Chattahoochee River
National Recreation Area
Park Photo
NPS photo

A River, a City, a Park

The river is the Chattahoochee; the city is Atlanta. The park is a series of parklands along a 48-mile stretch of the river—a place rich in natural and human history, each influenced by the river's pervasive force. Usually clear, cold, and slow-moving, the river sometimes plunges as a muddy torrent through its rockbound shoals. For centuries people have been drawn to the river for food and transportation and for power to sustain the mills, factories, and homes built along its banks.

Today the river attracts us for different reasons. People come to float down the river, hike the trails along its banks, play touch football in the meadows, and simply relax. In its role as an outdoor classroom, the park promises to expand your horizons through nature walks exploring its plants and birds and the river. Beaver and muskrats live in burrows along the river's bank, foxes and raccoons make their homes in the hardwood forests, and chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits seem to be everywhere. Turtles, snakes, salamanders, lizards, frogs, and toads live in all the natural habitats along the river. Venture into the forest and you set off a noisy reaction as grasshoppers, dragonflies, and butterflies leap and fly to escape the foot you innocently placed.

In any season, the Chattahoochee's banks are a tangle of color. Dogwoods, redbuds, and trout lilies in early spring are followed by flame azaleas, asters, and wild violets. In the fall, cardinal flowers and the showy scarlet sumacs turn brilliant shades of red. A solitary walk enjoying nature's display, rafting leisurely with friends, fishing on the misty waters as the Sun comes up, picnicking on a Sunday afternoon—this is the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

On the River

The Chattahoochee River is rated a Class I and II waterway, excellent for canoeing, kayaking, and rafting. Some sections can be Class III because of narrow passages, high water levels with erratic waves, and cold water. Currents can be strong around submerged rocks and jagged tree snags that crowd the river. Rubber-soled shoes are a must for tackling broken glass and slippery rocks. Check river conditions before you put in. The river can rise rapidly when water is released from upstream dams.

The Chattahoochee can be paddled any time of the year if you have your own watercraft. Rafts and canoes may be rented May through Labor Day from commercial businesses outside the park. Check the park website for a listing ( Glass containers are not permitted on the river from Buford Dam to Peachtree Creek. Remember to carry a plastic bag for litter.

Fishing Fishing for trout, bass, catfish, and other species can be a great experience. Anglers must follow fishing regulations. A Georgia fishing license with a trout stamp is required for anglers 16 and older. All boats propelled by mechanical means must be registered with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

Use of PFDs/Life Preservers Water temperatures range from 44 to 58°F, and the river can rise rapidly from six to 11 feet when water is released from dam powerhouses. U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) are REQUIRED TO BE WORN if you are boating, tube floating, or wading in areas between Buford Dam and the Ga. 20 bridge, or downstream of Morgan Falls Dam and the Morgan Falls boat launch. On other sections in the national recreation area, you must have a PFD aboard for each person in the craft.

Guard Against Hypothermia Hypothermia—lowering of the body's core temperature—can occur when you are exposed to wet, cold conditions and/or wind. The river water is very cold. If you capsize, get out as quickly as possible and warm yourself.

River Safety Tips
• Know your put-in and take-out points and tell others your plans.
• Check water-release schedules before entering the water directly below dams.
• Watch weather and water conditions and head for shore if bad weather threatens. If lightning occurs, get out of the water, stay away from trees, and seek low shelter. Lightweight, quick-drying clothing is adequate in summer. During cooler seasons wear clothes of natural and synthetic fiber blends. In cold weather wear wool—it retains heat even when wet. Wear appropriate footgear. • Drinking alcohol impairs coordination and judgment.
• Never dive or jump into the river. There are dangers in the form of submerged rocks, murky water, and fluctuating water levels. Swimming is not recommended.

Use caution below dams. The river rises rapidly during water releases.

River Access Points

Approx. Float Time in Hours
(Depending on water level)
Buford Dam
Abbotts Bridge
13 mi
Abbotts Bridge
Medlock Bridge
4 mi
Medlock Bridge
Jones Bridge
3 mi
Jones Bridge
Chattahoochee River Park1
12 mi
Morgan Falls Dam
Johnson Ferry
2 mi
Johnson Ferry
Powers Island
3.5 mi
Powers Island
Paces Mill2
3 mi

On the Land

park map
(click for larger map)

Most park areas offer hiking and walking trails and meadows for recreation. Picnic tables, grills, and trash containers are conveniently located. Delightful pockets of natural and cultural history offer outstanding classroom experiences throughout the Chattahoochee River corridor.

Visitors parking in park areas must display an annual or daily parking pass on their vehicles.

