Shoot the Hooch

Paddle the Palisades
Paddle the Palisades Alexa Lampasona
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In Atlanta, it is a rite of passage to “Shoot the Hooch”, the local term for tubing down the Chattahoochee River. Choose from two ways to float it: either go with a reputable tubing company where you can rent a tube and get shuttled to the ‘put-in’ point, or play it fast and loose, and bring your own tubes, go on your own time, and be prepared for a few mistakes. Either way, here are six tips for making the most of your day on the river.

1. Tubes or other floatation devices:

The most popular tube rental service is through Chattahoochee Outfitters. They are located at Azalea Park, and have shuttles that take you to the put-in point. A tube and shuttle service is $26 for children or adults.

To go “on the cheap,” purchase your own floatation device- you can buy a $15 twin air vinyl mattress at the store and inflate it at a gas station. Two people can fit and float comfortably, although depending on the total weight you may float a little slower. An air mattress allows you to stretch out and get a tan!

2. Sun protection:

A bathing suit will ensure you get a tan, but if you’re sensitive to the sun, bring light-colored clothing and a hat. Sunglasses and sunscreen are essential because most of the river is fully exposed, particularly if you go midday. The water maintains 55 to 65 degrees year-round, so the optimal time to go is when the air temperature is at least 80 degrees.

3. Stock the cooler:

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A cheap, Styrofoam cooler will fit easily in an extra tube. Buy a cheap inflatable pool tube to stow the cooler and tie it to your own. Bring at least a 20-ounce water bottle per person, in addition to any other beverages. No glass is allowed on the river, so stick with aluminum. Screw top aluminum pints are easy to reseal so you can sip at your leisure.

4. Waterproof bag:

Choose to take extra clothes or towels with you, especially if you want to stop for a cool drink once you’re off the river. If you park a car at the end of your float it’s best to leave dry items in the car. The banks are muddy and can sometimes be a little slippery, so you’ll want to dry yourself and clean up once you get off the river. Store cell phones in plastic bags to prevent them from getting wet.

5. Two cars:

If you aren’t opting for a tubing company, park one car at your put-in point and one at the take-out point. Another option if you don’t take two cars, or decide to get out early, is using Uber. Just be wary if you are wet, you’ll want to have that dry bag with clothes and a towel. Let your driver know that you are coming off the river too, to make sure they are okay with it.

6. Put-in points:

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The most popular (and populated) float on the river is from Azalea Park to Don White Memorial Park (a 1.5 mile trip). Chattahoochee Outfitters operates through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 7 p.m. weekends. Then the schedule changes with limited hours, which are posted on their website .

Island Ford is a 3 mile trip to Azalea Park. For tubing these will give you 2-4 hour floats. An option for a less crowded trip is Johnson Ferry to Paces Mill, but be aware that the river flows slower for the first few miles here.

By opting to go without a tubing company, you have the choice to float at your leisure and not worry about hourly charges. If you are considering taking out earlier that expected, be cautious that the banks are lined with nice houses or apartment complexes that are private property. The best option is plan out the trip ahead of time and be prepared for a leisurely float down the river.

Check the water release schedule (Buford Dam and Morgan Falls Dam) to make sure the water is flowing. If you choose to go with Chattahoochee Outfitters, they are open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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