Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area


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.