My wife and I and met another couple on a Saturday morning for this excursion. The weather was threatening and the forecast was calling for thundershowers but we decided to proceed anyway and were glad we did. Although overcast the weather was just about perfect for paddling.
During the entire time we only saw 1 other boat and just a few shore fishermen. The lake is designed for fishing and has a good reputation for numbers of largemouth bass. Standing timber was left when the lake was impounded around 30 years ago and this makes the lake more interesting for paddling. There is a 25 hp restriction on motorized boats and with all the timber I can't see the need for more horsepower.
The 3600 acre lake was created by Georgia Power and a coal-burning power plant is situated on the shore and is clearly visible. The Ocmulgee River is the water source for the lake.
There are 2 parks on the lake: Dames Ferry Public Use Area which is located on the lower portion of the lake. They have a full-service campground with electric hook-ups, picnic tables, grills, and a boat launch. The other park (which we used) is Holly Grove Park. It is on the northwest side of the lake but only provides picnic tables and a boat ramp but it is free. It is not exactly easy to find and requires about a 4-mile drive on a well-maintained wide gravel and clay road. The park does not even show up in Google Maps so see the directions below.
Our trip only lasted a couple of hours because of the impending bad weather but during that time we couldn't believe the number of white herons that we saw in the standing timber. In addition to them we also saw a pair of wood storks, several kingfishers, black ducks, great blue herons, and many other small songbirds. Next trip I'll be sure to bring my binoculars.
The paddle consisted of making our way into the coves and bays. We would go as far as possible before the water got too shallow and then sit and watch the birds for a time before we would proceed around the edge of the lake weaving through the standing timber.
There is a main channel but in kayaks there is no need to follow it. We paddled so leisurely that we did not come close to paddling around the entire lake before it was time to return to our vehicles. I would like to return again in a different season to see if the birds are still there or have been replaced by others but in any case I don't feel like I exhausted this lake as a destination for a return trip in the future. Besides we didn't get chance to eat at the nearby "Whistle-Stop Caf�" that was made famous by the movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes"�
Campground located a nearby Dames Ferry Public Use Area
Directions to Holly Grove Park from Monticello, GA:
Follow Ga. 83 south for approx. 15 miles and then turn left at the 4-way stop at the intersection of Ga. 83 and Ga. 87/23. Follow this for about 3 1/2 miles until you come to a flashing stop light at Juliette Road. Continue straight through this intersection for another 1 1/2 mile and turn right onto Luther Smith Rd. There is a sign here that points to the park but it is easy to miss it. The road is paved at this point but soon turns to gravel/clay. The sign says it is 4 miles to the park but it really doesn't seem that far.