The Grand 2.0 Columbus Whitewater Paddle

Grand Columbus Whitewater PaddleThis Saturday, August 8th, the Georgia Conservancy and partners Uptown Columbus and Whitewater Express will return to the Chattahoochee in Downtown Columbus for the second annual Grand Columbus Whitewater Paddle.

Last year, more than 1,100 paddlers ran the rapids of the world’s longest stretch of urban whitewater. This year, we look to impressively surpass that number!

Rafters will hit the water beginning at 9 AM and will be guided by the experts at Whitewater Express. Groups will continue to raft throughout the day until 6 PM.

Also, rafters and spectators are invited to join us for our after-paddle music showcase beginning at 3:00 PM in downtown’s Woodruff Park. Southern-indie record label This Is American Music will present incredible tunes from Blue Blood, Fire Mountain, Sailing to Denver and The Bohannon’s.Grand 2.0 Columbus Whitewater Paddle

Our friends at SweetWater Brewing Company will be there, of course! Every Grand 2.0 paddler will receive a complementary wristband, souvenir cup and drink ticket (good for one SweetWater beer or Coca-Cola Company soft drink.)

The after-paddle party will also include a SweetWater Brewing Company beer garden, food trucks, outdoor restrooms, and Grand 2.0 merchandise.

Tickets for rafting and the after-paddle party start at just $25.

For those not rafting, a wristband for the after-paddle party is just $8 and includes a free beverage of your choice!

After the sun goes down, Whitewater Express employees (and any adventurous whitewater kayakers) will put on a “Saturday Night Lights” demonstration at the new section of whitewater illuminated by stadium lights.

Georgia ConservancyThe Georgia Conservancy will also host a Kick-Off Party on Friday, August 7 at The Loft in Downtown Columbus. Join us for live music, a SweetWater Brewing Company tap takeover and learn more about the incredible effort to restore the Chattahoochee River and create a world-class whitewater course.

Thank you to presenting sponsors, PricewaterhouseCoopers and TSYS.

For more information and to register, please visit:

Brian Foster

Brian Foster is the Communications Director for the Georgia Conservancy, a citizen of Atlanta and a proud native of Rome, Georgia. (Bio photo courtesy of Sarah Dodge.)

3 Ways to Keep Cool in Columbus for Less

Columbus, Georgia is a perfect weekend getaway. There are a variety of locally owned restaurants, theatre productions, intriguing museums and lots of activities for the outdoor enthusiast. Here’s how to keep cool and still have money left over for a great meal at 11th and Bay.

Go Tubing. Whitewater Express is known for their whitewater rafting expeditions, but they also rent inner tubes for a lot less than a guided raft trip. Put in at the Eagle and Phenix Mill and take a leisurely float down the river. Rentals include a shuttle ride back. NOTE: All tubing must be done before 3 pm each day. That’s when the dam lets out, sending a surge of water rushing down the river and raising the water levels significantly.Whitewater Kayaker in Columbus

Splash in the Spray Grounds. At the end of 10th street along Bay Ave is the Columbus Splash Pad. Mom and Dad can sit on the large rocks carved into a seat, while the little ones run around in the water. Or better yet, bring someone to watch the kids play in the water while Mom and Dad go rafting.

Columbus Splash Pad

Photo courtesy of Sue Rodman, Field Trips with Sue

Grab a Popsicle. If you don’t want to get wet, cool down with a visit to Planet Pops, a local artisan popsicle store on 12th street. On select days, you may also find a cart located right on the RiverWalk. I can highly recommend the raspberry lemonade. There’s no way to suck the juice out of these pops. Each bite is flavorful and refreshing. Next time I’m going to try the Girl Scout Thin Mint popsicle.

Planet Pops

Photo courtesy of Sue Rodman, Field Trips with Sue

Looking for more fun in Columbus Georgia, see Built to Thrill: A Columbus Georgia Adventure Weekend on Field Trips with Sue.

SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

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Women’s Sports in Georgia

Women’s sports teams often focus on providing to those communities that they call home, and empowering women and girls through the power of athletics. Fans so often go out and support their local school or college or little league teams, but don’t always realize Georgia has leagues and teams for adults. Here are some of the professional and semi-professional women’s sports teams that call Georgia home:

Atlanta Dream

Atlanta Dream

When the Atlanta Dream made it to the WNBA Finals in 2013 for the third time in four years, the team’s fans were ecstatic. While they have yet to claim that elusive title, the Dream are still one of the most successful teams in the Eastern Conference, reaching the playoffs every season since 2009. The Dream play at the top level and thrill fans with season promotions ranging from their Heritage Series to Kids Day, from Dream Pink to Faith & Family Night.

