I was thinking, the other day, about the first time I’d ever been in a kayak. I tell people this story from time-to-time, especially when people ask me about the stability of fishing kayaks. My first kayaking experience had nothing to do with fishing and we were in cheap rental sit-on-top kayaks, and I never once felt that I was going to turtle! And that was in a boat that wasn’t designed for stand-up fishing either!
After this trip I came home wanting to buy a kayak, and then dismissed the urge because I though kayaks were only for water with current and rapids. I know now how wrong I was.
It was the summer of 2007 and I was on a church trip. It was for a conference in Atlanta, GA. The trip planner had planned a trip to Buford Dam Park one day. That was the first time that I can remember being to an actual dam. We thought it was crazy how the tail-waters of the Chattahoochee River were fifty-five degrees year-round! We then went to the top of the dam to the lower outlook recreational area on Lake Sidney Lanier. We barbecued and had a great time.
The following summer, we came back. This time our planner decided to add something to the itinerary that made me nervous. A kayak/canoe trip down the Chattahoochee River. Not a long trip, just a couple of hours. And he didn’t tell us until we were on our way there!
The vision that I had of kayaks were touring kayaks. And that had me unsettled. I was really thinking that if I was going to do this I needed to be in a canoe. Fortunately for me, all the canoes had been claimed. I was stuck using a kayak!
With Trey and his wife Ali behind me in a canoe, I started saying kayaking was my new favorite sport. Then came some rapids. Small rapids. But I didn’t know much about that at the time, I just knew that I saw white water!
The good thing about this paddle-trail is that the first couple sets of rapids are really easy to figure out. I glided on past them without much issue. I feel bad looking back now because we ended up blowing right through a few fishing spots being used by shoreline anglers.
At some point while we were out, we did hit a pretty big set of rapids and I got hung up on a rock. It took me a while but I did get free. Another guy wasn’t so lucky. He was in a tandem kayak with the only girl who really did not want to join the float. As he got hung up on a rock, the boat went sideways to the current and they lost their balance and went in. They did come out of it fine, it was just a scary moment for a second there!
At one point during the float, I got up ahead of everyone else in the group and passed up the take-out! Haha, but in that moment, I remember stopping and listening. For the first time that I could remember, I was not hearing any man-made noises. Just the water, wind through the trees, and birds. That was my favorite part of the experience!
It’s been since 2008 that I’ve been there. That trip, and that introduction to kayaking helped turn me on to the idea of kayak fishing. It was because of that trip that I realized that kayaking is awesome. And because of that trip, I didn’t think it was too ridiculous when I started seeing kayaks with rod holders in some of the big-box stores.
That float on the Chattahoochee is something that I hope I get the opportunity to do again, but next time with a fishing rod in my hands! If you’re not used to paddling on moving water or facing rapids, this trail is a great starter! We did it through The Dam Store in Buford, GA. I’m not sure if the shop is still there (there was a fire that destroyed most of the store in 2013), but here’s a map of the trail including the put-in and take-out.