Yesterday was hot and sunny and we decided to head up to Helen, GA in the north Georgia mountains with some friends of ours and enjoy one last summer outing before we get down to the business of fall sports, school, etc.
Helen, GA is a cute little town up in North Georgia (about 1 1/2 hours north of Atlanta, GA) that is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a recreation of an alpine village (think German….with cobblestone walkways and towers) and is loaded with shops, restaurants, and horse drawn carriages. Depending on the time of year, you will find lots of festivals and special events going on as well. Oktoberfest in Helen is one of the most popular times of the year!
While I certainly think downtown Helen is fun to visit, what I REALLY enjoy is all the stuff you can do in the surrounding area. Because you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you will find a ton of state parks, camping, hiking, horseback riding, and tubing! While I have spent lots of time camping and hiking up there, this weekend was the first time I have ever had the chance to go tubing!
The largest river around here (the one that makes it’s way through the North Georgia Mountains and Helen itself) is the Chattahoochee River. People from around here affectionately call it ‘The Hooch” and it’s tributaries stretch into just about every hill and valley of North Georgia. I have heard just about every one of my friends talk about tubin’ the Hooch and this weekend I got the chance to try it out for myself!
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Now, let me start out by saying we did not choose the greatest weekend for our little adventure! Labor Day weekend crowds were just a tad bit insane and since we haven’t had rain in a couple of weeks the water was pretty low. Usually, Helen Tubing offers 2 different trips…the one hour short run and a 2 1/2 hour long run. Because of the slow moving, low water they only offered the one hour run because it was taking almost twice the amount of time to make it down river!
The first thing you have to do when you arrive is get changed (there are bathrooms and changing rooms provided), sunscreen yourself up real well and make sure you eat a quick snack and take a potty break. Remember, you are on a river for an hour or so…make sure the kids aren’t going to have anything to complain about on the journey! Once you have paid you can buy a river stick to help you along the way or bring one of your own. Then, just board the bus for the trip upriver. (it is a quick journey!)
Once you arrive it is time to grab a tube and get going! We opted for the tubes that had a bottom to them. Upside is that your behind doesn’t scrape on rocks, downside is that water stays puddled in the bottom when you get splashed. With the water so low I figured we were better off protecting our backsides! Kids 10 and under must wear life vests and they provide those for you. You can also grab a strap to attach yourself to a buddy. This is nice to help you stay close to each other but can create some difficulties with rocks and rapids. You can hook and unhook at your leisure throughout the journey so you can grab one just in case!
After you have your tube and gear, just plop the tube in the water, climb in, and enjoy the ride! Ours was certainly a lazy journey with the low water levels but it was fun! My son was a little nervous at first worried that there would be white water and rapids but by the end of the trip he wanted to do it again!
There is a mixture of woods, cabins, picnic areas, and shops along the banks. You go under a couple small bridges and occasionally passers by will wave at you and ask your about your trip. Use your stick to guide yourself around rocks as needed and other than that, just sit back and enjoy! The water is cool (50’s and 60’s in the spring and summer) and there is not a lot of work that needs to be done along the way! If you choose to strap together with a friend, be aware that some of the passages can be a little narrow and you may end up causing a traffic jam! My daughter and her friends hooked together and then separated at different areas of the river, depending on the terrain! At the end of the trip you guide yourself to the exit ramp and climb back onto dry land.
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You will want to make sure you have good sturdy shoes on that strap…there are a LOT of lost flipflops! And remember, this is an actual RIVER…it contains rocks, bugs, and yes, even the occasional SNAKE…my son was the first person to spot one in our little section of river and that caused a bit of excitement!
Pack your car with a change of dry clothes and a towel, some dry shoes and then get ready to hit the town for lunch! The tubes bring you right back to where you loaded the bus so you can just change and go! Helen is loaded with little homemade candy shops and icecream places so after lunch you can indulge your sweet tooth before heading home!
My family had a great time tubing on the Chattahoochee yesterday and I am really looking forward to going again in the spring when the water level is a little higher…I want a little bit of whitewater!
Disclaimer: I received nothing in exchange for this post, just letting you know about a fun way to spend the day if you are ever in the area!
Diane has a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology with a Minor in Health Management and Policy. She spent many years working in cancer research, academics, and biotechnology. Concern over the growing incidence of human disease and the birth of her children led her to begin living a more natural life. She quickly realized that the information she was learning along the way could be beneficial to many others and started blogging as a way to share this knowledge with others. While passionate about health and the environment she can’t quite give up her favorite Cheetos and Diet Coke! Learn more about her HERE.