Upland ridge trails in Palisades lead to panoramas of the river gorge and down through wooded forests to floodplain trails. You can see rock outcroppings, beaches, expanses of shoalwater, and evidences of human activity.

At Sope Creek (in Cochran Shoals) and in Vickery Creek, trails lead through moderately steep to rolling hills and to lush ravines and wooded areas, old homesites, and historic mill ruins.

Trails in Cochran Shoals, Johnson Ferry, and Gold Branch reveal marshy environments and open fields that once were rich farmlands.

The Cochran Shoals Trail, approximately three miles long with optional loops, is a fully accessible path enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers.

Island Ford and Jones Bridge have trails that lead to the river's edge for scenic views of islands and Whitewater shoals. Island Ford is also the site of the visitor contact station, which is open daily except December 25.

Land Safety Tips
• Don't leave your vehicle or personal belongings unprotected. Be aware. Choose not to be a target for crime.
• For extra safety enjoy the park with a friend.
• Do not overexert.
• Respect the rights of others.
• Stay on designated trails. Shortcutting erodes soil and damages plants, and it can lead to accidents.
• Learn to identify poison ivy and the most prevalent poisonous snake, the copperhead.
• Insect repellent is a must, especially near wetlands.
• Climbing cliffs can be dangerous; their soils and rock readily crumble.
• Extinguish fires in grills before leaving your picnic site.
• Buckle up, be alert, and drive safely.

Where You Are

The 540-mile Chattahoochee River flows southwesterly from the north Georgia mountains to its Flint River confluence at Lake Seminole. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is north of Atlanta. National forests, a national wildlife refuge, and National Park System areas are with in easy drives of Atlanta.

• Pets must be physically restrained on a hand-held leash at all times. Dispose of pet waste in a trash receptacle.
• Use picnic grills or a portable stove for cooking. Open campfires are not permitted.
• Camping is not allowed.
• Hunting is prohibited.
• Glass containers are prohibited on the river from Buford Dam to Peachtree Creek. For your safety the National Park Service recommends that no glass containers be used in the river corridor.
• Protect historic ruins for future public enjoyment; climbing or defacing them is prohibited.
• Metal detectors and panning for gold are not allowed.
• Respect the rights of private property owners. Be alert to boundary trespass.
• Take pride in your park and help protect it for future generations. Do not pick plants or disturb animals. Put litter in its proper place. Please recycle.

Source: NPS Brochure (2012)


Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area — August 15, 1978

For More Information
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Link to Official NPS Website

Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section


"A String of Pearls...Too Valuable to Let Go": Administrative History, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia (Ann Honious, September 2021)

Cultural Landscape Report: Allenbrook, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (WLA Studio, September 2001)

Cultural Landscape Report: Island Ford Lodge, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (WLA Studio, October 2001)

Cultural Landscape Report: Sope Creek, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Beth Wheeler Byrd, December 2009)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Hyde Farm, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (2011)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Ivy Mill and Allenbrook, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (2019)

Cultural Landscapes Inventory: Sope Creek Ruins, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (2009)

Draft General Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (May 2004)

Final General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (September 2009)

Foundation Document, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia (May 2017)

Foundation Document Overview, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia (January 2017)

Genetic integrity of an isolated population of shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae) in the upper Chattahoochee River basin NPS Technical Report NPS/NRWRD/NRTR-2007/366 (Elizabeth E. Dakin, Brady A. Porter, Byron J. Freeman and James M. Long, April 2007)

Historic Resource Study, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area and the Chattahoochee River Corridor (Lenard E. Brown, November 1980)

Historic Resources Study: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Marti Gerdes and Scott Messer, February 2007)

Historic Structure Report: Allenbrook (Hartrampf, Inc. and Office of Jack Pyburn, 2004)

Preliminary Trails Management Plan, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (March 2021)

Superintendent's Annual Report: 1995199619972003

Trail Maps

Abbots Bridge (June 2014)

Allenbrook (June 2014)

Bowmans Island (June 2014)

Cochran Shoals - Columns Drive (August 2020)

Cochran Shoals - Interstate North (August 2020)

East Palisades (June 2014)

Gold Branch (June 2014)

Island Ford - North (June 2014)

Island Ford - South (June 2016)

Johnson Ferry North (June 2016)

Johnson Ferry South (June 2014)

Jones Bridge (June 2014)

Medlock Bridge (June 2014)

Powers Island (June 2014)

Sope Creek (August 2020)

Vickery Creek (June 2014)

West Palisades (October 2020)

Trail System Assessment, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (Jeremy Wimpey, 2018)

Handbooks ◆ Books expand section


Last Updated: 25-Aug-2022