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Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area - BEST Places to Picnic

1978 Island Ford Parkway
Sandy Springs, GA 30350

Island Ford Visitor Center

Explore An Ancient River in a Modern City

Today the river valley attracts us for so many reasons. Take a solitary walk to enjoy nature�s display, raft leisurely through the rocky shoals with friends, fish the misty waters as the sun comes up, or have a picnic on a Sunday afternoon. Experience your Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.


Northbound GA 400 - Take exit #6 (Northridge Road). Coming off the exit, stay in the right lane, cross over GA 400, and turn right onto Dunwoody Place. Go 0.5 miles to Roberts Drive. Turn right and proceed 0.7 miles to the park entrance on your right.

Southbound GA 400 - Take exit #6 (Northridge Road). Continue straight ahead at the traffic light onto Dunwoody Place. Go 0.5 miles to Roberts Drive. Turn right and proceed 0.7 miles to the park entrance on your right.

Call the Visitor Contact Station at 678-538-1200 if you have any questions.

Places to Picnic

  • Abbott's Bridge
  • Chattahoochee River Park
  • Gold Branch
  • Island Ford Park Headquaters
  • Johnson Ferry
  • Jones Bridge
  • Jones Bridge Park
  • Paces Mill
  • Palisades
  • Riverside Park
  • Sope Creek
  • Medlock Bridge
  • Vickery Creek
  • Whitewater Creek

Plan Your Visit

The Chattahoochee National Recreation Area contains 16 park units with a total of 50 miles of hiking trails, a Visitor Contact Station at the Island Ford Unit, numerous picnic areas, canoe, kayak and raft rentals. For more information click on Things to Do or call the Visitor Contact Station at 678-538-1200.

The Chattahoochee River is a stocked trout stream with 23 species of game fish. Year-round fishing is available with a Georgia fishing license and a trout stamp.

Things to Do

The Chattahoochee River is a great place for a picnic, a leisurely walk, or boating on a sunny afternoon. The 48 miles of the river that the park contains can take up the whole day or just a few hours for a quick getaway from the fast pace of the city life.

In the Cochran Shoals area, bike riding is permitted (on designated trails) and a mountain bike area is provided for the more daring. Horseback riding enthusiasts can travel to Bowmans Island for a peaceful ride on the trails there.


The southern Appalachian Mountains are ancient mountains. Once as tall and rugged as the Alps, these ancient mountains have been changed by the hand of geologic time. Today they are cloaked in a dense mantel of diverse vegetation; oak, hickory, and hemlock; rhododendron, laurel, wildflowers and ferns. These mountains are home to the bear, turkey, and salamander.

This rugged wilderness gives rise to an ancient river, the Chattahoochee. Seeping from a small patch of sand and gravel on the south slope of Jacks Knob; just 100 meters south of Chattahoochee Gap on the Appalachian Trail. Fed by many springs and tiny tributaries, the river grows quickly as it travels down the steep mountainside.

With cascades, crashing falls, and crystal clear water, the river, rushing about boulder and log, leaves the Appalachians, traverses the piedmont province, enters the coastal plain, and finally adds its waters to the Gulf of Mexico to create the nursery of the Apalachicola. It was, according to some geologists, a greater river that created this corridor. However, over the millennia, tributary waters were taken by the savannah and Tennessee Rivers through Geologic stream capture.

Through the millions of years and the grand changes of the Earth, the river stayed its course under the influence of the Brevard Fault. In very recent times, geologically speaking, the river was shrouded in a dense cloak of fog providing protective insulation for broad-leafed hardwoods and herbaceous plants. 

As the ice receded in the far north and the climate warmed, the plants migrated from the river corridor disbursed by water, wind, and wildlife. In time the piedmont and mountains held a rich and abundant diversity of natural resources. The ancient Chattahoochee continued to flow from the mountains and across the piedmont. Our term, Piedmont, comes from the Italian word, piemonte, �at the foot of the mountains�. 

Once mountainous itself, the piedmont has worn to rolling hills, punctuated by the occasional lone mountain and dissected by steep stream ravines.

And so it was this wealth of resources, some 8,000 years ago; not ever eyes blink in geologic time; attracted humans. Palieo, Archaic, Woodland, Mississippian, and finally, during historic times, Cherokee and Creek all used the river corridor in turn. Soon persons from Europe and Africa entered the piedmont. Coexistence was replaced by removal because of rich farmlands, abundant water power, and very high grade gold. 

Mills along Rottenwood, Sope, and Vickery Creeks produced flour, cornmeal paper, and textiles. Farms flourished and gold was removed from hillsides and streambeds. The mills; operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; employed hundreds of workers. That is until July of 1864 when General William T. Sherman arrived with his army. The mills were burned, many skilled workers were exiled to the north, and surprising the army of the south; Union Forces crossed the river at Sope Creek flanking the Confederates.

Over time much was rebuilt, some enterprises succeeded, some faded away, times were often difficult along the river.


The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) consists of a 48-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River and 14 land units along its corridor. It begins at Lake Lanier's Buford Dam, near Buford, Georgia, and continues downstream through four counties to Peachtree Creek near downtown Atlanta. 

CRNRA provides outdoor recreation for more than 3 million visitors a year. It is an important resource for this urban area that is experiencing unprecedented population growth and development.

CRNRA is a 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, 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, as the locals will say, "shoot the 'hooch", hike the trails along its banks, fish in its cold water, and simply relax.

Wildlife is abundant in the park. Some animals you will see every time you visit CRNRA and some, like the playful river otter, will delight you with a rare appearance.

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