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Freedom to Float Live Stream Series

July 9, 2024

Georgia River Network and the Freedom to Float Coalition are hosting a new live stream series this summer to highlight the value of Georgia’s rivers!

The Freedom to Float Live Stream Series will highlight first person stories from local river recreation entrepreneurs and tourism officials to discuss Freedom to Float issues in different parts of the state.

Hear from local business owners and river advocates across the state in LIVE panel conversations each Monday in July and August at 6:00 pm broadcasted on the Georgia River Network Facebook page, the GRN YouTube channel and the ACA Georgia Facebook page. The broadcasts will also be recorded on each of these pages for on demand viewing later.

Watch our first introduction episode announcing the series below.

The conversations: Each episode shares first person testimony about the role river recreation plays in our local economies and underscores the importance of keeping our rivers open for all to enjoy.

The stories told during the live stream series will be used as part of Georgia River Network’s Freedom to Float campaign to urge legislators to support the state’s robust outdoor recreation economy by protecting existing river uses and the public’s right to boat down any stream that will float a boat. River recreation boosts tourism and impacts local economies, but more importantly increases our quality of life. The freedom to create memories and explore Georgia’s rivers is priceless!

Freedom to Float Coalition: Georgia River Network, American Whitewater, American Canoe Association, Georgia Canoeing Association, Tennessee Valley Canoe Club

Watch the Freedom to Float Live Stream Series

Episode 1: The Columbus Success Story

Don’t Lose Your Freedom to Float 

May 24, 2024

The 2024 Georgia General Assembly session ended in late March with two pieces of legislation adopted that could impact your freedom to canoe, kayak, paddleboard, tube and use motorized vessels on Georgia’s rivers and streams. 

HB 1172, a bill that attempted to clarify Georgians’ right to boat, fish and hunt on our state’s navigable streams, was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp following the session. This bill could lead to property owners asserting “ownership” of the beds of “navigable” rivers and streams to prohibit river users from fishing, scouting a rapid or otherwise stopping in front of their property. 

HR 1554 created a special House study committee investigating navigable streams. We expect the study committee to begin public meetings later this year and make recommendations to the full legislature in advance of the 2025 General Assembly session. 

Georgia River Network, Georgia Canoeing Association, American Whitewater and American Canoe Association are working to inform and influence this committee to protect existing river uses even on Georgia’s smallest streams. We believe the public should have the right to float—the right of passage—on any stream capable of supporting recreational vessels. 

Unfortunately, legislators seem prone to rely on an out-dated 1863 law to determine where the public has the right to boat. That law states that to be considered “navigable” a stream must be capable of floating a boat loaded with freight (think steamboats and cotton barges that plied our rivers in 1863). 

If a stream does not meet that “navigability” test, Georgia’s existing laws allow property owners along a stream to restrict passage down that stream. Court decisions in the last 30 years have affirmed that navigability test, resulting in streams like Armuchee Creek in northwest Georgia and Ichawaynochaway Creek in southwest Georgia being closed to the public. 

A bill introduced during the 2024 session, HB 1397, created a list of “navigable streams” upon which citizens would have the right to boat, fish and hunt. The bill named some 60 streams as “presumed navigable.” Unfortunately, the bill did not include dozens of rivers and streams that Georgians currently use on a regular basis for canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and other watersports. Not included in this list were rivers like the Upper Chattahoochee, Cartecay and Toccoa as well as creeks like Ebenezer, Big Cedar and South Chickamauga—all of which currently support thriving outfitter businesses. Indeed, about 50 percent of the rivers listed in the guidebook Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia, a leading resource for paddling in Georgia, were not included on the list.

On these “non-navigable” streams, it would take just one property owner to close the stream to the public, potentially shutting down small businesses that depend on these streams. 

HB 1397 did not pass, but it did lead to the creation of the special study committee on navigable streams. The recommendations of this committee could have far-reaching impacts for Georgia’s outdoor recreation community and economy. 

Please take action to protect your freedom to float:

  • Email your legislators. Click on the link below to quickly send a message to your state senator and representative. Don’t know who they are? Don’t worry. Our action alert will direct your message to your legislators based on your address. Tell your legislators that they need to support the state’s robust outdoor recreation economy by protecting existing river uses and the public’s right to boat down any stream that will float a boat. Tell them about how you and your family use the state’s rivers and why protecting that use is so important to you.
  • Join Georgia River Network’s Paddle-a-thon. Click on the link below to join Georgia River Network’s Paddle-a-thon, a paddling and peer-to-peer fundraising
    competition. By participating in this free event, and submitting an online trip report every time you do a river trip, you help document the rivers and streams that Georgians are using. This information is critical in the effort to protect existing river uses. It costs nothing and you could win one of some $10,000 in prizes.
  • Donate to Georgia River Network. We appreciate your continued support!

