Chattahoochee River

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Chattahoochee River
Chattahoochee River at Jones Bridge Park in Peachtree Corners, Georgia
Chattahoochee watershed.png
Map of the Apalachicola River system with the Chattahoochee highlighted in dark blue.
CountryUnited States
State Georgia, Alabama, Florida
Physical characteristics
Sourcenear Jacks Knob
  location Blue Ridge Mountains, Chattahoochee National Forest, Georgia
  coordinates 34°49′26″N83°47′28″W / 34.82389°N 83.79111°W / 34.82389; -83.79111 [1]
  elevation3,550 ft (1,080 m) [2]
Mouth Apalachicola River
confluence with Flint River, near Jim Woodruff Dam
30°42′32″N84°51′50″W / 30.70889°N 84.86389°W / 30.70889; -84.86389 Coordinates: 30°42′32″N84°51′50″W / 30.70889°N 84.86389°W / 30.70889; -84.86389 [1]
75 ft (23 m) [1]
Length430 mi (690 km) [3]
Basin size8,770 sq mi (22,700 km2) [3]
  average10,090 cu ft/s (286 m3/s) [4]
  minimum0 cu ft/s (0 m3/s)
  maximum195,000 cu ft/s (5,500 m3/s)

The Chattahoochee River forms the southern half of the Alabama and Georgia border, as well as a portion of the Florida - Georgia border. It is a tributary of the Apalachicola River, a relatively short river formed by the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers and emptying from Florida into Apalachicola Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chattahoochee River is about 430 miles (690 km) long. [3] The Chattahoochee, Flint, and Apalachicola rivers together make up the Apalachicola–Chattahoochee–Flint River Basin (ACF River Basin). [3] The Chattahoochee makes up the largest part of the ACF's drainage basin.



Visitors putting their rafts, canoes and kayaks in the Chattahoochee River Busy-Landing-Chattahoochee-NPS.jpg
Visitors putting their rafts, canoes and kayaks in the Chattahoochee River

The source of the Chattahoochee River is located in Jacks Gap at the southeastern foot of Jacks Knob, in the very southeastern corner of Union County, [5] [6] in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains. The headwaters of the river flow south from ridges that form the Tennessee Valley Divide. The Appalachian Trail crosses the river's uppermost headwaters. The Chattahoochee's source and upper course lie within Chattahoochee National Forest.

From its source in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Chattahoochee River flows southwesterly to Atlanta and through its suburbs. It eventually turns due-south to form the southern half of the Georgia/Alabama state line. Flowing through a series of reservoirs and artificial lakes, it flows by Columbus, the third-largest city in Georgia, and the Fort Benning Army base. At Columbus, it crosses the Fall Line of the eastern United States.

From Lake Oliver to Fort Benning, the Chattahoochee Riverwalk provides cycling, rollerblading, and walking along 15 miles (24 km) of the river's banks. Farther south, it merges with the Flint River and other tributaries at Lake Seminole near Bainbridge, to form the Apalachicola River that flows into the Florida Panhandle. The Chattahoochee River ends in the city of Chattahoochee, FL. From there, the same river is then named Apalachicola River, which ends (160 miles away) in the city of Apalachicola, FL (meaning both rivers end in the city named after them). Although the same river, this portion was given a different name by separated settlers in different regions during the colonial times.


The name Chattahoochee is thought to come from a Muskogee word meaning "rocks-marked" (or "painted"), from chato ("rock") plus huchi ("marked"). [1] This possibly refers to the many colorful granite outcroppings along the northeast-to-southwest segment of the river. Much of that segment of the river runs through the Brevard fault zone.


Early history

The vicinity of the Chattahoochee River was inhabited in prehistoric times by indigenous peoples since at least 1000 BC. The Kolomoki Mounds, now protected in the Kolomoki Mounds Historic Park near present-day Blakely in Early County in southwest Georgia, were built from 350 AD to 650 AD and constitute the largest mound complex in the state. [7] [8]

Removal of Native Americans

Among the historical Indigenous nations, the Chattahoochee served as a dividing line between the Muscogee (Creek) (to the east) and the Cherokee territories (to the west) in the Southeast. The Chattahoochee River became the dividing point for the Creek Confederacy, which straddled the river and became known as the Upper Creek Red Sticks and the Lower Creek White Sticks. [9]

The United States removed the Native Americans to extinguish their claims and make way for European-American settlement through a series of treaties, land lotteries, and forced removals lasting from 1820 through 1832. The Muscogee were first removed from the southeastern side of the river, and then the Cherokee from the northwest. [10]

American Civil War

The Chattahoochee River was of considerable strategic importance during the Atlanta Campaign by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman of the American Civil War.

