The state of Georgia is as rich in its natural diversity as it is in historical significance. From its highest elevation, found at 4,784 feet in Brasstown Bald, to the sea-level coastline, the state of Georgia is full of sights to see.
Whitewater rafting in Georgia can be found in several locations in the north and central regions of the state. From Atlanta, head north on highway 985 to Helen, where you’ll enter into the beautiful Chattahoochee National Forest. From Helen, a short drive either east or west will find you near Blue Ridge or Hiawassee, respectively. If you want to drive south of Atlanta, take the I-85 to Columbus, Georgia, where you’ll find some beautiful whitewater on the Chattahoochee River.
Best whitewater rafting in Georgia
If you’re driving from Atlanta, Helen is your gateway into the Chattahoochee Forest. Whitewater rafting in this area is on the Chattooga River. There are two sections of river that offer exciting and engaging rafting in this area: Section III and Section IV (note that these are the names of the sections, not the class of rapids on each section).
Section III is suitable for families and beginner whitewater paddlers with class II to III rapids and one class IV at the end, making for a beautiful day trip on the river for paddlers ages eight and up. Section IV is more intense, with class IV sections and the famed Five Falls, where the river descends 75 feet through a quarter-mile flume through five named rapids. 12 is the minimum age for Section IV trips, although tour companies and guides reserve the right to read the river each day and decide when it is safe for minors.
Day trips are popular in this area, and there are also guided overnight trips that allow paddlers to get the best of the whitewater rafting in this area of Georgia on both Section III and IV of the Chattooga River. Overnight trips make a great weekend getaway for groups of friends or families looking for adventure, and are fully geared up by the tour companies—no camping equipment required!
Columbus, Georgia is under a two-hour drive from Central Atlanta and is directly across the Chattahoochee River from Phenix City, Alabama. Columbus boasts the longest urban whitewater stretch in the world. Run some of the best whitewater in the United States on class II to class IV rapids—both on the same 2.5-mile stretch of river, thanks to the dam-controlled water levels that rise in the afternoons.
In the mornings, when rapids are class I to III, whitewater trips are suitable for anyone over age seven, while the bigger afternoon runs are best for age 12 and up.
Atlanta is a historic city and worth visiting for the scenery, but it also provides great access to two rivers: the Chattooga and the Ocoee. Within two hours of Atlanta, some of the Southeast’s best whitewater rafting awaits. The Chattooga has great whitewater centered around Clayton (close to Helen), while rafting on the Ocoee can be found in neighboring Tennessee, beginning in Ducktown.
If you want to stay in the metro Atlanta area, your best bet for a day trip will be kayak, tube or SUP on the Chattahoochee.
What to wear whitewater rafting in Georgia
Georgia falls within the humid subtropical climate classification, which means its summers are normally hot and humid, and winters are generally above freezing. For whitewater rafting in Georgia, this means that you can pack lighter clothes for spring and summer—while mornings are cooler than midday, you won’t normally find a frosty morning in July here!
The best type of clothing for whitewater rafting in Georgia will be athletic clothing made with non-cotton fabrics. Typical gym clothing will do great in this setting; just try to stick to synthetic fabrics as they’ll dry out faster and keep you more comfortable. If your hair is longer, make sure to tie it back before you hit the river so it doesn’t get in your eyes while you’re navigating rapids.
As always when you’re paddling on a river, closed-toe shoes are a must-have. You don’t necessarily need to have water shoes specifically, but ensure you’re wearing a sport sandal or running shoe that will stay securely on your feet and cover your toes. The last thing you want to worry about is losing a shoe downriver, or catching your toes on debris under the surface.
When does whitewater rafting run?
Head to Georgia for the unforgettable whitewater rafting scene from April to October each year. Explore Georgia is a great resource for trip planning and provides visitors with seasonal information about each area.