A paddle in the sunshine
By Annette M. Drowlette | Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Looking for a cool way to spend a hot summer day? The Savannah River and its tributaries, Thurmond Lake and the Augusta Canal offer an abundance of opportunities for canoeing and kayaking.

Here's a good excursion for beginners to see whether they're interested.

Augusta Chronicle staff photographer Annette M. Drowlette has been kayaking for five years. She started with a simple sit-on-top boat, and after trying a variety of boats over the course of several years has bought a custom fiberglass kayak.

ITEMS TO BRING: Plenty of drinking water, snacks, a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and a waterproof disposable camera. Whatever you bring, expect it to get wet. Keep your wallet and car keys in a plastic freezer bag. A dog can fit in the canoe if the pet likes water and can stay seated in the boat. Floating eyeglass straps are useful if you capsize.

The Savannah River water temperature is always cool. Target a warm, sunny day to wear shorts and a T-shirt. Always wear shoes because there are rocks in the river, canal and lake. Life jackets are mandatory in Georgia for children age 10 and younger and for 12 and younger in South Carolina.

Also helpful is if you bring a good attitude.

RENTALS: Renting a canoe or kayak is a good idea to try the sport. Here are two local rental businesses:

BROADWAY TACKLE ROD & REEL REPAIR, 1730 Broad St.; 738-8848

$25 for a four-hour rental, $30 for 24 hours for one canoe or one tandem kayak; rental includes two life jackets and two paddles; $25 is for a shuttle that will take you to Savannah Rapids Pavilion for a trip on the Savannah River. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday

AMERICAN WILDERNESS OUTFITTERS LTD., 2328 Washington Road; 738-8500

$30 for a six-hour rental of a canoe or a one- or two-person kayak; $40 for 24-hour rental of a canoe or a one- or two-person kayak; $15 for a shuttle to the Savannah River or Augusta Canal; $60 for a shuttle to Thurmond Lake near the dam; rentals include two life jackets and two paddles for a canoe, paddles and life jackets for a kayak. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

RENTAL NOTE: If you don't have a pickup to put the boats in, you can purchase foam blocks to strap the canoe or kayak to the roof of your vehicle. If you don't want the trouble of transporting the boats, the price of the shuttle would be worth it.

GENERAL TIPS: Always test-paddle a boat before you buy it. Never kayak alone unless you can self-rescue quickly. If you do go alone, tell someone where you will be paddling. The sport of kayaking can be fun and relaxing, but always remember safety rules.

LEARN MORE: Web sites about kayaking and canoeing with articles, local clubs and places to paddle include kayakguide.com, paddling.net, and the Canoe and Kayak Club of Augusta at ckca.homestead.com.

WHAT: The Little River paddle to the Savannah River and around Germain Island

GETTING THERE: Take River Watch Parkway west and turn right on Furys Ferry Road and proceed five miles. Turn left on Hardy McManus Road, then right into Riverside Park and the boat ramp.

Riverside Park has free parking, covered picnic areas, sand volleyball and tennis courts, a fishing dock and restrooms.

THE ROUTE: When in the water, go straight out until you see a narrow opening to the channel and turn left into the Little River. You will pass a train trestle, and the river cuts through the Champions Retreat Golf Course, with a hole on each side. It is more than a mile to the Savannah River (GPS: N33 36.555' W082 09.682'). At the Savannah River opening, turn right. You will pass another train trestle, and you should keep the island on your right. If you paddle in the other direction you will end up at Thurmond Dam, about seven miles upstream. If you don't see the second train trestle after 15 minutes, you are going in the wrong direction.

You are paddling around Germain Island. The paddle is 5.2 miles and takes about two hours with several breaks.

After passing the second train trestle (about 10 minutes), you will make a right turn (look for a No Wake buoy). You will see the state Highway 28 bridge, but you won't pass under it. After making the turn, paddle upstream around the island and turn left to re-enter the Little River (GPS: N33 35.394' W082 07.559', according to www.kayakguide.com).

You will return to the channel leading back to the boat ramp (GPS: N33 35.198' W082 07.953').

HIGHLIGHTS: You will see a couple of golf holes on the Champions Retreat Golf Course and lots of turtles, egrets, ducks and other birds and even an otter or two. A sunny day seems to draw more wildlife out.

THIS TRIP IS SUITABLE FOR: Beginners 12 years or older. Sometimes there is a strong current and canoeists can experience trouble, but it is easy to turn back to the boat ramp.

From the Thursday, June 16, 2005 printed edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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