and family-friendly amenities like campgrounds and picnic spots dotting the route.

These four trails have sections suitable for all skill levels and offer some of the most scenic views in the state.

Kayaking the Toccoa River

Toccoa River in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Toccoa River Canoe Trail

For nearly 14 miles, the Toccoa River Canoe Trail meanders through the beautiful wilderness of Chattahoochee National Forest, with snippets of pastoral scenery. The pristine mountain trout stream consists of long stretches of flatwater, with some mild class I and II rapids.

Blue Ridge is the trout capital of Georgia, and this river is a favorite among fishermen. An official U.S. Forest Service canoe trail, the journey is perfect for beginners to make an all-day or overnight trip.

Paddlers even pass underneath the impressive Blue Ridge Swinging Bridge, where the Benton MacKaye Trail crosses the Toccoa River. The full water trail begins at Deep Hole Recreation Area and ends at Sandy Bottoms, with alternate take-outs at Butt Bridge and Toccoa Valley Campground.

Paddle the Toccoa River


Upper Chattahoochee River

Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail

Upstream of Lake Lanier, at the confluence of Sautee Creek and the Chattahoochee, begins the spectacular Upper Chattahoochee River Blue Trail. Flowing from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the trail takes paddlers on an incredible journey viewing unique geologic formations, gorgeous natural vistas, and abundant wildlife.

Divided into six segments, entrance and exit points dot the length of the trail, with limited camping reservations available through Wildwood Outfitters. Upper and middle segments consist of a beautiful series of shoals, and class I-III rapids that transition to mostly flatwater as the river approaches lower segments and Lake Lanier.

Paddle the Upper Chattahoochee River

Kayaking on the Etowah River

Etowah River in Dahlonega

Etowah River Water Trail

Enjoy wild scenery winding through remote forest, historic sites, and local parks on 163 miles of the Etowah River Water Trail. The trail begins near Dahlonega and traverses Georgia's high country, with mostly flatwater paddling and the occasional shoals and mild class I-II rapids.

A river of great ecological and historical significance, the Etowah supports more than 75 native fish species and more Native American fish weirs than any other in Georgia. Paddlers are treated to exceptional natural beauty and wildlife viewing on long stretches of remote wilderness as the river flows through Chattahoochee National Forest and three wildlife management areas. The trail also passes by the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, where archaeologists investigate ancient Native American life among the towering earthen structures.

Paddle the Etowah River

Kayaking on the Little River Water Trail

Little River Water Trail near Thomson, Georgia

Little River Water Trail

Experience the beauty and biodiversity of Clarks Hill Wildlife Management Area on Georgia's Little River Water Trail. The 20-mile paddle takes canoeists and kayakers on an unforgettable adventure through the wilds of Clarks Hill Lake Wildlife Management Area.

The river supports a wide array of wildlife and offers up sightings of river otters, beaver, and bald eagles; in addition to the usual whitetail deer, wild turkey, and numerous native fishes.

With several campgrounds along the route, this is an easy overnight paddle for both novice and experienced paddlers. There are four access points at Hwy 80, Hwy 78, Holliday Park, and Raysville Campground. Raysville Campground also rents kayaks for the trip.

Paddle the Little River

Published: June 2021
Written by: Candy Cook
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