Riding The Chattahoochee River



The Urban Course: Chattahoochee River

Some Of The Biggest And Thrilling Whitewater Rapids In The East, Great For Kayaking, Whitewater Rafting, And Paddleboarding

Rafting Down The River [Courtesy/Visit Columbus]

Thrill seekers in Columbus, GA, can’t help but be excited when seeing the Chattahoochee River, for the first time, frothing and churning while hearing the thunder of fast moving water falling somewhere in the distance. Paddleboards, kayaks and big rubber tubes can now be ridden over some of the biggest and thrilling whitewater rapids in the East, after city officials blew up the Eagle and Phenix Dam on the Chattahoochee River in 2012.

The course consists of more than five rapids that can reach class IV or higher, as well as 10 smaller rapids. The rapids on the Chattahoochee can reach up to 13,000 cubic feet per second in volume during high water release levels. By comparison, the rapids on the Ocoee River in North Georgia and Tennessee can reach up to 1,100 cubic feet per second in volume.

The speed of the rapids on the Chattahoochee makes them the largest whitewater rapids south of Canada and east of Colorado.

The whitewater course is just the latest component of the revitalization of downtown Columbus, which has a little bit of everything- shopping, restaurants, a Saturday farmer’s market, a music series, cycling and walking paths, and various road races throughout the year. Because of the demise of the dam, the revived Chattahoochee brought a new vitality to downtown Columbus and became an economic driver.

Since Whitewater Express opened in Columbus in May of 2013, over 26,000 people have gone down the whitewater course and for every person that gets in the river, so many more have gone there to watch them.

Rafting In Columbus [Courtesy/Whitewater Express]
The Columbus Whitewaters [Courtesy/Whitewater Express]

Dan Gilbert, owner of Whitewater Express, the primary river outfitter in Columbus, is onboard with the decision.

 “There are dams all over the country that have harnessed rivers and taken them to an unnatural state,” Gilbert said. “We had two dams here in Columbus that were not being productive anymore. All they were doing was blocking the water and keeping fish from going up stream, keeping it in that unhealthy situation.”

Gilbert said when he first started coming to Columbus three years ago he thought the river was a stagnant and unhealthy river.

“It had dams in it that just blocked the water,” Gilbert said. “Once the dams were removed, the environment has just taken over. It has become fresh and clean, and lots of wildlife. We got blue herons. There’s bald eagles out there. It’s just wonderful.”

Not only did the removal of the dam assist in adding two and a half miles of whitewater rafting, but it also helped local species flourish again

When the river is high, it is apt to allow a variety of sports and activities  with  body boarders, surfers and kayakers riding the waves.

The sport is fun but can be dangerous, Gilbert said.

“There’s holes and things you got to watch out for that will hold you under water,” he said. “It’s hard to pinpoint the most challenging spots with rapids and the water always changing. It’s a learning experience. The more comfortable you get in it, the easier it becomes.”

Rafting With Whitewater Express [Courtesy/Visit Columbus]
Rafting Fun In Georgia [Courtesy/Visit Columbus]

When athletes surf on the coast, they have to wait patiently for a wave to ride. The Chattahoochee’s natural power and man-made wave shapers give surfers in Columbus a constant wave that is miles from any beach.

“It’s incredible,” Gilbert said. “To have that over here is just wild. We got a rapid that is about 8-foot high when the river is running full.”

The river changes created an environment for economic growth.

Jason Boyden, Whitewater Express raft guide, said there was nothing to do in downtown Columbus when he was growing up there.

“Now that the whitewater came to town, all the businesses are flourishing,” Boyden said. “Everybody wants to hang out downtown. We have loads of tourists coming here. We get people from foreign countries all the time. I’ve had people from Hungary, Sweden, Finland, UK, Australia, and Brazil. I even had a guy from the Middle East. We got everybody here. It’s really great for the town.”

Columbus is not only rich in history, but it is a progressive city offering a plethora of events and attractions to dining and shopping to epic whitewater and geocaching,

Columbus has something for everyone.

Candice Reed

A graduate of Kelsey-Jenny College in Communications as well as a certified grant writer, Candice has written for The Los Angeles Times & The New York Times. She loves entertaining and all things French.

Lake Pines RV Resort

Make Sure To Stay At:

Lake Pines RV Resort, a family operated campground and RV park located in east Columbus, Georgia. Lake Pines features complete recreational vehicle facilities and tent camping spaces. They have hiking trails, swimming pool and a complete onsite Events Center.

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