And in Augusta, the semi-professional Georgia-Lina Lady Hurricanes compete in the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League (WBCBL). Many of the players originally played school ball in the Augusta area and played college hoops in the South, competing with and against each other. The team hosted their first annual Season Kick-Off Tournament this year, featuring teams from the community.

Atlanta Silverbacks Women

Atlanta Silverbacks Women

With the FIFA Women’s World Cup currently occuring in Canada, women’s sports are on the world’s biggest stage. And while none of the Atlanta Silverbacks Women were called up to their national sides for this tournament, they are still providing quality entertainment for fans here in Georgia. The Silverbacks play in the highly competitive W-League, which they most recently won in 2011.

Georgia also has a presence in W-20, which is the adult-amateur under-20 women’s league associated with W-League. The Georgia Revolution in Conyers have increased their program to include a W-20 team this year, and the Atlanta Metros FC regularly field a side, though are focusing on local leagues for the 2015 season. Both programs offer extensive opportunities for player development in youth local and travel leagues.

Savannah Sabers

Savannah Sabers

Georgia hosts several women’s football teams across three different leagues. The North Atlantic Division of the Women’s Football Allliance (WFA) features the Atlanta Phoenix and Savannah Sabers. The Phoenix have experienced great success in the North Atlantic Division and enjoy a dedicated fangroup known as the Phoenatics. The Sabers were unable to field a team this season, but look forward to returning to competitive play in 2016. The Sabers say their “vision is a community of strong, independent, confident women and girls where the game of football with empower females.”

Focused on a drive to “empwer women through athletics and serve the greater Atlanta community,” the Atlanta Heartbreakers compete in the Women’s Spring Football League (WSFL). Between playing in the WSFL, and having orginally played in the WFA, the Heartbreakers have won three division titles.

The 2014 Legends Football League (LFL) Eastern Conference Champions also play in metro Atlanta. The Atlanta Steam began playing in 2013 and within two seasons were already playing in the title game. They join several other Georgia sports teams playing out of the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Soul City Sirens

Soul City Sirens

Roller Derby
The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), a leading organization for roller derby in the US and abroad, has a heavy presence in Georgia. The Atlanta Rollergirls were one of the founding leagues of the WFTDA and hosted the Champioinship in 2012. The league fields four home teams as well as three travel teams. The Classic City Rollergirls field two travel teams out of Athens and host biannual boot camps for anyone interested in learning to derby. In Augusta, the Soul City Sirens have partnered with local partners to benefit the community, all the while throwing down on the rink of the Columbia County Exhibition Center. And the Savannah Derby Devils feature two travel teams, as well as a junior team for theose female skaters aged 10-17 who are intersted in trying out the sport.

Outside of the ‘big-league’ derby teams, the WFTDA sponsors an apprenticeship program for aspiring member leagues. Here in Georgia, the Marietta Derby Darlins in Cobb County and the Muscogee Roller Girls in Columbus compete as apprentice leagues. Additionally, teams such as the Middle Georgia Derby Demons in Macon, Rome Rollergirls and War Town Bombshells in Warner Robins compete individually according to WFTDA rules.

Atlanta Harlequins

Atlanta Harlequins

The sport of rugby is quickly growing in popularity, and Georgia is no exception to the craze. Several mixed teams and an all-female team are members of the Georgia Rugby Union (GRU), the local branch of USA Rugby. Teams compete in tournaments here in Georgia – from Atlanta to Augusta, from LaFayette to Savannah – as well as all over the country. The Atlanta Harlequins, a member club of GRU, compete in the Women’s Premier League and hosted the 2014 Nations at Life University.

Georgia’s Lesser-Known Sports Teams

Georgia sports fans are incredibly supportive of the state’s big league baseball, football and basketball teams. But those are not the only teams to play on the Georgia stage. Georgia’s lesser-known professional and semi-professional sports teams thrill fans with exciting competition and winning records and provide high-caliber competition for very little money.

Ice Hockey

The Thrashers may have flown to Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean lovers of ice hockey can’t still enjoy the game here in Georgia. The Gwinnett Gladiators play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) as the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Since moving to Duluth for the 2003-04 season, the Gladiators have made the playoffs eight times. Each year the Gladiators thrill their fans at Gwinnett Arena with awesome promotions such as Star Wars night and a teddy bear toss.

