Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, Georgia, Hiking, National Parks & Monuments, State Parks, United States, Work Travel Life

Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee

Work finally took me back to Atlanta, the first time since January 2020. The years have seemed to fly by and it was good to be visiting an old friend, as I typically would have to travel to Atlanta around five times a year. Thanks to my hotel being located in the northern part of the city, I realized I would be able to nab my 54th National Park Service unit with an easy eight mile Uber trip!

Armed with knowledge from an 1990s Alan Jackson song and the official website, I hailed a late afternoon Uber to the Island Ford unit after the day’s conference activities had wrapped up. Sitting indoors in a conference center always leaves me a bit antsy, so it was time to escape the HVAC and city… Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, here I come!

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area was established in 1978 and covers 48 miles of the river in the Atlanta area. There are fifteen water and land units that make up the recreation area. The visitor center and ranger station is in the Island Ford unit, which is located near Sandy Springs. The visitor center is open 9am-5pm daily, and has a small gift shop and passport stamps. Island Ford itself is open dawn to dusk daily. GPS services, like Google Maps (and whatever Uber utilizes) will try to take the shortest route, which leads to a gated road. It is best reached by by utilizing the “8800 Roberts Drive, Sandy Springs, GA” point, and then turning down the paved road and following Island Ford Parkway to the end by the visitor center. (maybe a mile or so?).

After a large parking lot, you will find the Hewlett Lodge Visitor Center
Hewlett Lodge was once the Summer home of Georgia Superior Court Justice Samuel Hewlett. Construction began in the 1930s, using timber from the near the Okeefenokee Swamp and stone from Stone Mountain.

GPS directions can be notoriously unreliable, for national park units and naturally Uber did not know the correct way and took us through a residential neighbor to a gated road. I jumped out at the closure gate, knowing the visitor center was just over the hill, ensuring the driver it was quite alright and I was where I needed to be. The visitor center was my first stop, and my whole experience there still makes me chuckle because I was probably a bit much. I bounded in, first buying a new America the Beautiful annual federal lands pass since my previous one expired at the end of October. Then I excitingly started spouting about passport stamps as I pulled both of my passport books out of my bag. I wasn’t done, deciding to purchase a souvenir patch (I’ve moved on from fridge magnets) and request a junior ranger book. To cap it off, something in me compelled the words “I just had to come see if it’s hotter than a hoochie coochie here!” out of my mouth to the rangers, who did not seem that amused at my energy. Hey, not my fault my whole knowledge base of this river is an Alan Jackson song…

Bringing the national park energy, what can I say?

Visitor center chores completed, it was time to get in a short evening hike before heading back to the hotel. I was filled with glee that it was still fall in Georgia, as the leaves had long fallen back home in Wyoming. I found my way to the riverbanks and started on the trail. All trail junctions are signed, making navigation easy. Even better, everyone was so darn friendly on the trail! I’m use to Colorado hiking where half the people just glare at you or pretend you do not exist if you say “hi” on the trail, so the utter friendliness of everyone hiking this evening in Georgia was a bit shocking, in a pleasing way!

Look at this foliage!
Catching glimpses of the river as I kicked through the thick fallen leaves
Behold, the Chattahoochee River! I did not see Alan Jackson waterskiing, to my disappointment.
The trail was leaf covered the whole time, much to my delight, as we just don’t have that back in Wyoming and Colorado!
One of the trail splits, with a helpful sign with current location and trail map
“Chattahoochee” is believed to be a Cherokee word meaning “river of painted rock.”
No matter where I go, I will find the majestic Canadian goose, and photograph it
One of the natural rock shelters along the trail, which were used by Native Americans
Tree tunnel!
Another great rock shelter
Enjoying some fall colors that are not just yellow
I like how the trail just cuts through this fallen tree
More geese and rocks in the river
Great tree on the riverbanks
I was all about autumn this year, probably because Wyoming actually had a prolonged autumn for once, so the fact I got to enjoy it a bit more in Georgia… well, that meant photos of all the leaves!
Geology, moss, leaves, dead trees
The trail turned away from the Chattahoochee and begin gently ascending a hill
More leaves. Sorry.
Tall trees!
Evening sun
More tall trees
This environment is just so different than what I’m use to, so I was soaking it up!

After just about 2 miles I popped out into the parking lot at the start of Island Ford Parkway. I ordered another Uber, which was going to take about twenty minutes to arrive, so I wandered down to the entrance sign to nab a photo, and then hung out on a picnic table.

Fee station
Entrance sign photo

A very short, but sweet visit! My hike took about 52 minutes to complete, so overall I spent maybe an hour and a half at the unit. Perfect for an evening with an early setting sun, and just what I needed after airplane and hotel air for the past day!

Map of my route

2 thoughts on “Way Down Yonder on the Chattahoochee”

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