Did you know?

  • Boating and fishing pump some $1.1 billion into Georgia’s economy annually, and more than 70 outfitters operate river recreation businesses on Georgia’s streams. 
  • Neighboring states like North Carolina and South Carolina have state laws that protect the public’s right to boat down any stream capable of floating vessels of any size. 

2024 Legislative Session Summary

April 2, 2024

The 2024 Georgia General Assembly ended last week with our legislators passing legislation impacting our ability to boat, fish and hunt on Georgia’s navigable streams. Read on for a summary of the 2024 legislative session and about our next steps for meaningful advocacy. 

This legislative session saw the passage of a bad bill addressing boating, fishing and hunting rights on navigable streams and the defeat of a measure aimed at naming all of the state’s “navigable streams.” The end result is a weakening of our rights to use navigable streams and the creation of a House study committee to investigate what streams in Georgia are “navigable.” 

Rep. James Burchett’s HB1172, a bill that attempted to clarify Georgians’ right to boat, fish and hunt on our state’s navigable streams, passed both chambers mostly along party lines and now awaits Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature.

Georgia River Network opposed HB 1172 because the language included in the bill regarding what you could do in a navigable stream where a property owner chooses to assert their ownership of the streambed would prohibit activities like anchoring, wading or getting out on a rock to scout a rapid. Essentially, it equates touching the streambed with trespassing. 

Rep. Burchett also introduced HB1397, a bill that named some 60 streams as “presumed navigable” upon which Georgians would be guaranteed the right to boat, fish and hunt. Unfortunately, the bill did not include as “navigable” many of the rivers and streams that Georgians currently use for canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding and other watersports. Georgia River Network, Georgia Canoeing Association, American Whitewater and American Canoe Association organized a “Boaters Day” at the Capitol, educating legislators about the hazards of naming “navigable streams” and the threats to public access posed by Georgia’s current laws. Legislators quickly soured on HB 1397 and did not pass it out of committee.

Instead, House leadership introduced HR 1554, a measure creating a special House study committee investigating navigable streams. HR 1554 passed and we expect the study committee to begin meetings later this year. Georgia River Network is working with our paddlesports partners to inform and influence this committee in order to protect existing uses of even Georgia’s smallest streams that float recreational boats. Look for more information about this study committee in the near future!

Next Steps: Protecting the freedom to float is now a top priority for Georgia River Network in 2024. Our Paddle-a-thon peer-to-peer fundraising competition is now a challenge to log paddle adventures and document rivers and streams used for recreation. We will provide this valuable data to the special House committee.

Where Can I Legally Paddle in Georgia? – Two Part Informational Series

Georgia River Network, Georgia Canoeing Association, American Whitewater and American Canoe Association invite you to a two part informational series to learn what the Georgia General Assembly is doing to protect – or not protect – your freedom to float Georgia’s rivers and streams.

Part I: Thank you for joining our Facebook/YouTube Livestream event Monday, March 4, at 7 p.m. to learn the basics of the proposed legislation. Watch a recording below. 

Part II: Join us for a more in-depth discussion with a Q&A on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. on Zoom

Register for the Zoom event here.

Is your favorite Georgia paddling destination at risk of being declared “non-navigable”?

 On February 23, a new bill was filed in the Georgia General Assembly to declare the List of Navigable Streams, HB 1397.

Update on March 4, 2024- HB 1397 did not come to a vote on the House floor and did not “crossover” for further consideration! However, we are preparing for this bill, or language within the bill, to reappear in other legislation during the session. 

HB1397 lists all the streams in Georgia “presumed to be navigable” by the state. If this bill is adopted, our right to boat, fish and hunt on these streams would be guaranteed by state law. However, the public’s right to boat on streams not included on this list remains uncertain.

If your favorite boating, paddling or fishing destination is NOT included on this list of 64 rivers and streams, it could be at risk of being closed to the public.

(For example, portions of the Yellow, South, Upper Chattahoochee and Coosawattee River Water Trails are not included on this list; the Chickamauga Creek Water Trails are also left off the list)

Georgia River Network is analyzing the impacts of the proposed legislation and is working to secure our freedom to float all of Georgia’s streams capable of floating recreational boats.

