River Tubing in Helen, Georgia
Once again we headed to the lovely North Georgia mountains to what has become an annual summer tradition: Tubing the Chattahoochee River ( or the “Hooch” as they call it) in the lovely Alpine village of Helen, Georgia.
Pink or Green Tubes- Choose Your Color
Why the pink tubes of Helen Tubing, not the green? Many friends have asked, and no, the pink tubing company is not paying us with freebies of any kind to pitch them, (though they are welcome to try lol!) but when we first started tubing, our little girl was six and in a princess stage. Pink WAS her color. There was no argument.
We later found out at the end of the 2.5 hour ride, there is the best waterfall ever- and only the pink tubes ride it.
The Cool River Tubing Company have extended their adventures to include zip lining for the thrill seeking kid in you( 70lb-250lbs) we were sorely tempted to try them but were heading into North Carolina next for those speedier type of expeditions.
Tubing Trip on the Chattahoochee River
We park at the takeout point on 685 Brucken Str. in Helen and buy our tickets. Then we board a buss that takes all tubers to the start point. We’ve done it the other way around as well, but its not so much fun riding a bus when you’re soaking wet.
It’s a short ride through town to 9917 Hwy 75N in Helen – our river start. You choose your tube and carry it down a ramp to the river. All the tubes have solid bottoms- and they now have ones with head rests- the ultimate luxury! We bring sticks now- some years you can bring your own, others you have to purchase official ones from them. They make the perfect walking sticks for those waterfall hikes- so plan a tubing trip before the long hike.
Staying on the Chattahoochee in Alpine Helen
Tubing aside, this was our second year staying in the actual town of Helen. We booked the Riverbend Motel. I’d seen it last year online, and it’s proximity to the Chattahoochee- er, right there- was the selling point. (the clean, updated rooms were a surprise bonus!) There are bench swings right next to the river, and we could relax and watch the kids frolic in the shallow waters of the river. We ended our night on the swings, splashing in the river and chasing fireflies.
The years before we’ve stayed at the Helen Hampton Inn- spacious rooms with a pool & balcony overlooking the Chattahoochee River. And we have also stayed high above Helen at the Unicoi Lodge in Unicoi State Park.
Authentic German Cuisine
The hotel owner, Mark, kindly recommended a German restaurant nearby for a good meal. Again, with kids, this can be a hit and miss thing, but we were definitely not eating fast food in Helen. He suggested we try the Sampler Platter for two at the Bodensee Restaurant. The Wurst, smoked pork chops, sauerbraten, Spaetzle and more gave us a yummy taste of Alpine Helen and was more than enough for the four of us- with leftovers! Topped off with dark German beer (for dear husband) and a nice German Riesling for mom – it came to a very nice meal.
Apple Pancakes at Hofer Bakery
We tried the Hofer Bakery the next morning, a short hop and skip from our room, and the best darn Appelknuffen-er Appelknafen- okay, apple pancakes that no one can seem to pronounce, even the staff. Kids love the hot chocolate with whipped cream (who doesn’t?)
Our day was well spent frolicking in the Chattahoochee, dining German-style and exploring the little shops filled with crystal necklaces, glass blown figurines, wooden toys, canned goods and apple ciders of various dubious colors.
We were sorry to have to bid our adieu to our tubing town, but further adventures awaited past the north Georgia Border.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Tubing on the Chattahoochee River starts Memorial Day and runs until Labor Day. 7 days a week.
- You can take a single run down the river, with each company, or choose an all day version.
- Each tubing company also has add-ons. For the green tubes, it’s zip lines and the pink tube a water park.
- A bus transports you from the end of the run back to the beginning, where your car is- or leave your car at the end and take the transport bus to the start.
- Wear water shoes! The water is filled with rocks & they are slippery!
- There are tubes with solid bottoms, so you don’t have to worry about kids falling through- or you either.
- You can tether tubes together (tethers provided by the tubing outfitters), but be warned, the tethered tubes tend to clog the river run- so only do it if you have little kids.
- Some areas of the river are shallow & some are not. For the most part, the river is shallow. This, of course, is dependent on rainfall, but there are a couple of deeper sections. You’ll see kids stop on the river to take a swim in these areas.
- You can’t get out on the shore. This river passes through town, restaurants & hotel fronts. You can’t exit at these points. However, there are a couple of places where you can stop on a sand bar, chill & rejoin any family members lagging behind.
- The swiftness of the run depends on the rainfall. The more rain- the faster your run will go. Don’t you love nature?
- Lifejackets are provided for kids. Lifejackets are given to all kids 12 & under (it’s a law). If you are unsure of your own swimming abilities- grab one too.
- You can get sticks too. The outfitters also sell sticks for pushing your tube off the rocks/away from shore. This is like bumper boats- you will eventually get stuck somewhere. Some people carry oars. I find things cumbersome and have never bothered & was just fine every time.
- You will get out of your tube eventually- hence the water shoes. You may just want to dump the excess water from your tube (solid bottom tubes), get stuck on a waterfall (slippery rocks- watch out), or if the lack of rain- walk your tube through the shallows to reach the deeper water. Kids tend to glide over these areas- sometimes we adults have to hoof it. Not far, though. Just go with it. That’s what adventure is all about.
- Remember you are in nature! Though there are no alligators in this mountain climate (thankfully!) this is not a water park and you will see the odd fish and gulp, yes, snake. For the most part, you don’t have to worry but be aware.
- Have fun! This is one of the coolest tubing adventures & a family favorite tradition of ours. Once you try it, chances are you’ll want to return!
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