- Blake Guthrie For the AJC
Adventurous state parks
In the southeast corner of the state, the legendary Okefenokee Swamp can be accessed by canoe through Stephen C. Foster State Park (17515 Ga. 177, Fargo. 912-637-5274). Take a ranger-led night paddling tour in one of the darkest places in Georgia. The park has been designated by the International Dark Sky Association as an “International Dark Sky Park.” See the stars (and alligator eyes) like you’ve never seen them before. In the northwest corner of the state, go spelunking at Cloudland Canyon State Park (122 Cloudland Canyon Park Road, Rising Fawn. 706-657-4050). G3 Adventures(formerly known as Georgia Girl Guides) gives guided tours of the wild cave system in the park. Expect to get wet and muddy as you crawl through limestone caverns for one to four hours. gastateparks.org.
Historic Banning Mills
Historic Banning Mills (205 Horseshoe Dam Road, Whitesburg. 770-834-9149, www.historicbanningmills.com) is an adventure retreat located along the forested Snake Creek Gorge west of Atlanta. It claims the longest canopy zip line in the world, “Flight of the Falcon,” which soars through the treetops and over the gorge. You can also climb the world’s tallest artificial climbing wall, then take a heart-racing controlled free-fall plunge back to earth. An aerial obstacle course crosses the gorge as well. No need to leave the trees when you’re done because accommodations include treehouse rooms accessible by a rope bridge and complete with conveniences like fireplaces and hot tubs.
Like Atlanta, Columbus sits on the Chattahoochee, but it’s a much different Hooch here. The fall line location creates class III, IV and V rapids. The city boasts the longest urban whitewater course in the world. Whitewater Express (1000 Bay Ave., Columbus. 706-321-4720, www.whitewaterexpress.com) provides guided rafting excursions through the raging water and rents kayaks to experienced paddlers. They also have a zip line course that zings you across the river into Alabama then back into Georgia. Be prepared for jokes about passports as you zip between two states high above the Chattahoochee.