Lets face it. Kayaking is not the easiest sport to get into. While there are tons of outfitters that provide daily equipment rentals, truly getting serious about the sport requires a lot of time, effort, and unfortunately, money. Anyone who goes through the trouble of buying all his or her own equipment almost certainly expects to enjoy their time on the river, and they should. Whitewater kayaking can be both exhilarating and breathtakingly beautiful all at the same time. Finding rivers that are challenging yet manageable can be especially hard for beginners. What follows is a list of beginner to intermediate rivers in the southeast and what one should expect before running them.
Most budding kayakers in Georgia will already aware of the Metro Chattaoochee, so I won’t spend too long on it. The two most important things to know about the metro hooch are that 1) this river is very easy and 2) it runs right through Atlanta. People who have no whitewater experience whatsoever should be able to run this river with hardly any difficulty, and my how convenient this is for all you Atlantians who have a river running through your own backyard! If you’ve already tubed the metro hooch with your floating cooler, and you’re now thinking that this river would be no fun in a kayak, DON’T! There is a lot to be learned on any moving water. The metro hooch is the perfect training ground for developing and honing the skills and techniques that you’ll need on more difficult rivers in the future.
Once you feel in complete control all over the metro hooch, you might want to think about taking a trip upstream to Cleveland, GA to run the Upper Hooch. This part of the river boasts stronger current and more challenging rapids than the metro hooch. Here you might start to notice the importance of some of the basic principles of kayaking, like maintaining a downstream lean and reversing that lean whenever you enter into an eddy, the calm water behind a rock. The class II rapids on this river can offer excitement to paddlers of all skill levels, and there are even some good surfing opportunities throughout the river. Like the metro hooch, there is a lot to be learned on this river with relatively low risk involved at any point, however it is a noticeable step up in volume and should not be taken lightly. Those without much experience should run this river with a capable companion and be comfortable with the Eskimo rescue technique if they don’t already know how to roll. Proceed with a touch of caution and you should have a fantastic time on this fun and scenic section of the Chattahoochee River.
The first time I ran this river, it instantly became my new favorite. The largest rapids on the Cartecay were slightly intimidating to me as a beginner, and consequently, they were extremely amusing and rewarding as well. Also noteworthy, Blackberry Falls, the largest rapid on the river, is not nearly as difficult as it appears. It is essentially a big waterslide with a soft pillow of whitewater at the bottom that you get to crash through. It’s the perfect finale to a river that is both challenging and invigorating for beginners.
That being said, the rapids on this river do require some planning and moderately skillful maneuvers in order to navigate them triumphantly. I learned this the hard way one day when I was forced to complete my first ever combat roll after flipping on a rapid called S-turn. Like the rivers mentioned above, the Cartecay is a relatively low risk river. While there are some scary looking rapids here, I would feel comfortable swimming down any one of them. With a foundation of basic kayaking skills and knowledge and a level head, this river is an absolute blast. Stay cautious, NOT SCARED, and I’m positive you’ll have a fantastic time on this one.
The three rivers mentioned above display a variety of situations through which all basic kayaking fundamentals can be learned, and the best part about them is that while they can all be challenging and exciting in their own right, they are all relatively safe. It’s important to feel comfortable in this sport, so I would never recommend that someone try to bite off more than they can chew. I’m confident that the Metro Hooch followed by either the Upper Hooch or the Cartecay is a logical progression of rivers for anyone who’s thinking about getting into this sport, and novice boaters who run these three rivers for the first time are going to have fun, learn a lot about kayaking, and be ready boat at the next level. I guarantee it.
By: Davis Lakeman