Novice or beginning paddlers are able to navigate the shoals in the Etowah River’s Class I water. Here Ellen and Brian Cardin kayak with Joe Kidd (center).
Novice or beginning paddlers are able to navigate the shoals in the Etowah River’s Class I water. Here Ellen and Brian Cardin kayak with Joe Kidd (center).

History buffs can get a different perspective on past events while paddling north Georgia rivers during guided trips hosted by a Rome, Ga.-based nonprofit.

Joe Cook, advocacy and communication coordinator for the Coosa River Basin Initiative, an environmental organization, said canoeing the Etowah River is a great way to cool off during the summer heat and to get in touch with Georgia’s past.

“Everybody in north Atlanta is familiar with the Chattahoochee [River], but the Etowah is almost as close to those communities,” Cook said, “and the Etowah is a place where you can really experience and touch history.”

He said there aren’t any shoals that novice or beginning paddlers can’t navigate along the Etowah River’s Class I water. The nonprofit CRBI, named for the area’s watershed, hosts paddle trips from March through November.

All along the Etowah River, in particular, Native American fish weirs from 500 years ago are visible to people paddling by, Cook said.

“You can literally touch history in the rocks placed by Native Americans 500 years ago,” Cook said. “That’s a rare opportunity to experience something like that outside the confines of a state historic site.”

Ellen Cardin paddling her kayak on the Etowah River.

Ellen and Brian Cardin found their love of kayaking after meeting Cook on a 110-mile trip last summer. For them, the idea to buy kayaks and head out on the seven-day tour came from a popular public television show called “Georgia Traveler,” Cardin said.

“I guess you can call kayaking a mid-life crisis for us!” Cardin said. She and Brian are 51. She said they want to stay as active as possible while they are healthy. They’ve met people aged 6 to 85 on the rivers, she said.

The CRBI’s third annual “Paddle Through History” fundraiser is set to launch Oct. 11 in Bartow County, Cook said. The tour includes a stop at the Valley View plantation, a home that predates the Civil War.

“That one tours an antebellum plantation home overlooking the Etowah, and it’s a really significant historical site that isn’t always open to the public,” he said.

A suggested donation of $75 per person or $130 per couple includes a canoe/kayak to paddle, unless tourists prefer to bring their own. The donation also covers a year’s membership in CRBI, catered dinner, beer, wine, beverages and a chance to win a new kayak. Visit to register. Only 75 tickets will be sold, and the event has sold out each of the last two years it was offered, Cook said.

An Aug. 2 trip starts in Canton and features educational programs on the history of the area, a six-mile paddle on the Etowah River and a dinner at The Wheeler House, an event venue in Ball Ground, Ga., first built in 1906. Suggested donation is $80 per person or $140 per couple, and includes canoe or kayak rental, dinner and membership in CRBI. Tickets may be reserved at

All trips offered by CRBI through November are suitable for beginners, Cook said, and he encourages people who have never paddled before to come on a group trip where there is “safety in numbers.”

“There’s always somebody to help you out on a group paddle trip,” Cook said. “It gives the opportunity to paddle on a river in a safe environment.”