The Chestatee River is an excellent beginner's river located within an hour of metro Atlanta. As usual, we began our trip at Appalachian Outfitters. They offer both shuttles and rentals. Most people rent canoes, but they showed me some new Perception Torrent sit-on-top kayaks that they were planning on renting for the 2003 season.
The trip covers about six and a half miles, which usually takes between two and three hours, depending on the current. There are six or seven sets of small rapids. None of these are too challenging, although inexperienced canoeists can certainly flip their boats.
On this day, the water level at the outfitters was at about 1.6 feet. This provided for a swift ride with no dragging. We've gone down this river with water levels as low as 0.4 feet, but this made for some dragging over several rapids.
The river is isolated, especially considering the proximity to Atlanta. There are a few houses on the river right at the put-in, but there are none once you get going. At about the halfway point is an area called Big Bend Beach. This is a good spot for lunch. Be careful coming to this point as I have seen more swamped canoes here than anywhere else. The river tends to want to pull you into a log in the middle of the river. Stay right, go around the log, and head left to the beach.
Downstream of the beach is a quiet section that probably has more turtles than I have ever seen anywhere. In the last half mile before the takeout are the most exciting rapids of the day: YeeHaw, Bass in the Boat, and Last But Not Least. Stay to the right on all of these or you'll end up dragging in all but the highest water conditions.
The takeout is at the GA 400 bridge.
Appalachian Outfitters has parking, restrooms, snacks, etc. for customers.
From Atlanta, take GA 400 north until it ends. Take a left on US 19 towards Dahlonega. In a couple of miles, you'll see a golf course on the right as you're crossing the bridge over the Chestatee River.