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Jul. 17, 2018
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Five ways to get wet around Lanier without a (motor) boat

By Jane Harrison
 
Looking for a way to cool off midsummer around Lake Lanier without a motorboat or jet ski? Opportunities to take a dip abound around the lake and in the headwaters. Try these five refreshing options to get your feet wet:
 
1.) Sink your toes into the sand and immerse your sweaty self into the cool, blue waters of inland beaches on Lake Lanier. More than 20 swaths of sand wait just minutes away from home in North Georgia. Unfold a beach chair, prop up an umbrella, and enjoy a day at the beach. Some suggestions:
 
  • Lanier Park: Impressive lake views greet visitors to this wide elbow of sand with nearby grills and pavilions. This U.S. Army Corps park is located on the lake’s south end at 1360 Buford Dam Rd, Buford.
  • Don Carter State Park: The plush sandy beach is the star attraction of the only Georgia State Park on Lanier. A top notch stone pavilion with picnic tables, showers/dressing rooms/restrooms and outdoor showers is situated just steps above the beach. Find this beach on the lake’s northern end at 5000 N. Browning Bridge Rd., Gainesville.
  • River Forks Park: A well-manicured grassy yard sweeps down toward sand and adjoining campground at this popular beach managed by Hall County Parks & Leisure. Picnic tables and pavilions complete the scene at 3500 Keith Bridge Rd., Gainesville.
  • War Hill Park: This Dawson County gem features gleaming white sand, plus a scenic boardwalk to a pavilion on the water. Add beach volleyball and camping for a quick game or getaway to 4081 War Hill Park Rd., Dawsonville.
  • Paradise Beach, Margaritaville at Lanier Islands: Spice up the summer with a half mile of beach adjacent to a water park, dining, and bars. Located at 7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, the resort is managed by the hospitality corporation owned by beach-expert Jimmy Buffet.
     
2.) Get on the water under your own power on a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Rentals, how to sessions and guided tours empower you to grab a paddle.
 
  • Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club: Paddle waters where Olympians took gold at Lake Lanier Olympic Park where LCKC can teach you how to do it, put you in a boat or on a board, and take you on a tour. See options for Learn to Kayak classes, rentals, and moonlight tours at www.lckc.org.
  • Northeast Georgia Paddle Company: The new business that opened this summer in Cumming brings watercraft to private residences, campsites or parks around the lake. Kayak and SUP deliveries and full- and half-day rentals are available through the website: www.northgapaddling.com.
  • Headwaters paddling: If flatwater makes you yawn, look northward where gentle current or whitewater rapids float your boat on the lake’s main tributaries. Appalachian Outfitters in Lumpkin County sets river-goers up on a lazy, peaceful stretch of the Chestatee River or puts paddlers on a more exciting ride on the Upper Etowah. See www.canoegeorgia.com. Wildwood Outfitters in Cleveland rents canoes and kayaks for trips on remote sections of the Chattahoochee River where rapids add extra thrill. See www.wildwoodoutfitters.com.
  • Guided tours: Naturalists at north Georgia state parks with lakes have numerous water excursions on their summer calendar, including night paddles, how to sessions, and how-to sessions. See Lakeside’s Outdoor Calendar for details.

 
3.) Go tubing! Nothing brings out the river-loving hillbilly in all of us, well, some of us anyhow, like floating down a river in an inner tube. Plop your backside in a tube on Lanier’s main tributaries, the Chattahoochee and the Chestatee.
 
  • -In Helen, arguably the tubing capital of Georgia, two main outfitters offer float trips on the Chattahoochee. Cool River Tubing (www.coolrivertubing.com) and Helen Tubing (www.helentubing.com) have launched thousands of tubers in about three decades. The latter has added a water park.
  • For a less crowded float, head up toward Dahlonega for quick refreshment on the  Chestatee River via Appalachian Outfitters. Repeat the 30-45 minute river ride by hiking a short nature trail to put in again. See www.canoegeorgia.com.

 
4.) Want sprays and slides, plus buckets of fun? Head to a nearby waterpark.
 
  • The Water Park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands makes the biggest splash around the lake. Food, entertainment and adult beverages, except in designated areas, draw crowds to the aqua amusement park. See www.lanierislands.com.
  • Aquatic centers in Gainesville, Cumming and Gwinnett County specialize in chill bumps and children’s gleeful squeals. In Gainesville, check out the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center (www.gainesville.org); research Cumming’s cool off station at www.cummingaquaticcenter.com; look into the numerous splash zones in Gwinnett at the Parks and Recreation link at www.gwinnettcounty.com.


5.) Finally, what nature lovers deem the most spectacular, coolest summer respites ever: waterfalls. Ribbons of white cascade down boulders, ripple over rock ledges, and form pleasant pools for wading or taking a dip. Some hikers’ favorites include:
 
  • Panther Creek Falls, near Tallulah Gorge, is worth the 3.5 mile trek to chill in a wide, calm pool with a sandy beach at the base of a broad cataract. Located in the Panther Creek Recreation Area off Ga. 441, it’s best to visit this popular swimming hole on weekdays.
  •  Blue Hole & High Shoals Falls, on the High Shoals Trail near Tray Mountain form pools deep enough to actually swim in. Hike about a mile for refreshment in Blue Hole and another .2 mile to see water shoot through rock at High Shoals. Find the trailhead in the Tray Mountain High Shoals Scene Area, off Indian Grave Gap Road, FS 284, about 1.4 miles from Ga. 75 North of Helen.
  • Raven Cliffs Falls, north of Helen off the Richard Russell Scenic Highway, features a towering cascade about 2.5 miles in. En route to main falls is a shallow wading pool at about mile 1.3.
  • It’s a longer drive, but shorter hike to Minnehaha Falls and Panther Falls (not the same as previously mentioned Panther Creek Falls), in the Rabun Beach Recreation Area. At Minnehaha, or “Laughing Water,” .2 mile down the Fall Branch Trail, whitewater drops from numerous wide rock ledges into the pool below. When the water’s moving high and fast, as it was in June, the rock “benches” and pool are not as hospitable as in calmer times. It’s breath-taking enough to sit by the pool and savor the cool mist spraying from the torrent. It’s safer to step in at the base of Panther Falls, at .6 mile on the Rabun Beach Trail, where Joe Creek tumbles 40 feet to form a shallow wading pool. The Rabun Beach Recreation area is located about 5 miles off US 441 North of Tallulah Gorge.
     
See Lakeside’s Outdoor Calendar for more cool activities this summer, including a Water Balloon Festival in Gainesville!

Posted online 6/29/18
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