Paddling Safety

Kayaking, canoes and paddle boards have always been popular on the lake, but these sports have exploded in the last few years. Since the 1996 Olympic Games, Lanier has been home to world class kayak racing and has a huge canoe and kayak presence. Kayak fishing is also extremely popular on the lake. The Lake Lanier Association encourages people powered vessels and abiding by the following safety tips when on Lanier.

  • Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device) or vest when on the water. The DNR only requires you to have the life vest in your boat. It will not help you if you flip or have an “out of boat experience” if you are not wearing it. Invest in a good fitting, paddling vest. They are light and not hot, WEAR IT.
  • When kayaking on Lanier, be aware of other boats. Lanier has no restriction on size of boat or horsepower. A power boat can easily flip a kayak with a wake, and there is no guarantee they will even see you. Give yourself plenty of reasons to be seen by wearing bright colors, having a flag on a pole and putting reflectors on your paddle. You might have the “right of way” but don’t test it.
  • Stay close to shore and out of the main channels and heavy-trafficked areas. There’s more to look at and it’s easier to get in and out if you flip or need a break.
  • Paddle with others. You always are safer with more people.
  • Know your lake and distances. Do not overestimate your skill or endurance. It might look like a short trip from one island or marina to the next until you start paddling it. With no current it is easy to get tired.
  • Dress properly. Even in the summer hypothermia can happen. In colder months with colder water it can be life treating. Bring extra clothes, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. It’s easy to get sunburned even in the winter.
  • Be weather aware. Lanier can turn deadly with a storm, so know how long your trip will take and the weather conditions.

Here is some information and links to paddle trails, further information on places to paddle and more safety tips.


  • The Gainesville Upper Lanier Water Trail has clearly marked parks, distances and sites which provides a safe, fun paddle for all skill levels. You can access the water trail map here.
  • For more information on safety and kayaking in general a good place to start is the American Canoe Association.
  • If you want to venture off Lake Lanier and experience other rivers and lakes you can find Georgia water trail information at Georgia River Network.

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