Between the tributaries of Proctor Creek and Nickajack Creek on the Cobb and Fulton county lines in metropolitan Atlanta, are nine remaining fortifications nicknamed "Shoupades" that were part of a defensive line occupied by the Confederate Army in early July 1864. Designed by Confederate Brigadier General Francis A. Shoup, the line became known as Johnston's River Line after Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A month prior to the Battle of Atlanta, Shoup talked with Johnston on June 18, 1864 about building fortifications. Johnston agreed, and Shoup supervised the building of 36 small elevated earth and wooden triangular fortifications, arranged in a sawtooth pattern to maximize the crossfire of defenders. Sherman tried to avoid the Shoupade defenses by crossing the river to the northeast. The nine remaining Shoupades consist of the earthworks portion of the original earth and wooden structures; they are endangered by land development in the area. [11]

Two of the last battles of the war, West Point and Columbus took place at strategically important crossings of the Chattahoochee.

Recent history

Since the nineteenth century, early improvements and alterations to the river were for the purposes of navigation. The river was important for carrying trade and passengers and was a major transportation route.

In the twentieth century, the United States Congress passed legislation in 1944 and 1945 to improve navigation for commercial traffic on the river, as well as to establish hydroelectric power and recreational facilities on a series of lakes to be created by building dams and establishing reservoirs. Creating the manmade, 46,000-acre Walter F. George Lake required evacuating numerous communities, including the historically majority-Native American settlement of Oketeyeconne, Georgia. [12] The lakes were complete in 1963, covering over numerous historic and prehistoric sites of settlement. [13]

Beginning in the late twentieth century, the nonprofit organization called "Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper" has advocated for the preservation of the environment and ecology of the northern part of the river, especially the part traversing Metropolitan Atlanta.

In 2010, a campaign to create a whitewater river course was launched in the portion of the Chattahoochee River that runs through Columbus, Georgia. Between 2010 and 2013, construction took place on the river, the Eagle and Phenix and City Mills Dams were breached and a 2.5 mile Whitewater Course was formed in Uptown, Columbus. The project returned the river to its natural path across the Fall Line, as well as creating the longest urban whitewater course in the world.


Several large manmade reservoirs, including Lanier, Walter F. George, West Point, and George W. Andrews, lakes are controlled by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The dams and reservoirs were developed following legislation by Congress of the mid-1940s for flood control, domestic and industrial water, hydroelectricity, recreation, and improved navigation for river barges. Most of the lakes were completed by 1963. [13] Numerous historic and prehistoric sites were covered over by the lakes during the flooding of the reservoirs, including Oketeyconne, Georgia. [12]

The Georgia Power Company also owns a small series of dams along the middle portion of the river (the Columbus area) between West Point Lake and Lake Walter F. George. Several smaller and older lakes and dams also provide these services on a much smaller and more localized scale, including Bull Sluice Lake, which is held by the Morgan Falls Dam. This dam was built by the Georgia Railway and Power Company in 1902 to provide electric power for the Atlanta trolley system, which has long since been replaced by other forms of transportation.

River borders

The Chattahoochee River in Autumn Fall-View-West-Chattahoochee-NPS.jpg
The Chattahoochee River in Autumn

At various points, the Chattahoochee serves as the boundary between several counties and cities, as well as forming the lower half of the boundary between Alabama and Georgia.

Within Georgia, it divides:


The Ramblin' Raft Race, an annual event in Atlanta, was cancelled in 1980 due to environmental concerns. BOATING ON THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER - NARA - 545944.tif
The Ramblin' Raft Race, an annual event in Atlanta, was cancelled in 1980 due to environmental concerns.

