Our final National Park Site to visit in Georgia was Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Although the Chattahoochee River itself is 430 miles long, the National Recreation Area runs along 48 miles of the river, primarily in the urban area in and around Atlanta. Thus it is a haven of green in an increasingly large metro area.
Tom and I went to the park headquarters and Visitors Center at Island Ford, just north of Atlanta. There is a tiny museum which describes the history of people with the river and a larger gift shop. Both are located in the historic Hewlett Lodge on the bank of the river. We spent some time talking to a ranger and asked for a hiking trail recommendation. The temperature was in the 30’s but it was sunny.
The ranger recommended the Island Ford South trails. This is a series of trails that can be combined for a shorter or longer walk. The terrain varies from flat, along the river, to hillside, so we could climb up and down as much as we wanted. We hiked a two mile loop that let us spend time by the river and see the stone shelters the early indigenous people used as shelters. We also did some of the up and down to stay warm.
Because the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is so urban, the park charges a minimal daily parking fee. Many Atlanta residents buy annual passes so they can come in and out as they please. We used our volunteer pass.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has 15 parts that are not currently connected together. Different parts of the park allow for different recreational opportunities. There is lots of hiking, fishing, and floating on the river. Several sites are also historically significant including the ruins of a couple of mills. Like most urban parks, there are plenty of tables and shelters for picnicking.
The park reminded us of Cuyahoga Valley National Park – located in an urban area along the river. The hilly terrain and plant life were also familiar. Cuyahoga Valley, however, has the Towpath Trail which connects the park and allows biking along its entire length. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area needs something similar so that the parts of the park are connected. The ranger told us they are working on it and have several parts connected by a bike trail which was just completed recently.
The name Chattahoochee comes from a Muskogean word meaning “rocks-marked.” Much of the Recreation Area runs through the Brevard fault zone and has lots of colorful granite outcroppings. People in Georgia refer to the river as “The Hooch”.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a beautiful place and a great asset for the Atlanta area. Of course, my favorite thing was getting the last stamp that I needed for National Park Sites in Georgia. Another state done!