Northwest Georgia is brimming with outdoor adventure including lakes and rivers for fun family paddle outings as well as for those who are looking for a challenge. Having a good time on the water does not necessarily mean traveling to the ocean’s coastline.  Here is a list of top 14 options for enjoying the wetter side of Northwest Georgia.  And if you do not own your own kayak, most of these sites also include links to outfitters who can supply what you need.

  1. Etowah River Water Trail

This 163-mile waterway spans six counties with three of them in Northwest Georgia starting near Canton and ending in Rome.  Multiple launch sites provide lots of options from a short paddle to spending all day on the water. The river takes you past the ancient Etowah Indian Mounds in Cartersville. In Euharlee you can take a short detour up Euharlee Creek to see a historic covered bridge. Use the water trail’s interactive map to plan your trip and learn even more about what discoveries are waiting to be found.
Cities: Canton, Woodstock, Cartersville, Euharlee, Rome

  1. Rope Mill Park

This area once produced cotton ropes back in the 1800’s but now is a favorite site for launching into a paddling adventure that takes you to an enchanting waterfall.  The easy paddle is a family favorite, and a short paddle if you don’t have all day.  Plus, this park is one of two sites in the region with a handicapped accessible launch. No shuttle required…paddle out and back.
Cities: Woodstock

  1. Queen City Lake

This 260-acre reservoir lake in Lafayette is truly a hidden gem. Tucked away yet easily accessible, people of all ages and abilities enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing.
Cities: Lafayette

  1. Chickamauga Creek

There are two branches of this creek: West Chickamauga Creek and South Chickamauga Creek. Each has their own unique qualities and eventually converge not too far from the Tennessee River in nearby Chattanooga, TN. Some of the nearby attractions include the Chickamauga Battlefield, Lee and Gordon’s Mill, the Creek Walk in Ringgold and Georgia Winery. Each of these waterways provides a peaceful float in an urban setting.  Don’t be surprised to see some wildlife along the way.
Cities: Chickamauga, Fort Oglethorpe, Ringgold, Graysville

  1. “ABC” Lakes

Dubbed the “ABC” lakes of Northwest Georgia, Lake Allatoona, Lake Blue Ridge and Carter’s Lake make up the three largest bodies of water in Northwest Georgia.  Discover hidden treasures like waterfalls, coves, swimming beaches and parks.  Not everyone enjoys lake paddling (‘cause you DO have to paddle), but what a wonderful way to set your own pace and spend as much time on the water as you like.
Cities: Canton, Cartersville, Adairsville, Calhoun, Chatsworth, Ellijay, Blue Ridge, Morganton

  1. Dub Denman Canoe Trail

Take a leisurely paddle down the Tallapoosa River for 27 miles of quiet scenery, clear water and bit of history as you pass under the remains of the 1897 Mize Bridge.  Three launch sites give you options of a 2-3 hour float or longer. Download the trail map for details. And be sure to get the t-shirt…not everyone can say they’ve “paddled the ‘Poosa!”
Cities: Tallapoosa

  1. Toccoa River Canoe Trail

This river is perfect for those looking for a few rapids and beautiful scenery along the way. Float fishermen especially enjoy it for the trout fishing.  Pass by pastoral lands, wildflower thickets and catch a glimpse of wildlife as you take in the surrounding mountain vistas.  Plan a full day for this paddle.  Download a trail map for more details about the sites you will encounter and enjoy.
Cities: Blue Ridge

  1. Haig Mill Lake Reservoir

This 120-acre urban lake is perfect for an easy paddle serenely surrounded by green hillsides making it hidden from nearby traffic and neighborhoods. The park has picnic shelters and plenty of parking. A handicapped accessible launch is one of two in the region.  Take a break from the water and stretch your legs on the 3.5 mile trail around the lake, or cast your rod from any of the four fishing platforms on site. Sorry, pets are not allowed on site due to environmental regulations for the reservoir.
Cities: Dalton

  1. Cartecay River and Coosawattee River

These rivers offer challenge and sections are more suitable for experienced paddlers. Tubing is available for a fun float, but these are also great rivers for those looking to hone their whitewater skills before tackling rapids larger than class III. The first 6 miles of the Coosawattee River is calmer, and other than one class II rapid, can be great for a family outing. Check with one of the outfitters listed via the link and determine your best option.
Cities: Ellijay

  1. Oostanaula River

The river runs 49 miles from the confluence of the Conasauga and Coosawattee Rivers but the best put-ins are near New Echota State Historic  Site, on Hwy 156 west of Calhoun, and in Rome.  The paddle consists of a few shoals but is mainly flat water.  The average distance between take outs is 13 miles. Where the river converges with the Etowah in Rome you can enjoy the Riverwalk and downtown shopping and dining.
Cities: Calhoun, Rome

  1. Cedar Creek

This family favorite 4-hour float makes for a fun-filled day. Beginners and pro alike enjoy the beautiful surroundings and wildlife.  Make a weekend of it and camp at Cedar Creek Park and visit historic Cave Spring with its signature spring that flows from a hillside cave along with shopping and dining on the square.
Cities: Cave Spring, Rome

  1. Conasauga River

This river flows down from the mountains of the Cohutta Wilderness but once it reaches the valley it slows and becomes a beautiful, quiet river teeming with wildlife both on and off the water. The float between the two launches takes about 3-5 hours depending on water level. The launch on Hwy 2 north of Dalton is behind a country store so you have opportunity to get any last-minute snacks if you like.  The river is home to 90 species of fish and 25 species of freshwater mussels. The name “Conasauga” comes from the Cherokee language meaning “grass.”
Cities:  Dalton, Varnell, Chatsworth

  1. Georgia’s Other Chattooga River

Guess what?!  There are two Chattooga Rivers in Georgia!  The most noted is located in Northeast Georgia and best suited for whitewater paddling, but the Chattooga River near Lyerly in Northwest Georgia is great for a leisurely paddle and family adventure.  Fishermen also enjoy this river hoping to catch bass, striper, and catfish.  Also called the Lower Chattooga River Canoe/Kayak Trail, a 7.5 mile paddle begins at the launch on Lyerly Dam Road in the Town of Lyerly, Georgia, and is usually a 6 hour trip to the take out point on Holland-Chattoogaville Road below Lyerly.
Cities: Lyerly, Summerville

  1. Rocky Mountain Recreation Area

The Rocky Mountain Recreation and Public Fishing Area is located near the Chattahoochee National Forest and offers 2 lakes totaling 559 acres with boat access for paddling and fishing. Activities in the area include camping, geocaching, hiking and wildlife viewing.  (COVID-19: The beach is currently closed.)
Cities: Rome