Atlanta is built upon the crest of a large ridge, rather than in the floodplain of the river. This has contributed the preservation of much of the natural scenic beauty of the section that runs through metropolitan Atlanta. North of the metropolis, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area protects other portions of the riverbanks in a region that is spread across several disconnected areas. [14]

The river traverses much of Atlanta's hilly topography of the northern suburbs. Wealthy suburban communities in northern metro Atlanta that abut the river include: Vinings, Buckhead, Sandy Springs, East Cobb, Roswell, Dunwoody, Peachtree Corners, Duluth, Johns Creek, and Berkeley Lake.

Since three states have needs related to the river, there has been increasing controversy since the late twentieth century related to competing development among the regions and the implications for the river. The enormous growth of metropolitan Atlanta has increased its water withdrawals from the river. This has effects downstream. For example, the oysters in the Apalachicola Bay of Florida depend on the brackish water mixture of river and ocean water, and the alternating freshwater and saltwater flows that the river and the tides provide. The amount of flow in the Chattahoochee has also been decreased by interbasin water transfers, where water is withdrawn from the Chattahoochee, but discharged as treated sewage water into another river, such as the Oconee River, which flow to the Atlantic Seaboard via the Altamaha River.

Interest groups and the state of Florida have asked the U.S. Congress to intervene to reduce the priority given to put navigation of the lower Chattahoochee, south of Columbus, by river barge. This requirement causes large water withdrawals, which environmental supporters consider a waste of water needed to support habitats, especially during droughts. The navigation issue has aggravated the fight between Georgia, Florida, and Alabama over rights to the river water. A lawsuit has been filed in the case to reduce priorities given to navigation. The lawsuit is now in court, and may take years to resolve.[ when? ]


The most recent major flooding of the Chattahoochee River took place in November 2009. This was caused by torrential rains from Tropical Storm Ida as it tore through the Georgia Piedmont. Downstream from Roswell, the Chattahoochee River remained in moderate flood stage. Streams affected by the September 2009 floods included the following:

The second most recent major flood along the river occurred during the 2009 Georgia floods, with 28.10 feet (8.56 m) of water recorded at Vinings at the northwestern Atlanta city limit. The flood was over 5 feet (1.5 m) higher than the previous flood recorded in September 2004, as a result of Hurricane Fred. Numerous tributaries also swelled far over and beyond their banks. These were the highest water levels seen since 1990, and the second-highest ever since the large Buford Dam was built upstream. The National Weather Service in Peachtree City estimated that this was a 500-year flood event.


The main stream gauges are located:

Water-level forecasts are regularly issued only at Vinings and Atlanta. Forecasts are issued only during high water at Norcross, Whitesburg, West Point, and the Lake Walter F. George and Andrews Dams. All other locations have observations only.


The Upper Chattahoochee River Campground north of Helen, White County, Georgia Chattahoochee River.jpg
The Upper Chattahoochee River Campground north of Helen, White County, Georgia
Chattahoochee River at River Park on Willeo Road, Fulton County, Georgia River park, fulton county, georgia.jpg
Chattahoochee River at River Park on Willeo Road, Fulton County, Georgia
The Chattahoochee River at the Devil's Shoals, East Palisades Park, Fulton County, Georgia Devil's Shoals.JPG
The Chattahoochee River at the Devil's Shoals, East Palisades Park, Fulton County, Georgia
Sweetwater Creek 16 23 036 sweetwater.jpg
Sweetwater Creek

Tributary creeks, streams, and rivers, as well as lakes, along with the county they are in:

Note that the above list is incomplete, and that each item is not in the exact order in which it joins the Chattahoochee. (For confluences now inundated by lakes, it may be impossible to determine from current maps exactly where they were.)

The beauty of the Chattahoochee River is commemorated in the poem The Song of the Chattahoochee (1877), [29] by the noted Georgian poet Sidney Lanier. Lake Lanier on the Chattahoochee is named for him.

Country music artist Alan Jackson released his song "Chattahoochee" in 1993 as a single off his album A Lot About Livin' (And a Little 'bout Love) (the name of the album being the last line of the aforementioned song's chorus). "Chattahoochee" received Country Music Association awards for Single of the Year and Song of the Year. [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

Muscogee County, Georgia County in Georgia, United States

Muscogee County is a county located on the central western border of the U.S. state of Georgia; its western border with the state of Alabama is formed by the Chattahoochee River. As of the 2010 census, the population was 189,885. Its county seat and only city is Columbus, with which it has been a consolidated city-county since the beginning of 1971.