Columbus Cottonmouths

Columbus Cottonmouths

In Columbus, the Cottonmouths are one of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Since helping found the SPHL, the Cottonmouths have never missed the playoffs and have won the championship twice, including receiving the inaugural Presidents Cup. The Cottonmouths are great supporters of their local community and promote both youth and adult leagues, teaching everyone how to skate and play the most popular game on ice.

Having first played as the Augusta RiverHawks from 2010 to 2013, the Macon Mayhem will begin playing as a member of the SPHL in the 2015-16 season. Even prior to the start of the new season, the Mayhem and the Cottonmouths are preparing for the fiercest rivalry in the SPHL!


People are going crazy over the Major League Soccer expansion team coming to Atlanta. They start play in 2017 and, though they have yet to be named, are already growing a following. But before soccer at the highest level comes to Georgia, you still have the opportunity to check out some fantastic soccer sides.

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

For many, the Atlanta Silverbacks will always be Atlanta’s team. Atlanta Silverbacks Park is home to not only the North American Soccer League (NASL) side, but also the Women’s and Reserves’ teams. And did you know Reggie Bush and David Beckham filmed an Adidas commercial at the park? The Terminus Legion supporters group (emphasis on the “support”) has been instrumental in making Atlanta a prime soccer location.

Based in Conyers, the Georgia Revolution play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Since their founding in 2010, they have twice made it to the later stages of the US Cup, each time losing by one goal to the in-state rival Silverbacks. The Revolution support a local chapter of the Super Y-League, giving local kids the chance to get out and play the game themselves.


The Atlanta Rhinos also play at Silverbacks Park. They joined the USA Rugby League in 2014, forging a partnership with the Leeds Rhinos of Britain’s Super League.

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Rugby Union is also popular in Georgia, with an entire region of USA Ruby based in the state. Teams are spread throughout Georgia with teams in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Blue Ridge, Columbus, the Golden Isles, Gwinnett, Macon and Savannah. The Georgia Rugby Union also features a women’s team based out of Atlanta.

And to forget mentioning collegiate rugby would be an outrageous mistake. Life University has been one of the premier teams in both professional and college-level rugby for men and women.


Fans of box lacrosse can rejoice as the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League announced recently they will move to Georgia to become the Georgia Swarm and begin playing in Gwinnett starting with the 2016 season. Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the popular sport, creating a faster-paced, more intense game.

And for those fans of field lacrosse, Johns Creek plays host each year to the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference Championships, and Kennesaw State University will play host to the ACC Championships in 2016 and the Major League Lacrosse Championship in 2015.


5 Ways to Celebrate Great Outdoors Month

Great Outdoors Month

Sweetwater Creek State Park

June is Great Outdoors Month and Georgia is celebrating with fun activities all over the state. It’s the best time to explore Georgia’s natural beauty, learn new outdoor skills, and roast marshmallows by the campfire.

Georgia’s Free Fishing Day
National Boating & Fishing Week begins June 6th and continues through the week. Georgia goes fishing all month long with special events at State Parks and Public Fishing Areas. Visit the Go Fish Education Center for some fishing tips, and head out on June 6 & 13 to give it a try. These are Georgia’s “Free Fishing Days,” when fishing licenses aren’t required.

Stone Mountain Camp

Stone Mountain Camp

National Trails Day
June 6th marks National Trails Day! Georgia celebrates our state’s beautiful trail systems with group hikes, guided nature walks, canoe trips, and volunteer trail cleanups. Discover a new trail on this list of events.

Get Outdoors Day
Visit Smithgall Woods State Park, in Helen, for a family-friendly Get Outdoors Day. Visitors will try outdoor sports, meet live animals, and learn about Georgia’s environment in the gorgeous Northeast Georgia Mountains.

Father’s Day
Beat the heat and take Dad on an exciting adventure in Columbus, Georgia! There’s no better way to thrill Dad than riding the rapids or ziplining with Whitewater Express. After the excitement, enjoy a relaxing stroll on the Chattahoochee Riverwalk.

Whitewater Kayaker in Columbus

Whitewater Kayaker in Columbus

Great American Backyard Campout
This super fun annual campout invites families to give camping a chance. Experienced campers can find their perfect backcountry campsite at Chattahoochee Bend or Providence Canyon. First Time Campers can reserve spots at Red Top Mountain and Skidaway Island State Parks. These two parks are part of the First Time Camper program that lends a tent and camping gear. Stone Mountain Park also offers a first-time camping experience, “Ready, Set, Camp,” offering gear and help to set up camp.


candycookCandy is Georgia’s official Outdoor Explorer and the author of the blog “Happy Trails Wild Tales.” Click here for more Outdoor content from Candy.