State News

November 11, 2012

Ga. river could take Appalachian hikers to coast

ATLANTA (AP) — A river with a history of ferry boats and Civil War battles may one day provide a new route for hikers who finish the Appalachian Trail to continue south until they reach the Gulf of Mexico, a national conservation group says.

Leaders envision the Chattahoochee River as a way to allow Appalachian Trail hikers to reach the Gulf either on trails along its banks or in a canoe or kayak on the river. The trail already stretches from Maine to north Georgia.

The Chattahoochee’s headwaters, in the north Georgia mountains, are near the trail’s southernmost section.

“The idea is that someone looking for adventure could hike the Appalachian Trail, and then get off the trail and go to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee,” said Curt Soper, the Georgia-Alabama state director of the Trust for Public Land. The nonprofit has worked for years to acquire land in the area and make it available to its partners, such as the National Park Service. The new route could become a reality within the next decade, Soper said.

The trust has already acquired and set aside 17,000 acres of land that touch 76 river miles from the Chattahoochee’s headwaters to Columbus, Soper said.

The trust is also working on a project known as the Chattahoochee Valley Blueway, which involves 52 miles of the river from the city of West Point to Columbus, southwest of Atlanta near the Alabama line. The aim of that project, expected to be completed in the next three years, is to create a so-called “canoe trail,” a well-marked waterway with several places to launch canoes and kayaks, Soper said.

In metro Atlanta, there are already more than 70 miles of hiking trails along or near the river within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, created in 1978 by former President Jimmy Carter.

Soper and others believe there’s great interest in such projects.

“The idea of a way to walk from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico is a wonderful idea that I think would generate a lot of interest and passion and would be wonderful if some way, somehow we could make that work,” said Patricia Barmeyer, an Atlanta lawyer who serves on the Georgia advisory council of the Trust for Public Land.

One of the most recent land transactions was announced last year in Johns Creek, where names like McGinnis Ferry Road harken to the days when ferries used to carry residents and goods across the river. At a small ceremony near the historic Rogers Bridge over the river, city leaders joined Trust for Public Land officials to announce the donation of 22 acres of land to expand the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.

The area is rich in history. The site was once a meeting ground between the rival Cherokee and Creek Indians, whose nations were separated by the Chattahoochee, according to historical documents from the city of Johns Creek. The tribes considered the area a sacred place and held peace talks there.

The Chattahoochee also played a key role in the U.S. Civil War, when Confederate gunboats patrolled the river and soldiers built forts along the water to try and stop Union forces from reaching Atlanta.

In the north Georgia mountain town of Helen, some businesses offer shuttle services to bring hikers from the Appalachian Trail into town, said Jerry Brown, executive director of the Alpine Helen/White County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. Hikers frequently use the post office in Helen to get packages or supplies or mail items they no longer need back home, he said.

The idea that hikers on the Appalachian Trail would be able to continue their journey on the Chattahoochee or its banks is an appealing one because the river runs through the town, Brown said.

South of Columbus, the Chattahoochee forms the Georgia-Alabama state line.

A hiking trail could be on either side of the river, which would offer some flexibility in creating it, said Tony Aeck, an architect who serves on the Trust for Public Land’s Georgia advisory council.

After the Chattahoochee crosses the Georgia-Florida line, it becomes the Apalachicola River and flows across Florida’s panhandle, entering the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay.

“It would be a natural extension and a beneficial one for us,” said Anita Grove, executive director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce in Apalachicola, Fla.

Vast amounts of public land exist along and around the Apalachicola River, Grove said.

Homer Witcher, a 70-year-old hiker from Daleville, Va., said he’s supportive of the idea. Witcher has hiked the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, and plans to hike it again in a few years.

“Any time you can have more trails, it’s good, I think,” Witcher said.

However, an extended trek to or from the Gulf Coast would be more difficult because of concerns about cold weather farther north and in higher elevations, he said.

Many hikers take five or six months to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

 

1
Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014