Fulton County, Georgia County in Georgia, United States

Fulton County is located in the north-central portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. As of the 2020 United States census, the population was 1,066,710, making it the state's most-populous county and its only one with over one million inhabitants. Its county seat and largest city is Atlanta, the state capital. Approximately 90% of the City of Atlanta is within Fulton County; the other 10% lies within DeKalb County. Fulton County is part of the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Chattahoochee County, Georgia County in Georgia, United States

Chattahoochee County, also known as Cusseta-Chattahoochee County, is a county located on the western border in central Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,267. The county seat is Cusseta, with which the county shares a consolidated city-county government. The city of Cusseta remains a geographically distinct municipality within Chattahoochee County. The county was created on February 13, 1854.

Roswell, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Roswell is a city in northern Fulton County, Georgia, United States. At the official 2010 census, the city had a population of 88,346. The 2019 estimated population was 94,763, making Roswell the state's ninth largest city. A close suburb of Atlanta, Roswell has an affluent historic district.

Columbus, Georgia Consolidated city-county in the United States

Columbus is a consolidated city-county located on the west-central border of the U.S. state of Georgia. Columbus lies on the Chattahoochee River directly across from Phenix City, Alabama. It is the county seat of Muscogee County, with which it officially merged in 1970. Columbus is the second-largest city in Georgia, and fields the state's fourth-largest metropolitan area. According to the 2020 United States census, Columbus has a population of 206,922 residents, with 328,883 in the Columbus metropolitan area. The metro area joins the nearby Alabama cities of Auburn and Opelika to form the Columbus–Auburn–Opelika Combined Statistical Area, which has an estimated population of 486,645 in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Tallulah River

The Tallulah River is a 47.7-mile-long (76.8 km) river in Georgia and North Carolina. It begins in Clay County, North Carolina, near Standing Indian Mountain in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness and flows south into Georgia, crossing the state line into Towns County. The river travels through Rabun County and ends in Habersham County. It cuts through the Tallulah Dome rock formation to form the Tallulah Gorge and its several waterfalls. The Tallulah River intersects with the Chattooga River to form the Tugaloo River at Lake Tugalo in Habersham County. It joins South Carolina's Seneca River at Lake Hartwell to form the Savannah River, which flows southeastward into the Atlantic Ocean.

Flint River (Georgia) River in Georgia, United States

The Flint River is a 344-mile-long (554 km) 255 river in the U.S. state of Georgia. The river drains 8,460 square miles (21,900 km2) of western Georgia, flowing south from the upper Piedmont region south of Atlanta to the wetlands of the Gulf Coastal Plain in the southwestern corner of the state. Along with the Apalachicola and the Chattahoochee rivers, it forms part of the ACF basin. In its upper course through the red hills of the Piedmont, it is considered especially scenic, flowing unimpeded for over 200 miles (320 km). Historically, it was also called the Thronateeska River.

There were several historic mills around the metro Atlanta area, for which many of its current-day roads are still named. Most of the mills date back to the 1820s and 1830s, and were built along the area's many streams. The locations of many of these mills are shown on a map of 1875 showing U. S. military operations around Atlanta in 1864. This map is now located in the U. S. Library of Congress but can be seen on the webpage linked here.

Historic ferries operated on rivers around Atlanta, Georgia area, and became namesakes for numerous current-day roads in north Georgia. Most of the ferries date to the early years of European-American settlement in the 1820s and 1830s, when Cherokee and other Native Americans still occupied part of what became Georgia.

Lake Lanier Reservoir in Georgia, United States

Lake Lanier is a reservoir in the northern portion of the U.S. state of Georgia. It was created by the completion of Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River in 1956, and is also fed by the waters of the Chestatee River. The lake encompasses 38,000 acres (150 km2) or 59 square miles (150 km2) of water, and 692 miles (1,114 km) of shoreline at normal level, a "full pool" of 1,071 feet (326 m) above mean sea level and the exact shoreline varies by resolution according to the coastline paradox. Named for Confederate Army poet Sidney Lanier, it was built and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for flood control and water supplies. Its construction destroyed more than 50,000 acres (20,000 ha) of farmland and displaced more than 250 families, 15 businesses, and relocated 20 cemeteries along with their corpses in the process.

