It’s summertime in the south, and it’s hot outside. What you need is relief from the heat – and one of the best places to find it is just down the road on the Chattahoochee River.

The cool and refreshing Chattahoochee is the perfect antidote to hot weather, and a great way to experience it is on one of the guided canoe trips offered by the Chattahoochee Nature Center. The Nature Center offers a variety of different canoeing opportunities, and one of them is sure to be just what you’re looking for.

If you’re starting out

What if you’ve never been in a canoe before? Don’t worry – the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s “Family Canoe Days” are designed to provide a relaxed and enjoyable introduction to the sport.

“If you’re looking to become more comfortable in a canoe but are not yet quite sure about a trip on the river,” says Alicia Evans, visitor experience manager at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, “then this is the activity for you.”

These 90-minute classes, which are held on one of the Nature Center’s ponds, are designed to teach the basics of canoeing in a fun and relaxed setting – and they are perfect for moms and children to enjoy together, too.

“Family Canoe Days are a fantastic way to get comfortable with canoeing, especially if you’re a mom wrangling a couple of kids,” Alicia says.

What can you expect? Under the helpful guidance of an experienced instructor, you’ll learn essential canoeing skills including basic paddling techniques. You’ll also enjoy races, games and probably some refreshing water splashing too.

During the summer, Family Canoe Days are offered twice a month on Saturdays from 10:30 till noon (“That way we can beat the midday heat,” says Alicia) and are open to people ages 5 and up. Cost is $15 per person for the general public and $10 for Nature Center members.

An evening float

One of the most popular ways to enjoy the river is to join one of the Nature Center’s “Evening Floats.” These two-and-a-half-hour trips take place on the Bull Sluice portion of the river that’s more like a lake with no rapids or shoals to worry about – just delightfully cool water and a spectacularly beautiful setting.

During the summer (June through August) CNC’s Evening Floats begin at 6 p.m. During September and October, trips start at 5 p.m. That gives you plenty of time to explore the river while learning about its natural and cultural history under the watchful eyes of your guide, an experienced paddler and naturalist who is CPR/First Aid Certified.

This kind of canoeing is fun and easy, especially the way CNC does it. The canoes carry two adults (a smaller child can sit in the middle) or one adult and two kids. CNC provides all equipment (including a personal flotation device for each participant). However, you might want to bring water, snacks and insect repellant for the trip.

What awaits you on one of these floats?

“Serenity,” said one recent participant who made the trip with her two elementary-age children. “I never knew how peaceful it could be on the river, especially as close as we are to Atlanta.”

Wildlife awaits you too. You’ll almost certainly see water birds, including herons along the river’s bank. Other wildlife sometimes shows up, too, including deer – and if you’re lucky you might even spot a beaver or an otter. The near-silent passage of your canoe helps to make such encounters possible in a way that many others miss altogether.

Evening Floats are open to folks ages 6 and up and are suitable for beginning as well as advanced paddlers. Cost is $30 per person for the general public and $25 for CNC members.

Date night with a difference

Tired of the same old dinner-and-movie routine? Then line up a sitter and think about the Nature Center’s twice-a-month “Date Night on the River.” This unique experience is offered twice a month, and it’s just the thing for hopeless romantics like me. It’s sure to make for an evening you’ll remember.

Bring a picnic dinner (the site opens early to Date Night couples) and then enjoy a stroll around the Nature Center before embarking on a guided sunset canoe trip for two.

Date Night is designed for folks 21 and older, and you should register by the Wednesday before each trip. Cost is $30 per person for the general public and $25 for CNC members.

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