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Exploring the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta

In landlocked Atlanta, you sometimes need a respite from the concrete jungle. Luckily, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is nearby to answer the call. Running through the northern suburbs of the city, it’s is a top destination for running, walking and biking on shady trails and paved waterside paths as well as floating on its 48 miles of misty waters. Here’s how to get the best out of a day on the Chattahoochee River.

There are 15 land units along the river and several parking areas that provide easy access to its attractions. Spend just a few hours taking in nature on a leisurely stroll or plan a full day out on the water, where you’re sure to see several locals doing the same. You can show up at without a set agenda and let your inner explorer take the lead or, if you prefer to plan ahead, the Island Ford unit is home to the Visitor Center, where you can pick up brochures and trail maps and ask the Rangers questions.

For rafting, boating or paddle boarding, bring your own equipment or rent it from outfitters such as Shoot the HoochHigh Country Outfitters or Nantahala Outdoor Center. Each offers shuttle service and guided river trips. One of the most popular ways to enjoy the river during the summer is by “shooting the Hooch” on an inflatable float. On a sunny day, it’s not uncommon to see lively groups making a day of a motor- and paddle-less trip down the river. Most of the Chattahoochee River flows at a leisurely pace, but sections can contain up to Class 2 rapids so be ready for a bumpy ride around the rocky shoals. The recreation area allows rafts, canoes, kayaks, motorboats and other small boats, but no jet skis. As you float, keep your eyes open for the wildlife and wildflowers that call the area home. And don’t be shy about taking a dip – the water remains cool (rarely above 50 degrees Fahrenheit/10 degrees Celsius) all year long.

Planning an outdoor picnic? There are many tables and even some large pavilions at the different land units. You can also set up your meal on a picturesque rock along the banks. For the history buffs, there are a few historic ruins of bridges, old factories and mills within the recreation area that make good photo ops.

Whatever your visit to the Chattahoochee River has in store, remember that the key to enjoying it isn’t about how far you paddle, run or bike, but about finding your peace with nature in the midst of a bustling Southern city.


Written by Giannina Smith Bedford

Image credits:

Chattahoochee River © Chattahoochee Nature Center

Atlanta's Chattahoochee River © iStock: BluIz60

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