Nancy Creek (Atlanta)

Nancy Creek is a 16.3-mile-long (26.2 km) stream in northern Atlanta, Georgia, United States. It begins in far northern DeKalb County, just north of Chamblee, and flows southwestward into Fulton County, through the far southeast corner of Sandy Springs, then through the Buckhead area of Atlanta. It empties into Peachtree Creek, which then flows into the Chattahoochee River, south of Vinings and Paces. The Chattahoochee eventually joins with the Flint River to create the Apalachicola River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The North Fork Nancy Creek is a major tributary, while Little Nancy Creek tends to run low or dry. Other tributaries include Bubbling Creek which originates in Chamblee, Perimeter Creek which originates in Dunwoody and Silver Creek which includes the 38-acre Silver Lake and Little Silver Lake.

The Chestatee River is a 32.76-mile-long (52.72 km) river in the Appalachian Mountains of northern Georgia, USA.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area National park in the state of Georgia, USA

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) preserves a series of sites between Atlanta and Lake Sidney Lanier along the Chattahoochee River in Georgia, U.S. The 48-mile (77 km) stretch of the river affords public recreation opportunities and access to historic sites. The national recreation area, a National Park Service unit, was established on August 15, 1978, by President Jimmy Carter.

Johns Creek, Georgia City in Georgia, United States

Johns Creek is a city in Fulton County, Georgia, United States. According to the 2020 census, the population was 82,453. The city is a northeastern suburb of Atlanta.

Vickery Creek

Big Creek or Vickery Creek is a 26.5-mile-long (42.6 km) stream in Forsyth and Fulton counties in Georgia. The creek mouth into the Chattahoochee River is located at the southern border of Roswell where State Route 9 crosses the river. Its source is located just north of the intersection of Georgia State Route 9 and Georgia State Route 20, in Forsyth County, about 1 mile directly south of downtown Cumming.

There were several historic bridges around the metro Atlanta, Georgia area, for which many of its current-day roads are named. Many of them originated as ferries, dating back to the 1820s and 1830s, and carrying travelers across the Chattahoochee River and several other smaller rivers. Several were also covered bridges, very few of which remain as historic sites.

Atlanta metropolitan area Metropolitan area in Georgia, United States

Metro Atlanta, designated by the United States Office of Management and Budget as the Atlanta–Sandy Springs–Alpharetta, GA Metropolitan Statistical Area, is the most populous metro area in the US state of Georgia and the eighth-largest metropolitan statistical area (MSA) in the United States. Its economic, cultural and demographic center is Atlanta, and has a total population of 6,144,050 according to the 2021 ACS estimate from the US Census Bureau. The metro area forms the core of a broader trading area, the Atlanta–Athens-Clarke–Sandy Springs Combined Statistical Area. The Combined Statistical Area spans up to 39 counties in north Georgia and has a total 2020 census population of 6,930,423. Atlanta is the second-largest metropolitan region in the Census Bureau's Southeast region, behind Greater Washington. It surpassed the Greater Miami area in 2021.

The 2009 Southeastern United States floods were a group of floods that affected several counties throughout northern Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The worst flooding occurred across the Atlanta metropolitan area. Continuous rain, spawned by moisture pulled from the Gulf of Mexico, fell faster than the local watersheds could drain the runoff.

Willeo Creek

Willeo Creek is a 6.7-mile-long (10.8 km) stream in the U.S. state of Georgia, and is located in the north-northwestern part of metro Atlanta. It is a significant tributary of the Chattahoochee River, into which it flows at Bull Sluice Lake, just upstream from Morgan Falls Dam and downstream from the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Together, the two streams form nearly all of the county line between Fulton to the east and Cobb to the west.

West Point Lake

West Point Lake is a man-made reservoir located mostly in west-central Georgia on the Chattahoochee River and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The Chattahoochee river flows in from the north, before flowing through the West Point Dam, which impounds the lake, and continuing to Columbus, Georgia. Of the four major USACE lakes in the ACF River Basin, West Point Lake is the smallest by area containing 25,864 acres (10,467 ha) of water, and has the second shortest shoreline at 604 mi (972 km). The purposes of the reservoir are to provide flood control, hydroelectric power, and water storage to aid the navigation of the lower Chattahoochee.


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