Helen, GA: Float Down the Chattahoochee River in this Bavarian Village

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We know our readers love floating down a river during the hot, summer months so we decided to check out Cool River Tubing in order to give you the deal on how it works and why you should check out this particular tubing outfitter two hours away from Greenville, SC in Helen, Georgia.

Planning a Trip to this Barvarian Town in the mountains? Check out our full review of Helen, Georgia!

I’d heard of Helen, GA for a while now while living in Greenville and had seen photos of the Bavarian-themed architecture. And tubing was synonymous with Helen just as much as German beer and brats (at least in my mind). When I finally got the chance to visit Helen, tubing was absolutely on my mind. So I gathered my two young kids and decided to try out Cool River Tubing.

It. Was. Awesome.

Look at all those tubes

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Why Cool River Tubing

There are only a couple of tubing outfitters in Helen, GA and I decided on Cool River Tubing because honestly, it had over 2,000 really good reviews online. The price was decent and the location was ideal. Decision made.

There is plenty of parking at Cool River, which is just a few minutes past the main drag of Helen on the left if you’re coming from Unicoi State Park. Park and head inside to the immaculately presented gift shop and registration desks.

It took all of three minutes to sign waivers and hand over my payment for myself and two kids (ages 8 and 4). All kids 12 and under must wear life jackets, which are provided. Since it was late in the day, we chose the shorter, hour ride, which costs $14/person during the week. They also have a longer, 2-2.5 hour ride, also $14/person on weekdays. Weekends and holiday weekends are pricier ($18/person).

From there, it was time to put on sunscreen, hand over my drivers license and keys for safekeeping at the desk (for free), and grab our tubes and life jackets. Again, the employees were helpful and kind, giving us the right tubes for our heights, as well as life jackets and tether straps. You can tether several tubes together, which is really helpful for parents taking small kids along for the ride.

Once you get your tubes, you hand them over to the bus driver, get in the bus (see below about shuttles), and are taken up the river. Drop in the water and you’re on your way.

Tubing on the Chattahoochee
Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee….

COVID-19 Changes

Cool River has changed up things a bit because of COVID-19. They are still offering shuttles but they also offer the option to walk your tubes up the river for a shorter ride. It’s about a 1.2-mile walk – about 25 minutes by foot. If you want to do the long tube ride, Cool River suggests bringing two cars and parking one at the start of the long ride at Headwaters and one back at the outpost. You can purchase tickets at both locations.

Cool River suggests self-transport, but does still provide a shuttle!

Tubing Options

While we did the shorter, one-hour-long ride, you can choose the longer one if you want to spend a lot of time on the Chattahoochee River.

You can also buy a push stick ($5) and water shoes ($10) if need be. Push sticks are meant to get you off rocks whenever you get stuck, especially if the water level is low. We didn’t opt for this but we saw many people who did and it seemed like a good idea. Water shoes aren’t required but I think you should absolutely wear them, especially if you are walking your tubes over a mile to the drop-in point.

People on our trip were either barefoot or wearing water shoes – I just prefer water shoes because it’s easier to get your footing in the water if you need to get a tube unstuck and if there are random fish hooks or sharp rocks, I’d rather be wearing shoes than not.

Relaxing tubing n Cool River Tubing
Just lay back and relax

Know Before You Go

Cool River has spotless dressing rooms on-site, as well as restrooms, which is so helpful. We explored Helen after our tube ride so just changed there and headed into town.

Kids have to be at least three-years-old in order to go tubing. The one-hour ride has a few, small rapids that are really fun and nothing dangerous, but of course, kids need to be watched in the water. Each person gets their own tube. For people wanting to ride the waterslide, the minimum height is 42”.

Cool River Tubing is pet-friendly. We saw people bringing their pets on tubes.

No flip-flops, glass, nudity, littering, coolers, or cups/bottles/cans are allowed on the river.

There is no alcohol on the water whatsoever and this rule is strictly enforced. The Helen Police Department monitors the river and if you’re caught with alcohol, you’ll be fined. You can bring a 32 oz water bottle if you like for anything non-alcoholic.

Cool River does not take reservations unless it’s for a group of 30 or more people, but get there early on busier days like summer holidays. They have a gazillion tubes so they are unlikely to run out. Group pricing is available.

They are open through Labor Day weekend and then just weekends after that as long as the weather is warm and the water isn’t too cold.

Have you been tubing in Helen, GA before?

Cool River Tubing
590 Edelweiss Strausse, Helen, GA

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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7 months ago

Renting a stick is a must! We witnessed so many dragging the bottom and ultimately having to stand up and walk through the shallow parts (most of the river).