From its source in Northeast Georgia, the scenic Chattahoochee River flows through the heart of metro Atlanta to the Gulf of Mexico, supporting an ecosystem replete with marine life, forests, water birds and wildlife. One way to really enjoy the river is to get out on the water, and take the kids with you.
Canoeing options in the region abound, part of a proud history of water travel and recreation that dates back to the indigenous people of Georgia.
Just a few hours from Atlanta, you can paddle through mountain gorges, secluded wilderness and scenic pastures. But even closer to home, you can enjoy one of the many kid-friendly canoeing trips and share this wonderful vision of nature with kids as young as age 5.
These six spots right in the Atlanta suburbs offer kid-friendly canoe and kayak trips:
Chattahoochee Nature Center family canoe programs
9135 Willeo Road, Roswell, 770-992-2055 ext 237
The Chattahoochee Nature Center is all about enlightening the next generation on the history and ecological importance of its namesake river, and that mission extends to include water recreation for the family. It offers a wide array of kid-friendly canoe trips, with private excursions, trips led by CNC naturalists and the very popular Family Canoe Days that teach boat basics. Kids must be at least six years old to participate in river trips and five years or older to participate in Family Canoe Days. Kids under 16 must always have an adult with them in a boat. Trips and instruction costs also cover admission to the center.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
Upper Chattahoochee Johnson Ferry: 301 Johnson Ferry Road SE, Marietta, 678-903-6665
Lower Chattahoochee Powers Island: 5450 Interstate N Pkwy, Sandy Springs, 770-226-9519
While it's very popular with adrenaline junkies seeking white water thrills, NOC does offer kayak rentals and river trips from two outposts at Johnson Ferry and Powers Island in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. It's the only outfitter right inside the park and offers half-day and full-day rentals for exploring up to 8 miles of flatwater. Kids must be at least five years old for most kayaks (and a bit older for others, like stand-up paddleboards).
Greg Willett for High Country Outfitters.
Photo: Courtesy of High Country Outfitters
High Country Outfitters in Morgan Falls Overlook Park
200 Morgan Falls Road, Sandy Springs, 404-977-2523
One- and two-person kayaks and two-person canoes are available at HCO's Paddle Shack, located just five miles from downtown Atlanta. It's important to note that they're only open Saturdays and Sundays, though. Kids aged five and up can participate (with those under 13 required to wear the personal flotation device that comes with rentals at all times). They also require a ratio of one adult per every four children under the age or 13.
Shoot the Hooch
203 Azalea Drive, Roswell, 770-650-1008
With its headquarters directly on the Chattahoochee, Shoot the Hooch is perhaps best-known for its rafts and tubes, but they also offer canoes and kayaks that are perfect for newbies and those who want to refine their paddling skills while catching some gentle rapids and spotting wildlife. The short trip option involves canoeing from Don White Memorial Park (a 1.5-mile trip), while the longer trip starts at Island Ford and ends at Azalea Park (a 3-mile trip). Shuttle service is available and reservations are recommended. Children five and up can come along on canoes or kayaks (but must be at least nine for stand-up paddleboards).
Fort Yargo State Park
210 South Broad St., Winder, 770-867-3489
For a chance to paddle and also take in some area history, you can't beat Fort Yargo State Park. Situated between Atlanta and Athens, this park has a 1792 log fort and offers overnight camping options. In addition to biking and hiking trails, disc golf and a 260-acre lake with a swimming beach, fishing and boat ramps, the park rents kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards from April to October (but only on weekends April, May, August and September).