Category Archives: Georgia

Never Winter – Family Whitewater Adventures in Columbus, Georgia

Original post can be found at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2018/01/19/never-winter-family-whitewater-adventures-part-four/

It’s winter and for most people the kayaking season has been over for a few months. For those in the northern hemispheres that are still paddling, you are likely wearing a lot of layers to ward off the chill. Time to think about heading SOUTH for warm water and warm weather…

Most people think that they can’t go off on a winter kayaking trip unless they are solid class 4/5 paddlers, and you definitely can’t go with kids! This is absolutely not the case! Over a series of four posts, we are going to lay out our experiences and recommendations for heading south as a kayaking family.

Destination #4 is Columbus, Georgia which is located in the southern United States. It’s not what you traditionally think of in terms of warm water paddling but compared to the rest of North America – it is warm and is fairly easily accessible. The water runs all winter long and the temps are rarely below freezing. The average high in the coolest months of December and January is a balmy 59 F (15c)! November and March are great times to either extend your season or kick off your season, with temps almost hitting 70f (20c).

The Chattahoochee River runs right through town and acts as the border between Columbus, GA and Phenix City, Alabama. Columbus has a small airport but flights may be more economical landing in Atlanta, just a few hours away.

We have always travelled there in our RV however there are 2 hotels that are right on the river and within easy walking distance: Columbus Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott (Phenix City). There are also 2 great outfitters in Columbus that can help get any trip organized – Outside World Columbus and Whitewater Express. You can also rent boats/paddles from the outfitters if you don’t want to fly with your gear. If you will be travelling by RV, be sure to message us and we can give you tips and suggestions.

The Chattahoochee River is a 2.5 mile stretch of river that runs from the dam through to the whitewater park. It is anywhere from class II – class IV depending on the level of the river and the feature you are on. It is dam controlled with traditionally lower flows in the morning and higher flows in the late afternoon/evening as the power company needs to make hydro. One of the best parts is that there are lights in the play park at night so you can paddle when it’s dark out – that is an adventure in itself!

The Chattahoochee is big water, which makes things a bit pushy. At the same time, it’s warm and a great place to learn. Lots of room to roll up after every feature. Any rapid on the river run has an easy line and a hard line and the park and play whitewater park right in town allows you to play at the spot that best lines up with your skills. There is a big flatwater pond for smaller kids, trailing small waves off the back of the island to practice your ferrying, small and medium surf waves and then the big bouncy “Good Wave”, which definitely packs a punch at 3 generators! It is considered on par with Garb wave on the Ottawa.

Things to think about when considering Columbus:

  • Consider what your normal temperature threshold is when packing. We are northerners so what is considered “cold” in Columbus was still quite warm for us. On our last visit in late November we were wearing swim tops and shorty dry tops while the locals had switched to full dry tops.
  • Both Outside World and Whitewater Express are amazing ambassadors for kayaking – check in with them before you go to get some beta and drop by when you are in town to see about getting shuttles to the dam so you can run the river
  • There are many affordable restaurants in Uptown Columbus, which is only 2 blocks from the river. Our favourites are the pizza place and the burrito place.
  • Chat with the local paddlers and they will give you lots of great information
  • Take time to check out the fabulous museums and science centres in town – they are amazing resources and lots of fun for kids. The riverwalk runs right along the river and is an easy walk or bike to most sights and locations

The Vincent Family (www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.twitter.com/chasingthesunyt // www.chasingthesun.ca )

More information can be found at:

http://visitcolumbusga.com/visit/outdoors/kayaking/

http://www.whitewaterexpress.com/chattahoochee/

http://www.outsideworldcolumbus.com

Columbus for the win yet again!

Our first experience in Columbus, Georgia was two years ago. We spent a week in late November and were so impressed with everything that the city had to offer – both on the water and off. It was definitely a “must do” for our travels this fall in the south east. Lucky for us, it is an incredible paddler friendly town with a secret parking lot that is steps from the river. Urban camping at its best…

The main features are located on the Chattahoochee River, which runs right down the Alabama / Georgia border and through the main business area of Columbus (aka Uptown Columbus). There is a 2.5 mile stretch of whitewater that ranges from class II to III+ depending on the water level. There is also park and play off the island with a number of different waves that come and go at different water levels.

Water levels range from 1-4 generators and can be checked here. Predictions can be found at the Georgia Power website (select Bib Mill Pond) but they are often wrong… (to translate 1000 cfs = 1 generator, 5000 cfs = 2 generators, 10,000 cfs = 3 generators). As you can see from the chart, the water levels move around a lot. The positive note is there is something fun at every level.

 

One of the best parts of our year this year has been meeting so many other great kayakers. It was fun to get to connect with people in Columbus that we originally met back in May at Buena Vista at CKS Paddlefest.

At the top part of the island is a small wave hole and a set of rocks that is super fun to practice pogo flips off of.

Next up comes Waveshaper wave (what you can see through the boys).

Then you get to Oli wave, which shows up at 2 generators and above – super smooth surf wave with a nice pocket.

Good Wave is next in the line up (photo of Matt Hargrove styling it!) – it shows up at 2 generators and really picks up at 3 generators. Considered comparable to Garborator Wave at the Ottawa.

This is Good Wave at 1 generator – definitely a different feature… great for beginners to build up their surfing skills.

Just after Good Wave is Micro Wave, which comes in between 1 and 2 generators, and is a great beginner surf wave and a fun place to play King of the Wave, which Tim was pleased to be crowned winner…

At 2 generators and above, Great Wave is also in, which is the last wave in the line up and can be a first experience at a wave that you drop into and it stops you before zipping you down the face of the wave, ala baby face on the Ottawa.

