Your Complete Guide To Having Fun on the Chattahoochee & Other North Georgia Rivers

Posted by Tom Telford on Mon, Nov 05, 2012

If there's one activity that all of our visitors love, it would have to be the tubing experience down the Chattahoochee river in Helen, GA. Referred to affectionately as "Shootin' the 'Hooch", lazily floating on an inter-tube down the river is one of the most affordable and fun experiences for travelers of all ages, but did you know that there is way more to do on the in Helen than tubing down the river?

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The river affords locals and visitors alike the opportunity to explore by canoe, kayak or raft. Get the adrenaline pumping on the white water rapids, or simply enjoy bonding with family and friends while fishing for trout. Drift slowly down the river and take in the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and wonder of nature.

Be sure to take advantage of these opportunities to enjoy more of the Chattahoochee river than only tubing:

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Rafting

For those looking for a little more adrenaline in their trip down the Chattahoochee River, there are several river rafting companies more than willing to accommodate, as well as rafting on the nearby Soque River, Tallulah River and Tiger Creek. White water rafting expeditions are available for beginners to advanced rafters and can be booked online through the Cedar Creek Cabins website.

Canoeing 

Whether you are an old pro or have never tried canoeing before in your life, you will be able to enjoy a wonderful trip down the Chattahoochee river with a canoe rental from Wildwood Outfitters in Helen, GA. Here you can rent canoes, paddles, life jackets, and helmets so that you will have everything you need to set off on your canoeing adventure.

Canoes are rented by a flat rate for sections 1 through 3 on the Chattahoochee River. As Section 4 is 10 miles long, there is an additional fee per rental. Though walk ins are welcome, it is recommended that you make reservations in advance.

Wildwood Outfitters also rents tandem sit-on-tops. These are great crafts for parents with young children or groups of youth. For those with more experience navigating the Chattahoochee River, Wildwood Outfitters provides open canoes, however staff reserves the right to determine suitability of experience before one may rent these water crafts.

While all 4 sections of the river allow for magnificent scenery, group bonding will be best established by sticking with the calmer, more laid back tours of sections 1 and 2. Regardless of your choice, you will build lasting memories from your trip to Helen. Tubing isn't the only way to experience the 'Hooch! 

Kayaking The Chatahoochee River

Would you prefer to try kayaking down the river instead? Wildwood Outfitters is also the place to go to be set up with an amazing experience on the Chattahoochee! Just as with canoing, they offer four trips on four different sections of the river which are suited to families and groups of various skill levels. The experts at Wildwood Outfitters will help you to determine which option is best for you.

  • Section 1 begins at the Nacoochee outpost where you will be shuttled to the Sautee Creek put in. This area of the Chattahoochee is arguably the most beautiful and is abundant with magnificent plant and wildlife. This area is calm and smooth, making it ideal for first time kayakers and families. The journey spans six miles and will take approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.
  • Section 2 is a more challenging excursion and starts at the Highway 255 Bridge. The journey begins with several long Class 1 rapids as well as smooth pools. Approximately 3.5 miles down the river you will encounter the rapids of Smith Island which is a Class 2 rapid. The section 2 tour is 5 miles long and will take approximately 2.5 to 3 hours.
  • Section 3 is for the true adrenaline junkies and begins at the Highway 115 bridge. This area is known as the whitewater section of the Chattahoochee River. On this tour, you will encounter many rapids which range from Class 1 to Class 3 depending on the water levels. Most kayakers consider the "Three Ledges" to be the most challenging rapid on the whole river. This is a truly challenging and fun experience for experienced rafters and will take 2.5 to 3 hours.
  • Section 4 is the longest of all of the kayaking tours available from Wildwood Outfitters. The entire journey is 10 miles which will take approximately 6 hours to complete. In addition, this area has the largest volume of water and also features a dozen Class 1 rapids. This means that it can be paddled when the water levels in other sections are too low. 

Most of the Chattahoochee River is calm and peaceful but there are several spots that are perfect for an exciting kayak adventure.

Kayaking The Tallulah Gorge

The Tallulah Gorge is truly a sight to see and it becomes even more up close and personal when plunging into the river in a kayak.  I will never forget the first time I saw kayakers racing down this river deep in the gorge only to be covered up by the intense rapids and shot out the other side.  It is a thrill like no other and a part of me really wanted to climb down there and and jump into a boat just to see if I could handle the rapids.  It is deffinitely on the verge of insanity to run this river at full flow. 

Peak Release

When the water is being released at it's peak level people from accross the State come to test their skills on this mighty river.  On release weekends the flows are typically 500cfs on Saturday and 700cfs on Sunday. When the flows are over 700 this river turns into a class V whitwater section.  As many know there are only a few opportunities to run the river at these levels and they include the first two weekends in April as well as the first three weekends in November.  Not to mention that it is a long walk just to put your boat in the water; 600 steps to be exact.  Paddlers are sure to be relaxing in Georgia cabins after this extreme thrashing in the rapids on the Tallulah River.  What always amazed me is how much of the time their boats would flip in the middle of this white water and some how they would find the strength to turn back upright.  This is a sport not for the faint of heart.

