Take Me to the River
Often less crowded than points closer to downtown Atlanta and just as stunning, the northern section of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) begins at the Buford Dam in Lake Lanier and continues into Peachtree Corners. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy a day on the river.
The best way to access the CRNRA in Gwinnett is via the county-maintained parks at Jones Bridge, Rogers Bridge, or Holcomb Bridge or the National Parks Service’s Medlock Bridge, Abbotts Bridge, or Settles Bridge park units. All offer parking and river access or views and are open sunrise to sunset.
Fishing the Chattahoochee
The river teems with rainbow and brown trout, but you can also reel in bass, crappie, and walleye. Jones Bridge Park and the Settles Bridge park unit are popular areas for bank and fly fishing, and fishing boats are frequently spotted along the river. Local fishing guide (and member of National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame) Bill Vanderford offers guided half- and full-day trips (770-289-1543, georgia fishing.com). Be sure to have a fishing license, as game wardens regularly patrol the river.
Boats & Floats
While tubing remains the most popular way to shoot the Hooch, canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding are great ways to explore the river. You can rent equipment from one of several nearby outfitters (Allsouth Tubing, 678-349-6880, gorivertubing.com), which offer drop-off and pick-up services for two-, four-, or six-hour trips down the river. If you prefer to go it on your own, Abbotts Bridge, Jones Bridge, Rogers Bridge, Medlock Bridge parks, and the Settles Bridge park unit all have boat ramps. (Motorized boats are not permitted at the Settles Bridge park unit or Rogers Bridge Park.) It’s a 15.5-mile cruise from the Settles Bridge park unit to Jones Bridge Park (mile markers along the way will keep you on track). While the water is generally calm, it can get more intense when water is released from Buford Dam. It’s advised to call 770-945-1466 or listen to 1610AM to check water release times. And remember that children under thirteen must wear a lifejacket at all times, and each person on a boat must have a life jacket available.
Know Before You Go
Unless you have a $35 annual National Park Service pass (available at pay.gov), there is a $3 fee to enter any of the park units, and exact change is required. While alcohol is permitted in the CRNRA, it must be in cans or glass bottles.
Hiking the Trails
The moderately difficult 4.6-mile trail at Jones Bridge Park takes you through fields, over bridges and small hills, and past the river and historic Jones Bridge. At the Medlock Bridge park unit, a relatively easy (there are some hills) two-mile trail leads inland and along the river. Just a short distance from the Settles Bridge park unit, Settles Bridge Park offers several miles of wooded trails as well as a 1.6-mile paved trail. Holcomb Bridge Park has a riverside .25-mile walking trail. All trails are marked, with maps at each park unit entrance.