Chattahoochee in Atlanta


Hours: 7 a.m. until dark (all CRNRA units).
Maps: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Park Headquarters
1917 Island Ford Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30350

Go to Descriptions of parks along the Chattahoochee, for details on the parks, directions, phone numbers, etc.


River towns naturally grow up because of a river. Historically, the river served as a means of transportation or the backbone of the economy. But not in Atlanta. Atlanta grew up because of railroads. The Chattahoochee was always at her back door. Atlanta could never be called a river town. But in the last 25 years, metropolitan Atlanta has begun to creep all around the 48-mile stretch of river that runs between Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek.

It is a stretch of river dotted with the history of Indians, white settlers, ferries and Sherman's march to the sea. The Brevard Fault, through which it runs, turns it into a mountain-like river with high rock palisades and numerous shoals. And although the Chattahoochee has never been important to Atlanta in terms of transportation and economy, it is vitally important in terms of water supply, waste water assimilation and, increasingly, in terms of recreation.

On any map of the Atlanta metropolitan area, the red line designating the I-285 perimeter around what we call Atlanta presents a dangerously distorted picture. What we refer to as Atlanta, when what we really mean is"the Atlanta metropolitan area'' has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. The population has shifted and continues to shift north to Cobb, Cherokee, Paulding, and Gwinnett counties.

The bull's eye of downtown within the red line of the perimeter highway no longer designates the center of Atlanta. In actuality, it is the blue line marking the course of the Chattahoochee River that serves as the city's heart and center, defining and sustaining Atlanta as no strip of concrete can. As planners chart the future course of this region, the priorities at the top of the list are water supply, water supply and water supply.

In the past Atlanta may not have been a river town, but in the future it is going to be a river city.

Parks and Recreation

Although urban sprawl and industrial development heavily affect the Chattahoochee River in certain areas, it is nonetheless one of the most unspoiled, scenic and historic rivers running through any major metropolitan area of the United States. The state Metropolitan River Protection Act, passed in 1973, established a 2,000-foot corridor on either side of the river within which land development is allowed but restricted to protect the river. In August 1978, Congress established the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) to preserve and protect the natural beauty, historic aspects and recreational value of the river and authorized the acquisition of up to 6,800 acres, most of it within easy commuting distance of Atlanta.

Today, the CRNRA consists of 48 miles of river and 16 separate land units, or parks, along both sides of its banks. The parks are day use facilities only, made up of hiking trails, picnic grounds, playing fields and, during the summer, two raft/canoe/kayak rental facilities. The river running through it is a stocked trout stream that includes 19 other game fish.

The Chattahoochee corridor has a colorful and interesting history which has been preserved within the National Recreation Area. Numerous rock shelters, once used by nomadic Indian families and later Indian hunting parties, can be explored on the trails at both Island Ford and Palisades East. During the 19th century, the river was the dividing line between the Cherokee and Creek Indian Nations. The Creeks, on the south side of the line, were forced west to Oklahoma in 1828 and the Cherokees, on the north and west side, were forced out in 1838.

The American settlers who followed Removal established cotton plantations and constructed a large number of mills — grist, lumber, wool, cotton, tanning, whiskey and paper. Within the present boundaries of the National Recreation Area, at least 10 settlers ran ferries across the river. Today, Powers, Pace, Johnson, Heard, Dunwoody, Roswell, Jones, Terrell, Aker, Moore and Abbott are names of landmarks and streets, but once they were names of those early entrepreneurs, their ferries and the roads that led to their mills.

The portion of the river downstream from Jones Bridge receives considerably heavier recreational use than the portion upriver to Buford Dam. The lower section is used primarily for floating, while fishing and picnicking and relaxing in a river environment are more common on the middle and upper sections. The lightest use of the river is seasonal, from September through May.

For rafters, the lower stretch of the river is Class I and 11, ideal for beginners and children. A popular trip for rafters is from the Johnson Ferry put-in to the last take-out point in the National Recreational Area at Paces Mill, just past the I-75 bridge. This 3-mile stretch of the river is often referred to as the Atlanta Hooch. Rental facilities, located at Johnson Ferry and Powers Island units, are open on weekends during May and every day from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Shuttle buses run between units. The park's concessionaire is Chattahoochee Outdoor Center. Rafts may be reserved by calling 770/395-6851. In addition to the rental price, a security deposit is required until the boat is returned. Also, visitors are welcome to put in their own watercraft.

Jones Bridge, Island Ford and the Devil's Racecourse, which runs between the Palisades, are good places to put in a kayak or canoe and play, running back and forth in the rapids. All boaters in the park must have a personal flotation device (PFD) with them and children must be wearing one. As the river's waters are a constant 50 degrees Fahrenheit, swimming is not recommended. Glass containers are prohibited on the river.

Fishing on this stretch of the river, a designated trout stream, is highly popular and can be quite rewarding. Jones Bridge and Island Ford are two very popular areas among waders fishing mostly for trout. A valid Georgia fishing license with trout stamp is required for anyone 16 years of age or older. Fishing is permitted year-round from Buford Dam downstream to the I-285 bridge. On the portion of the river between GA 141 and GA 20, only artificial lures may be used. Refer to current Georgia fishing and trout regulations for further information.

From March through November, guided walks are offered in different park units. Call Park Headquarters or check the bulletin boards in the park units for dates and times. These walks are free to the public.

Although the Chattahoochee River corridor winds through an extremely populated and developed urban area, it is home to an amazing variety of animals, birds and plant life. White-tailed deer, red and gray foxes, mink, river otters and raccoons inhabit the park lands. Great Blue Heron, osprey and golden eagle nest along the river, and great numbers of Canadian geese no longer migrate, but make the Chattahoochee home.

Several city or county parks line the Chattahoochee between Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek. These parks also afford opportunities for launching watercraft, fishing, picnicking and ball playing.

Go to the descriptions of parks along the Chattahoochee, for details on the parks, directions, phone numbers, etc. The CRNRA park units, as well as other river parks between Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek, are listed in order from north to south, upstream to downstream.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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