Atlanta is surrounded by some of the country’s finest whitewater, and we’ve rounded up the most kid-friendly runs around. And while all of the rivers listed below are serviced by river outfitters who can take care of every detail of your trip, it’s always a good idea to review some river safety guidelines before you go.
Odds are, your parents had a wild time shooting the ‘Hooch sometime in the late 70s or early 80s, and some of their memories may not have involved an actual boat. And while the Hooch is still the closest, easiest, and coldest water around, the wild weekends of yesteryear have been tamed considerably. It’s good, clean(ish), family fun for rafters ages 5 and older.
Keep in Mind: The Chattahoochee is regulated by the release of water from Buford Dam, and can quickly change from relatively low water levels to fast-flowing rapids. You can call ahead to find out the water release schedule (770-945-1466), and be sure to check out average float times here.
Make it Easy: Let Chattahoochee Outfitters set you up with the appropriate watercraft for your group, drive you to the put-in location, and feed you (nothing beats concession food after a long day on the water) when you float back to the headquarters at Azalea Park in Roswell.
Chattahoochee Outfitters, 203 Azalea Drive, Roswell, 770-650-1008
Don’t let the fact that the Olympic rafting competition was held just upstream on the Ocoee deter you from getting your feet wet in these hallowed waters. You can elect to mosey down the river on a gentle half day float on the Toccoa with the littles ages 5 and older.
Keep in Mind: This river runs through Tennessee and Georgia, but has two names depending on the state. In Tennessee, the rapids are referred to as the Ocoee, while in Georgia, the name changes into the Toccoa River (and generally has calmer waters).
Make it Easy: Call the Rolling Thunder River Company to take care of all your needs, from selecting the right craft to hiring a guide to steer you through the more daunting waters.
Ocoee River/Toccoa River Centers, 20 Hughes Street , McCaysville, 706-492-5720
The Chattooga River
While it ain’t as dramatic as the depiction in Deliverance, the Chattooga isn’t a lazy river float. In fact, children under 8 aren’t allowed in the boat, and you’ll find that the adventure on the Chattooga is less about dueling banjos and more about keeping yourself in the boat.
Keep in Mind: The Chattooga was federally protected in 1974 so if your goal is to see some breathtakingly undeveloped scenery, this is the river for you. However, undeveloped means undeveloped. Don’t plan on stopping off to grab some ice for your cooler along the way.
Make it Easy: Contact the Nantahala Outdoor Center to set up your guided trip, and ease any lingering post-Deliverance jitters you may have.
NOC Chattooga River, 851A Chattooga Ridge Road, Mountain Rest, SC 864-647-9014
What local river floats your boat? Tell us in the comments section below!
Photos courtesy of Nantahala Outdoor Center via Facebook, RukaKuusamo via flickr Creative Commons, donald judge via flickr Creative Commons, donald judge via flickr Creative Commons, and marinakvillatoro via flickr Creative Commons