Chattahoochee River Recreation Near Urban Atlanta

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July 4, 2009

General Info: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area includes 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River and shoreline just outside of Atlanta, GA. Country music fans may recognize the name from the hit Alan Jackson song dedicated to the river. Most of the river flows at a lazy pace but parts of it can surge up to Class 2 rapids. The park is divided into 16 different recreation areas offering hours of outdoor activities.

the-chattahoochee-river-is-one-of-the-oldest-and-most-stable-river-channels-within-the-united-statesHours and Fees: The park is open for day-use only, from dawn to dusk year-round. The visitor center at Island Ford is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except for Christmas Day. Entrance is $3 per vehicle per day. For specific park information call the visitor center at 678-538-1200.

Aquatic Activities: Grab a Georgia fishing license and a trout stamp then cast a line in the Chattahoochee for one of the 23 species of stocked game fish. You have several options for getting out on the water year-round: by raft, canoe, kayak, motor boat or other small vessels. The river is accessible by boat in six different places. If you don’t have a boat or didn’t bring it along, the park has several vendors licensed to rent canoes, kayaks, rafts, and tubes for day use on the river. Jet skis are not allowed on the Chattahoochee.

tree-lined-banks-and-chattahoochee-shoalsRiverbank Activities: Bring snacks for a picnic along the wooded riverbank picnic areas. Walking and biking trails in the Cochran Shoals area allow you to view the beautiful wildflowers or fall foliage, depending on the season. You can also watch for wildlife like rabbit, deer and 240 species of birds! Bowman’s Island features trails for hiking and horse riding.

Safety: There are a number of special safety regulations about the river that you should review before your visit. For example, the river stays about 50°F year-round, so hypothermia is a risk no matter how warm the air is in summer. Since the river is highly urbanized, daily bacteria alerts are available to check the safety of the water before you swim, wade or boat.

Weather: Right in the middle of the Deep South, the Atlanta area has hot and humid summers. Wear breathable, light-weight clothing for maximum comfort and remember to stay hydrated. Winters are mild, while spring and fall see temperate conditions.

Camping Info: There are no camping facilities in the park itself, but you’ll find a variety of private campgrounds in the surrounding communities. You can park the RV up in Buford at the Shoal Creek campground near Lake Sidney Lanier. It has 103 sites (12×40’) with water and electrical hookups (30 amp) only. Or you can check the Trailer Life Directory for RV campgrounds in the greater Atlanta area.

If you’re from Georgia or have visited Chattahoochee National Recreation Area in the past, please chime in with your stories and tips! Your insights can help others have a fantastic trip.

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  3. David,
    Thanks for the cautionary reminder! It’s always tragic when a nice summer outing turns fatal. People should always heed posted signs and obey local rules about swimming or wading in bodies of water. Thank you for sharing some great information about the river and area history.

  4. David Hopkins

    Don’t even begin to think that the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta is Alan Jackson’s Chattahoochee. He was from Newnan, Georgia, southwest of Atlanta, and the river is wider and more dangerous there. It’s about 6 or 8 miles northwest of town. It continues to flow southwest until it becomes the Georgia/Alabama border. It flows through Columbus where textile mills used it for power late in the 19th century.

    It’s a beautiful river but it’s dangerous as it flows through Columbus and meanders south. The smooth surface belies the undercurrents that have taken many lives of those who think they can swim across.

    It becomes Lake Eufaula (officially, it’s Lake Walter F. George) where trophy largemouth bass are abundant.

    Incidentally, if you travel north of Atlanta to Helen, Georgia, you can almost jump across it. It’s cold and clear and only about 10 feet wide.