 List of Navigable Streams as outlined in HB 1397

(1) Alabaha River downstream from confluence of Hurricane Creek and L. Hurricane Creek;
(2) Alapaha River downstream from confluence with Deep Creek upstream of Crystal Lake Road;
(3) Alcovy River downstream of Alcovy Trestle Road;
(4) Altamaha River downstream from confluence of Ocmulgee and Oconee Rivers;
(5) Apalachee River downstream of confluence with Jacks Creek above Highway 441;
(6) Armuchee Creek downstream of US Highway 27;
(7) Big Indian Creek downstream from confluence with Mossy Creek above US Highway 129;
8 Big Satilla Creek downstream from confluence with Colemans Creek above US Highway 84;
(9) Brier Creek downstream from confluence with Reedy Creek above GA Highway 88;
(10) Broad River downstream of confluence of North Fork and Middle Fork Broad River above Bond Bridge Road;
(11) Canoochee River downstream of confluence with 15 Mile Creek above Kennedy Bridge Road;
(12) Chattahoochee River downstream of GA Highway 115;
(13) Chattooga River (NE) downstream of boundary between Georgia and North Carolina;
(14) Chattooga River (NW) downstream of US Highway 27;
(15) Chestatee River downstream of confluence with Tesnatee Creek above Copper Mines Road;
(16) Conasauga River downstream of the boundary between Georgia and Tennessee;
(17) Coosa River downstream of confluence of Oostanaula River and Etowah River;
(18) Coosawattee River downstream of confluence of Cartecay River and Ellijay River;
(19) Etowah River downstream of GA Highway 9;
(20) Flint River downstream of W McIntosh Road;
(21) Hudson River downstream of GA Highway 326;
(22) Kinchafoonee Creek downstream of confluence with Choctahatchee Creek above GA Highway 45;
(23) Line Creek downstream of Line Creek Road;
(24) Little Ocmulgee River downstream of GA Highway 134;
(25) Little Ohoopee River in its entirety;
(27) Little River (Sinclair) downstream of GA Highway 16;
(28) Little River (Withlacoochee) downstream of Kinard Bridge Landing;
(30) Little River (Clarks Hill) downstream of Lumburg Road;
(31) Little Satilla River downstream of confluence of Big Satilla Creek and Little Satilla Creek;
(32) Little Tallapoosa River downstream of Bowdon Tyus Road;
(33) Middle Fork Suwannee River downstream of confluence with Bird Wing Run;
(34) Middle Oconee River downstream of Etheridge Road;
(35) Muckalee Creek downstream of confluence with Fox Creek above GA Highway 195;
(36) North Oconee River downstream of Newton Bridge Road;
(37) Nottely River upstream of Nottely Lake to boundary between Georgia and North Carolina;
(38) Ochlockonee River downstream of GA Highway 188;
(39) Ocmulgee River downstream of Lake Jackson to the Altamaha River;
(40) Oconee River downstream from confluence of North and Middle Oconee River to the Altamaha River;
(41) Ogeechee River downstream of confluence with Little Ogeechee River above Mitchell Road;
(42) Ohoopee River downstream of GA Highway 56;
(43) Okapilco Creek downstream of US Highway 84;
(44) Oostanaula River downstream of confluence of Conasauga River and Coosawattee River;
(45) Pataula Creek downstream of confluence with Hodchodkee Creek above US Highway 82;
(46) Saint Marys River downstream of confluence with North Prong and South Prong Saint Marys River;
(47) Salacoa Creek downstream of confluence with Pine Log Creek above Lovebridge Road;
(48) Satilla River downstream of GA Highway 64;
(49) Savannah River in its entirety;
(50) South River downstream of GA Highway 138;
(51) Spring Creek downstream of confluence with Long Branch above US Highway 27;
(52) Suwannee River in its entirety;
(53) Sweetwater Creek downstream of confluence with Olley Creek above Perkinson Mill Road;
(54) Tallapoosa River downstream of the boundary between Harrison County and Paulding County;
(55) Tallulah River downstream of Seed Lake to confluence with Chattooga River;
(56) Tobesofkee Creek downstream of confluence with Rocky Creek above Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge boundary;
(57) Toccoa River downstream of confluence with Cooper Creek;
(58) Towaliga River downstream of confluence with Little Towaliga River above GA Highway 42;
(59) Tugaloo River downstream of Tugaloo Lake;
(60) Turkey Creek downstream of GA Highway 19;
(61) Upatoi Creek downstream of confluence with Randall Creek above Red Arrow Road;
(62) Warrior Creek downstream of Ellenton Omega Road;
(63) Withlacoochee River downstream of GA Highway 37; and
(64) Yellow River downstream of GA Highway 124.