After the whitewater on this section of the river there is about 1.5 miles of flatwater across the Tugaloo Lake to the takeout at the Tugaloo dam.  This is also another steep climb estimated at about 650 vertical feet. 

Formation of the Tallulah

During the mid 1990's, Georgia Power decided to create a re-licensing of the Hydroelectric Projects along the Tallulah River This was put forth by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Part of this process required looking at other uses of the river besides strictly hydroelectric production.  This gave many groups including whitewater enthusiasts the opportunity to lobby FERC to ask Georgia Power to change the amount of water released over the Tallulah Dam.  Today we now have an increased daily flow of water from 0-15 cubic feet per second to 35-50 cfs., whitewater releases which provides enough water for kayakers to paddle the Gorge, and aesthetic releases that create an incredible sight to see within the already majestic mountains of North Georgia.  This is a drast comparison to what is was before the River was dammed in 1912.  Even though many would argue that this dam is a positive aspect for the area it has created a much larger opportunity for kayakers to have class IV and V whitewater in close proximity to Helen Ga.

Equipment is Crucial

When deciding to shoot this adventurous section of river it is very important to have all of the right equipment and never paddle this section alone.  Although the river seems very predictable with its constant flow this is far from the truth and there are a myriad of ways to find yourself in a dangerous sitiuation.  A throw bag is probably one of the most important aspects to saftey on this water as well as a helmet, personal floatation device, and the right clothing.  A spray skirt is absolutely essential to this river pursuit as well as a first aid kit. Don't forget the paddle leash as it is not possible to take another paddle onboard in this type of turbulent water.

As I spoke about before one of the most challenging situations while rafting this river is being turned upside down.  And many times the paddler must exit the boat for saftey.  At this point they either need the support of another person for re-entry or they can use a paddle float.  This is a device that creates an outrigger when attached to the blade of the kayak paddle.  It works to stabilized the kayak so that the swimmer can slide back into the boat.  It must be inflated first which takes time especially in this turbulent environment.  Next the it must be slid the other blade of the paddle underneatht the deck bungies behind the cockpit.  Now using the floating paddle blade for support, the kayaker can hoist himself onto the deck and slide back into the cockpit.  In this situation bilge pumps are also a neccessity as there is always leftover water in the boat.

Take the Plunge

Now that you know what to expect in this beautiful part of North Georgia don't hessitate to go ahead and set up your stay in the North Georgia cabins as I can assure you this will be a long day in the water.  And there will be nothing like soaking in a hot tub after an exhilerating day on the Tallulah River.  Be sure to consult the river flows before planning your trip as well as the weather.  This will undoubtedly be a trip you will never forget.  Get ready for the ride of your life!

Waterfalls

While there are plenty of ways to get wet near Helen, GA and the Cedar Creek Cabins, there is also plenty of water that only requires admiration and not participation. Some of Georgia’s most famous waterfalls are located in this area, such as Anna Ruby Falls and Horse Trough Falls in Chattahoochee National Forest and Dukes Creek Falls on the Russell Scenic Highway outside of town.

Grab hiking boots and a picnic and head up to Raven Cliff Falls, which is a five-mile hike with some challenging terrain, located in the Mark Trail Wilderness Area.

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Fly Fishing On The Chattahoochee River

Looking for a special experience on the Chattahoochee River? Tubing is fun, but learning to fly fish is a skill that you can take home with you!

The Chattahoochee River offers amazing catfish, bass, and trout fishing year round. Regardless of season the river remains cool and inviting. The area between the Helen Georgia flea market and North Georgia BBQ restaurant is a local favorite for trout fishing. You can use any type of bait except live minnow and there are no limitations on hooks. It is important to following Georgia fishing regulations and to secure a fishing license before your trip begins.

The best deal for visitors to the Helen area is the Gilligan Special. This is Unicoi Outfitter's basic fly fishing introductory course and it includes one hours of casting and fishing instruction followed by two hours of fly fishing. All supplies such as rods, reels, flies, etc. are included with instruction. 

Tubing The Chattahoochee

Helen Georgia is famed for its tubing adventures on the Chattahoochee River. Several different tubing companies offer guests and residents the opportunity to spend a lazy day floating down the river. You can let your imagination run wild when tubing the Chattahoochee! Bring your dog, your refreshments, and tie several tubes together using the provided straps. You and your friends are sure to enjoy the tubing adventure together.

Bird Watching By The Chattahoochee

The banks of the Chattahoochee are an excellent place for bird watching enthusiasts to spot native North Georgia species. These birds inhabit the mountains, valleys, and riverbanks near Helen. Each May birdwatchers flock to the local Birdfest to learn about identifying local species, participate in birding lectures, and get up close with local species. Many neo-tropical birds also pass through the Helen Georgia area each spring and pose a unique challenge to bird watchers. These are typically small birds that inhabit the wooded areas along the Chattahoochee, primarily identifiable by just their calls.

