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 rivera 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 afternoonthis 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 (www.nps.gov/chat). 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 Hypothermialowering of the body's core temperaturecan 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
Use caution below dams. The river rises rapidly during water releases.
River Access Points
On the Land
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
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.
Source: NPS Brochure (2012)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
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)
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)
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
Last Updated: 25-Aug-2022