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Travel South: Outdoor destinations

Courtesy Whitewater Express

White-water Rafting in Columbus

Columbus, Georgia
The once-sleepy Chattahoochee River has felt a jolt of new life from the breaking of the Eagle and Phoenix Mill dams. The restored natural flow of the river will be used to create one of the longest urban white-water courses in the world. Starting June 2013, groups can go white-water rafting in Columbus, Georgia.

“One of the most exciting new adventure activities in the country is going to be white-water rafting on the Chattahoochee River. There’s no question,” said Dan Gilbert, president of Whitewater Express. “It’s definitely a treat for groups. This will be the southernmost white-water rafting trip in the country.”

The time of day you decide to raft will determine the level of the white-water challenge. The river will have Class I rapids from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., perfect for any beginner. After 4 p.m., more waves are added for those seeking the thrills of Class 4 waves.

The Chattahoochee River also stays a great deal warmer than other mountain rivers, which makes its season extend from early March through November. Rafters will feel enveloped in wilderness for most of the trip. The route also passes by historic cotton mills, a habitat pool and other historic buildings.

Whitewater Express leads regular rafting tours and themed rafting trips, such as its historic tour. This tour takes visitors to see remnants of ironclad ships sunk during the Battle of Columbus, as well as to the National Civil War Naval Museum on the riverfront.

For more of a natural focus, the company’s environmental-themed tours highlight the flora and fauna recently restored in the river, with a stop at the Columbus University for more in-depth information.

If only part of your group wants to white-water raft, Columbus’ Riverwalk stretches 13 miles from downtown Columbus to Oxbow Meadows, where visitors can bike or go for a slow stroll.

Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat Cruise
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Watch the sky flame with color over the Ouachita Mountains on a sunset cruise aboard the Belle of Hot Springs Riverboat. The 250-passenger riverboat hosts the two-hour tours on Lake Hamilton to provide views of America’s “Spa City,” along with dinner and dancing.

Cruises on the replicated 1800s paddle wheeler entail a relaxing ride past several natural islands, million-dollar mansions, quaint resorts and sweeping views of the Ouachita Mountains. The captain narrates the voyage with humorous anecdotes and historical information.

During the day, you can go on the sightseeing cruise or the luncheon cruise, which begins serving lunch right before the boat leaves the dock so you do not have to choose between the scenery and the food.

The popular sunset dinner-dance cruise offers fine dining with options including baked jumbo shrimp, grilled salmon fillet and prime rib. Passengers can also opt for the sunset cruise sans dinner if they do not want to include the meal.

The two enclosed decks each have their own dancing floors with a DJ to set the dancing mood.

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