Weekend Adventures with Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions
We are open on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays, and by appointment Monday through Friday. Prices are $40 (excluding taxes and fees) per person for the Quick Float and $60 (excluding tax and fees) for the Half Day. Children under 10 in a canoe are free, and dogs may float in a canoe with their person.
“If you can find a way to follow your passion and do what you love, you should always do that,” – that’s solid advice from Kathleen O’Neal, owner of Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions and living embodiment that it is absolutely possible to build a successful life this way. Kathleen grew up paddling the Ocmulgee, first with her parents and later as a high school student at Mt. de Sales; while in college at Sewanee in Tennessee, she took up canoeing and kayaking as part of the college’s team. This led to her being recruited for a position as a raft guide on the Ocoee, Chattooga, and Nantahala Rivers while in college.
“I loved that job,” Kathleen says, “but after doing it for awhile, I realized that unless you owned the company, there was limited potential for advancement there – so I went to law school and did the corporate thing for awhile.” She pauses, then laughs, “I had this misguided idea that I had to grow up!” After working in the corporate world for awhile, Kathleen began to feel a little burnt out; she challenged herself to consider when it was that she’d been happiest, and the answer was clear – she’d felt truly fulfilled while working as a river guide, so her next step was to figure out how to make that career fulfillment a consistent part of her life.
Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions, Macon’s original and locally-owned canoe and kayak rental service for the Ocmulgee River, is now in its fourth successful year of business. It’s clear that Kathleen made the right career choice, not just for her own happiness, but for locals and visitors to our area alike, all of whom praise Kathleen’s knowledge, enthusiasm, and friendly demeanor when it comes to all things river related. First-time floaters find themselves reassured and, at the end of their excursion, are always bubbling with enthusiasm at what a good time they’ve had and how they can’t wait to book their next float. “One of my very favorite things,” says Kathleen, “is seeing people paddle up at the end with a smile on their face, saying ‘That was GREAT!’”
OOE makes floating a breeze: you decide if you want to float via canoe or kayak, and then choose from a handful of predetermined float times on Saturday and Sunday (during the week, time options are more open; you’ll need to call to make arrangements). Next, you choose your trip. The Quick Float, OOE’s most popular expedition, takes 1-3 hours and is a great introduction to paddling. “There’s nothing overly challenging for a novice,” says Kathleen, “and there’s enough current to carry you.” The Half Day Adventure is a longer trip, from Pope’s Ferry to Amerson River Park, and includes the thrill of Class 1 rapids. For both trips, OOE provides your boat, paddle, life jacket, and a sweet treat waiting for you at the finish – you just need to provide sunscreen, snacks, drinks, and your sense of adventure. The Quick Float is $40 per person, and the Half Day Adventure is $60; a 10 percent discount is offered for college students, military, and seniors 65 years old and up, and groups of 10 or more receive a 15 percent discount.
Summertime brings with it several special floating opportunities – there’s the Macon Beer Company co-sponsored Boats & Brews tour, happening on June 3 and 17, July 15, and August 19. Adventurers start their day at 11 am at Macon Beer Company, where they load into an OOE shuttle bus and head to their choice of kayak or canoe on the river. After a leisurely paddle, exit the river at 2 pm to be transported back to Macon Beer Company for a sack lunch and some delicious brew tastings, complete with your own souvenir MBC pint glass. And the Full Moon Floats, which start at 7 pm on June 10, July 8, August 5, and September 9, allow you to experience the beauty of a full moon in a whole new way – by seeing its luminous reflection in the Ocmulgee while floating in a glow-stick festooned kayak. All of these events are wildly popular and will fill up fast; visit OOE’s website at www.ocmulgeeoutdoorexpeditions.com for pricing information and to book your spot early.
Kathleen O’Neal’s passion for what she does is contagious; her commitment to helping people get out on the Ocmulgee and experience the area in a whole new way has planted the seeds of advocacy and appreciation in many a novice floater. “I love this river,” she beams, “and I want everybody to love it – it’s really that simple. The more people see the river from a new perspective, the more invested they are in it – it’s just different seeing it from the inside. You get to know the currents, the eddies, the flows – you just become part of it!” If you haven’t had a chance to experience the Ocmulgee firsthand – or if it’s been awhile since you’ve been out there – give Kathleen a call, and make this the summer for you to get out there and see what you’ve been missing.
Ocmulgee Outdoor Expeditions, LLC