Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area: A user's guide
This Georgia river is a refuge for metro Atlanta, providing opportunities for biking, hiking, canoeing — and some blissful silence.
Mon, Aug 08 2011 at 7:57 AM
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has been described as a necklace of nature, 15 green gems strung along 48 miles of river cold enough and clean enough to harbor monster trout. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is hard against the sprawl of metro Atlanta, surrounded by cul-de-sac subdivisions and criss-crossed by freeway bridges. That means the trails of some units — Cochran Shoals, for example — can be as crowded as a grocery store aisle. But there are plenty of other spots where the sound of water running over rock drowns out the sounds of the city and where you can feel absolutely alone.
Efforts to preserve the river corridor from development started in the early 1970s. Gov. Jimmy Carter signed the Metropolitan River Protection Act, a state law restricting development, into law in 1973. As president, Carter signed federal legislation on Aug. 15, 1978 authorizing $73 million to be used to buy up to 6,300 acres along the river from Buford Dam south to Peachtree Creek. The state of Georgia owned about 1,000 acres at the time and turned the land over to the National Park Service.
Things to do
Canoeists and kayakers take advantage of the boat launch sites at Bowmans Island, Abbotts Bridge, Medlock Bridge, Jones Bridge, Island Ford and Bull Sluice Lake north of Morgan Falls Dam. Below the dam, there is river access at Morgan Falls Park, Johnson Ferry, Powers Island and Paces Mill.
Nearby private businesses rent rafts and tubes for floating the river.
Mountain biking is limited to a handful of routes in the Cochran Shoals/Sope Creek unit, but the amount of trail open to mountain bikers may be expanded later this year.
Hiking trails through East Palisades unit are less crowded than those just across the river, and you’ll feel you’re in the north Georgia mountains more than a big city. A trail overlook offers nice views of the river flowing north to south.
Why you’ll want to come back
This portion of the Chattahoochee River is heavily stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout for year-round fishing. The state record brown trout — weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces — was pulled from this stretch of river.
Flora and fauna
Plenty of water and lots of rocks and logs to soak in the sun make the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area a good place to be a turtle. Ten different species of turtles call the park home including snapping turtles, eastern river cooter, yellow-bellied slider, eastern mud turtle and the spins softshell turtle.
The Chattahoochee River is home to more than 20 species of fish, including for bass, catfish and trout. The Chattahoochee River is the southernmost trout river in the United States because of the cold-water releases from the bottom of Lake Lanier at Buford Dam. Osprey, great blue herons and Canada geese are among the 240 or so bird species found in the park.
Fox, mink, whitetail deer, coyotes and river otter are among the mammals living in scattered units of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.
By the numbers:
- Website: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
- Park size: 9,885 acres or 15.4 square miles
- 2010 visitation: 3,011,393
- Funky fact: Camping isn’t allowed in the park.
This is part of Explore America's Parks, a series of user's guides to national, state and local park systems across the United States. We'll be adding new parks all summer, so check back for more.
Inset photo of heron: pookie0913/Flickr
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