It was pretty fabulous to spend 4 days with the Hargrove Family during our recent visit. Nothing better than having like minded friends to hang out with, on and off the river, especially for travelling families…

Once again we have to say a HUGE thanks to Outside World Columbus for their amazing hospitality. Be sure to check out their store when you are in town!

We also strongly recommend both Barberitos and Your Pie pizza shop for yummy affordable lunches and dinner. They are both located in Uptown Columbus, which is only a few blocks from the river.

Everyone MUST go to Columbus, Georgia

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We spent a fast paced 3 days in Columbus, Georgia over the US Thanksgiving long-weekend and LOVED every minute of it. We knew very little about the town other than what I had seen online from the Kellogg and Holcombe families kayaking experiences and were blown away by the amenities, the history and the people.

Columbus is located on the Alabama/Georgia border with the Chattahoochee River running right through the middle of town. It was built on a bluff beside the river and founded in 1828, named for Christopher Columbus. In 1850 the railroad arrived and by 1860 it was one of the more important industrial locations in the south, with textile mills up and down the river. With the civil war in 1861 Columbus industries increased capacity and Columbus ranked second to Richmond as a centre of commerce within the Confederacy.

Although much of the town was destroyed at the end of the Civil War by union troops, most things were quickly rebuilt and by the Spanish-American War the town was thriving again. The addition of Fort Benning has also been a significant contribution to the community and local economy.

The late 1990’s saw a significant revitalization occurring through the establishment of a Business Improvement District downtown. This non-profit group has focused on major capital investments that have resulted in Columbus being noted as a top place to live as a young person.

We made good use of our bikes to explore Columbus and rode all the way out to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum (37km round trip). It was a beautiful fall day and the river walk trail is very scenic and well maintained. The museum itself is a bargain – there is no entry fee, just a requested donation of $5.00. The exhibits cover off the life of the Infantry from the Civil War to current day as well as highlighting the role that Fort Benning plays in the development of the Infantry. Needless to say, Hunter was thrilled and we spent a good 3 hours wandering around the various exhibits.

The main draw for us to go to Columbus was the whitewater play park that they have built right downtown. As part of their Ready to Raft 2012 campaign, the community developed over 8 miles of whitewater features on the Chattahoochee and some great play features right in the middle of downtown. This created the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world. The river is dam released and while we were there the water ranged from 1 Turbine (about 1,000 cfs) up to 3 turbines (about 8,000 cfs). At times it can run full out at between 15-18,000 cfs, which makes it the biggest water volume on the east coast outside of the Ottawa River. On both Saturday and Sunday it was running at 1 turbine during the day and then shifted to 3 turbines at 5pm. We planned our paddles to warm up at 1 turbine and then get to ride the flow increase all the way up to 3 turbines – it was really neat to see the features change as the flow increased.

There is a nice big island right at the put in and it usually attracts lots of people for photos along the river and to watch the paddling scene. The lights kick on just as dusk starts and stay until 10pm in the winter and 11pm in the summer making you feel like a total rockstar! It does help to have paddled the features during the day so you have some sense of the water…

IMG_3157Broadway Avenue is 2 blocks up from the river and full of shops and restaurants. We did not move the truck between when we arrived Friday night and when we left on Monday at lunch time. Everything we needed was in walking or biking distance, which was so handy. Best dinner was had at Your Pie – a custom pizza place in the historic district. Hand made, brick fired pizza plus yummy drinks on tap. It was so good (and came after our epic day of biking) that we ordered a full second round of pizzas!

DSCN1501Our amazing experience in Columbus was completely due to the five star service from the staff at The Outside World, a local gear store in town. They helped us find somewhere to park, pointed out everything we needed to know and were beyond friendly. They also have great gear in their store! In addition to that, every kayaker we ran into was happy to contribute to our knowledge and education about the water and the waves.

Columbus has something for everyone and we will definitely be back again!

 

 

Tybee Island, Savannah Georgia

hunter tybee turtle 2We used Tybee Island as our home base for all of our Savannah activities. It is a great little beach community about 20 minutes east of downtown Savannah. It is a bike friendly community and the local surf spot. We stayed at the Rivers End Campground, which is owned by the City of Tybee Island. It is clean, well cared for and has good internet and cable (and space for us to sprawl since it is low season).

We stayed here before and after our trip to Charleston. One of our reasons for coming was for Tim to try out some surf kayaks. Nigel from Savannah Canoe and Kayak was amazing – he spent tonnes of time with us and allowed Tim to demo abunch of boats.

We had one really nice day onour 2nd stop here so we got out for a beach bike ride and an afternoon of surfing. It was wonderful!

We would definitely recommend Tybee as a place to come and stay. It seems like it is fairly busy from March to September in terms of Campground traffic so be sure to book ahead!

the Mighty Eighth Airforce Museum

hunter historic plane 2The Mighty Eighth Airforce Museum is an impressive facility that is chock full of information, from the battles in World War 2 (1940’s)  through to the bombing of Iraq (1996).

From the perspective of one who has now seen many Army, Airforce and Navy museums (who knew I had such an interest…) this one was very well done and had a great mix of artifacts, general information and movies to keep the stories and the experiences moving through time.

We spent over 2 hours here and everyone came away having learned something new. It is just off I-95 on the western side of Savannah, with lots of parking and reasonable rates.