Mountain Biking Near The Chattahoochee

The Upper Chattahoochee River Area offers mountain biking enthusiasts several trails near the river's edge. The Helen Trail departs from the public parking lot on Chattahoochee Street in downtown Helen. This trail weaves through the area around the river and offers cyclists amazing views and an exciting ride. The Upper Chattahoochee Trail doesn't sport an official single track but the elevation and distances still make this ride both challenging and fun.

The loop around Jasus Creek is famous for its climb from the riverbed and the views from the top. These trails depart from Fire Safety Road 44 that parallels the Chattahoochee River near Highway 75. If you don't plan on bringing your own mountain biking equipment there are several outfitters in the Helen area where you can rent bikes and safety gear for your entire group.  

Weather, What To Bring, & Getting To The Chattahoochee River

"River of painted rocks" is the Native American meaning of the word Chattahoochee, and as you stroll near the river you will see why this name is so fitting. All along the riverbed there are several varieties of colors to be seen in the rocks below the water's surface.

This magnificent river begins it's 430 mile journey from a very small spring located in northeastern Georgia. It's path takes it through beautiful lush forests, various towns and through a series of reservoirs, until it merges with the Flint River in southwestern Georgia.

Weather to Expect

Although the Chattahoochee River is beautiful all year long, the best time for taking the plunge is from September through October. During this time frame, the weather is calm and comfortable with temperatures ranging from the mid 70s to low 80s. It is also the driest time of the year. In fact, October is the driest month in Georgia, which makes water activities during this time even more ideal.

Click here to check out the weather in Helen Georgia right now.

What to Bring

Anytime you are going to be on the water it is important to bring all the necessary safety supplies. This includes a life jacket for each person in your group, sturdy water shoes and sunscreen.

You will also want to bring along snacks and plenty of water. Additionally, to make your trip hassle free, be sure to bring a push stick. This you can use to free your tube or raft from others, as well as rocks that you may encounter along the way.

You can either bring your own gear or go through a local company which can supply everything you need from equipment to scheduled trips. With the appropriate supplies, you can ensure a safe and fun trip for everyone.

Getting There

Getting to the Chattahoochee River is convenient as it passes right through Helen. From Cedar Creek Cabin Rentals, go southwest on Zeppelin Strasse. At Brucken Strasse turn left. Turn left on Edlewiess and this will take you directly over the Chattahoochee River as it leads to Hwy 75 in Helen.

From child to adult, there is always fun to be had on the Chattahoochee River and this is a great time of year to do so. On your next visit, be sure to add 'shooting the Chattahoochee' to your list of Helen attractions. 

Other Bodies Of Water To Explore

The mountains of North Georgia are a picturesque location for relaxation and rejuvenation. Visitors to cabins in Helen have discovered that there are many opportunities to soak away one's troubles in the cabin's hot tub or in nearby lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. How would you prefer to spend a relaxing afternoon? Floating down the Chattahoochee River by tube? Enjoying a short hike to a powerful and majestic waterfall? Relaxing on the shores of a crisp, clean swimming hole? 

Unicoi State Park

This state park is located just a few miles from the cabins in Helen and provides a wide variety of outdoor activities. Smith Lake is a beautiful backdrop for visitors hoping to spend a day relaxing and enjoying nature. Fishing and boating is available at Smith Lake but there is also a lively sand beach that is open for swimming in the summer months. Adjacent to Unicoi State Park is Anna Ruby Falls, a spectacular series of waterfalls. A highly rare double waterfall is formed at the point where Curtis Creek and York Creek join. The waterfalls are fed by river runoff and underground springs making them available year round to guests staying in the cabins in Helen. 

Dick's Creek Falls

These falls are located near Cleveland, GA in Lumpkin County and are a part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Dick's Creek Falls offer a wide variety of recreational opportunities but are famed for the magnificent swimming holes created by the tiered breaks in the falls. Of all the swimming holes created by the falls the most popular is located at the base of the third fall. This large pool of clear, cold water gives visitors an opportunity to relax amid North Georgia's scenic landscape.

Nottely Lake

Less than an hour from Helen sits Nottely Lake, a man made reservoir formed in 1942 by the damming of the Nottely River. Nearly 70% of the lake's shoreline is undeveloped and under control of the United States Forest Service but there is still plenty of beautiful shoreline available for lake access. The lake's sand beach boasts picnic tables and a pavilion, a bathhouse, restrooms and a nearby boat ramp. The beach is open from April 1 to October 15 and offers visitors the perfect opportunity to relax in the waters of North Georgia.

Cabin Hot Tubs

Don't think that you have to take a hike, climb a mountain, or canoe down a river to find a place for a relaxing soak. Many cabins in Helen are outfitted with deluxe hot tubs perfect for soaking away the world's worries. Since you can use the hot tubs all year round you can ensure a relaxing soak no matter when you choose to visit North Georgia at one of our cabins with hot tubs. 

Share Your Thoughts Below

How do you plan to enjoy the 'Hooch' during your next stay at the cabins in Helen?

Topics: Rafting, Tubing, & Kayaking, Cabin Rentals, North Georgia
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