Water Trails & Paddling
Developing Water Trails
The Alapaha River Water Trail connects about 125 miles of the 202-mile Alapaha River from US 82 in Berrien County, Georgia to the Suwannee River in Hamilton County, Florida. Its tea-colored tannin waters class it as a blackwater river, flowing below bald cypress, longleaf, slash and loblolly pines, and majestic oaks, with great blue herons, snapping turtles, alligators, and fish. Mostly flat, the Alapaha River also contains rapids, many springs, and the Alapaha Sink and the Dead River Sink where it goes underground until it comes back up in the Alapaha Rise. Covering its entire flood plain in the rainy season, and less than a foot deep in spots during dry spells, the Alapaha River is a treasure and a challenge. The Alapaha River Water Trail also includes the Alapahoochee River, as well as many lakes, ponds, and swamps that are boatable year round. The Alapaha River Water Trail project is being developed by the WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc.
Big Indian Creek Water Trail
The Altamaha Riverkeeper is partnering with the city of Perry and Houston County to develop 8-10 miles of water trail along Big Indian Creek. Located 30 miles south of Macon, Perry currently provides access to the upper portion of the creek at Rotary Centennial Park.
Conasauga Canoe Trail
Conasauga River Alliance is partnering with Dalton Utilities, Limestone Valley RC&D, Whitfield County, WWF, and Coca Cola to complete a water trail on a section of the Conasauga. Efforts for the trail have begun within Whitfield County with hopes of working up and downstream from there. Currently, there are two access points: one in Beaverdale, GA behind the Superette gas station and one at Dalton Utilities at Norton Bridge. Dalton Utilities is contributing by building and funding a launch on their property. The river between these two access points is an easy 3-5 hour paddle (unless we are in a dry period or heavy rain). The riparian zone is intact, and although you can’t see it from the river, the surrounding land-use is mostly agricultural. This is a great section to see lots of wildlife both aquatic and terrestrial, including gar and fresh water drum, osprey, river otter, groundhogs, deer, and turkey.
Coosa River Water Trail
From rolling whitewater headwaters to Carters Lake, the Coosawattee River Water Trail (a.k.a. Headwaters North Georgia Water Trail/ Gilmer County Blue Trail) covers approximately 60 miles of paddling water. With strategically located canoe and kayak launches and waterway-accessible campsites, recreationists, fishermen, and paddlers can enjoy a few hours or a few days on Gilmer County’s streams, rivers, and lakes. Beginning at high altitudes as small mountain streams in Gilmer County, the Coosawattee River and its tributaries are the headwaters of the Coosa/Alabama/Mobile river system that flows through Alabama to Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico – over 800 miles of paddling-streams, rivers, and lakes. The Coosawattee Watershed Alliance, in cooperation with Gilmer County, Corps of Engineers, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Mountain Stewards created the Blue Trail, which travels along the Coosawattee River through Carters Lake (the impoundment created by the largest earthen dam in the eastern US) from the headwaters of the Cartecay and Ellijay rivers to its confluence with the Conasauga River. Canoe launches and waterway-accessible campsites have been revitalized and constructed to facilitate the recreational use of this important resource. Learn more on the Blue Trail Handout.
Flint River Water Trail
The Flint River flows 346 miles through Georgia from north of the Atlanta Airport to the southwest corner. It joins the Chattahoochee River at Lake Seminole to form the Apalachicola River, which crosses the Florida panhandle to the Gulf of Mexico. Rare shoal lilies bloom along the fall line, and shoal bass challenge anglers below. Starting as a small stream in the Piedmont, the Flint River passes scenic Sprewell Bluff and broadens to a wide meandering stream with sandy banks in the upper Coastal Plain. It then becomes a broad, spring-fed river in lower Coastal Plain cutting into the Ocala Limestone banks.
Little Ohoopee Blue Trail
The proposed Little Ohoopee River Blue Trail will be 5 miles in length and is located in close proximity to the Ohoopee Dunes Wildlife Management Area and the Nature Conservancy’s Ohoopee Dunes Preserve. The water trail will include the development of two jonboat/canoe launches each with a parking lot and access road. The Little Ohoopee River will provide educational and recreational value both independently, and in combination with, the established paddling trails of the mainstem Ohoopee River and Altamaha Rivers downstream. It will also enhance angling opportunities using small motorized and non-motorized craft alike. The Little Ohoopee and Ohoopee Rivers are renowned for their pickerel and red-breast sunfish fisheries. It is likely that Native Americans used the bluffs and terraces above the Little Ohoopee River floodplain (containing numerous seeps and springs) as sites for encampment or semi-permanent settlements, as did early Europeans. To learn more and get involved in development of the water trail contact Mincy Moffett: mincy.moffett at dnr.ga.gov.
The Trust for Public Land is proposing the creation of a water trail along the Chattahoochee River. The proposed water trail will highlight the river as the center of a recreation and natural resource program as well as a stimulus for ecotourism and economic development in the Chattahoochee Valley region extending 50 plus miles from West Point, Georgia to Phenix City, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia. An estimated 8-10 identified canoe/kayak launch locations would be scattered over the upstream section that precedes the recreational lakes and be designated access points surrounded by parks, greenspaces, camping and fishing sites, and other amenities along the river. Construction of easily accessible portages around the existing dams will act to create one long continuous ‘blue thread’ of a recreational addling and recreation trail from West Point Dam and the three cities of Valley, AL, Lanett, AL, and West Point, GA in the north to the 2.5 mile whitewater paddling course in Columbus, GA in the south.
The Lower Chattooga River Canoe/Kayak Trail is located in Northwest Georgia and begins in Chattooga County at the launch adjacent to the bridge on Lyerly Dam Road, in the town of Lyerly, Georgia. The trail is 7.5 miles and is usually a 4 to 6 hour trip depending on water levels to the take out point on Holland-Chattoogaville Road adjacent to the bridge south of Lyerly. The trail is operated by the Town of Lyerly and came into being in 2012 as a way to increase tourism to the small town with a population of 540. The trail now has gravel parking areas at its two existing launch sites and the number of visitors continues to increase every year. The town of Lyerly was awarded a Recreational Trails Grant of $99,700.00 in late 2012 which is being used to further improve the launches, add water-less, solar powered restrooms, and add signage to both sites. The Coosa River Basin Initiative and the Chattooga County Government have partnered with Lyerly on the project.
Lower Oconee River Water Trail
The Lower Oconee River Water Trail begins at the base of Sinclair Dam. With public access at the dam, boaters can enjoy a 4-mile stretch of scenic flat water between the put-in, just south of the dam, and the public access ramp at the Oconee River Greenway, adjacent to downtown Milledgeville. At lower water levels this section becomes rocky, with exposed shoals and may require some maneuvering. Shoes are always recommended for walking in the river and/or portaging. At higher water levels, remnants of two old diversion dams create Class II-III rapids. Only experienced paddlers with appropriate boats should attempt passage of these. A safer alternative route exists and is often the best option for all boaters.The water trail continues past the Greenway for another 5 miles of gently meandering flat water until it reaches a third public access ramp south of the city limits. Ongoing work will help to extend the Lower Oconee River Water Trail through approximately 143 miles downstream to its confluence with the Ocmulgee River. More information will be available as it develops.
Middle Chattahoochee River Water Trail
The goal for the project is to ultimately create a blueway on the Chattahoochee River for canoes and kayaks from the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area at Peachtree Creek (Fulton County) to Chattahoochee Bend State Park (Coweta County), approximately 53 miles. The blueway will also include Sweetwater Creek State Park and possibly additional sites, such as Moores Bridge Park and McIntosh Reserve.
Oostanaula River Water Trail
South River Water Trail
South River Watershed Alliance plans to develop the South River Water Trail extending from Panola Shoals to Klondike Road, a distance of approximately 5 1/2 miles. To run in tandem with completion of required water trail planning and development actions, the project will incorporate two complementary restoration activities – the ongoing systematic removal of spent tires which will enhance the river’s aesthetic value and preparation for the reintroduction of river cane to the banks of South River which will increase wildlife habitat and improve water quality.
South and West Chickamauga Creek Blueways
Where the Tennessee River Blueway dips down to touch the boundaries of Georgia and Alabama, state lines blur under the waters of the big river’s feeder streams: Lookout Creek and South, West, and North Chickamauga Creeks. All flow from the ridges of northwest Georgia into the Tennessee River Valley, through small towns that are working hard to build a blueway system that will expand paddling opportunities for hundreds of miles. Known as “West Chick” and “South Chick” to local paddlers, both these Northwest GA creeks are relatively unexplored. Both meander through small towns, and by residential neighborhoods and farms. As they get closer to the metro Chattanooga, TN area, the creeks provide wildlife refuges and amazingly quiet places to paddle in a busy, urban environment. There are 8 total access points (3 on the West Chick (2 in GA) and 5 on the South Chick (2 in GA)). Recommended day trips are from Ringgold, GA to Graysville, GA on South Chick, or from Chickamauga, GA to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA on West Chick. Both of these trips are long day trips and not suitable for beginner paddlers or those who cannot portage, but they offer beautiful scenery and a few riffles here and there. West Chick, in particular, still contains several large strainers that need to be portaged around.
St. Mary’s River Water Trail
The St. Mary’s is a blackwater stream that originates in the Okefenokee. It serves as the border between Florida and Georgia at the southern most tip of Georgia. Florida Greenways and Trails designates the stretch from Highway 121 bridge at McClenny to Scotts Landing in Boulogne as a state paddling trail. The St. Mary’s River Management Committee (SMRMC), which is an interlocal agreement between the four counties sharing the river, Camden & Charlton in Georgia, Baker & Nassau in Florida, also works for the protection of the St. Mary’s, sponsoring an annual river cleanup, and the St. Mary’s River Celebration.
Upper Oconee Water Trail
The Upper Oconee Water Trail (UOWT) will include 98 river miles on the North Oconee and Middle Oconee rivers (Jackson and Athens-Clarke counties) which converge to create the Oconee river (Oconee county), and then continue into Lake Oconee (Greene and Putnam counties), formed by Wallace Dam. There are currently 6 existing public access points and a portion of the UOWT flows alongside the Oconee River Greenway and the Oconee National Forest. The scenic UOWT passes along beginner Class I and II shoals, beautiful rocky bluffs, historic textile mill ruins, wide sandbars perfect for a picnic, and miles of secluded forest. A plethora of wildlife reside here, such as kingfisher, river otter, osprey, blue heron, bald eagle, and soft shell turtle…just to name a few. The UOWT is in the development phase with support from various stakeholders including Athens-Clarke County Unified Government, Oconee Rivers Greenway Commission, Georgia River Network, Upper Oconee Watershed Network, Lake Oconee Water Watch, University of Georgia – Office of Sustainability, and more. Learn more here: www.UOWT.org
Withlacoochee and Little River Water Trail
The Withlacoochee River is one of the few undammed left in this country, flowing in its unruly blackwater splendor for 115 miles past cypress, river birch, oaks, and pines through Georgia and Florida with shoals and springs, including Madison Blue Spring State Park, to its confluence with the Suwannee River. The Little River is also an undammed tea-colored blackwater river below Reed Bingham State Park, which itself is the venue for the annual WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. BIG Little River Paddle Race. The Little river joins the Withlacoochee just outside Valdosta in Lowndes County, the largest population center in the entire Suwannee River Basin.