An emerging trend across the nation is the designation of “blueways.” In spring 2012, the Department of the Interior initiated a system of waterways with boat launch points and camping sites, intended to protect the natural landscape while at the same time allowing for recreational uses such as paddling and kayaking.
The first National Blueway consists of more than 400 miles of the Connecticut River, extending across Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
In our state, the Georgia River Network (garivers.org/gwtc) is promoting a system of Georgia Water Trails that’s making our abundant waterway resources accessible to the public. This includes urban areas as well as more remote rural locations.
A water trail is somewhat different from a blueway because it consists of one or several segments of a river that are given special status for protection and recreational use. A blueway includes the entire watershed of the river.
In the water trails category, the Chattahoochee was the first to receive that status nationwide in 2012. Forty-eight miles of river, starting below Buford Dam, are connecting with 70 miles of hiking trails. Along the southward bound water trail, places of interest like the Buford Trout Hatchery alternate with picnic and camping spots. Jones Bridge Park in Gwinnett County is followed by Island Ford Park and Riverside Park in Roswell. Fulton County features Chattahoochee River Park and Morgan Falls Park.
On the last 10 miles of the water trail, Cochran Shoals and Long Island Shoals have visitors approaching the outskirts of Atlanta. For now, the first National Water Trail ends where Peachtree Creek flows into the Chattahoochee near Marietta Boulevard.
The National Park Service has the trail open from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Those who don’t want to try and cover all 48 miles in one day can access the Chattahoochee Water Trail from launch points spaced 3 to 5 miles apart.
Among the many scenic points along the route, one of the most impressive sights is the contrast between busy Interstate 285 where it crosses the river and the quiet forest landscape that follows immediately at Paces Mill.
For a water trail north of Buford Dam, the upper Chattahoochee offers 36 river miles with 10 access points, extending from Sautee Creek to Clarks Bridge Park. Event and trail information is provided by Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, www.chattahoochee.org.
Rudi Kiefer, Ph.D., is a professor of physical science and director of sustainability at Brenau University. His column appears Sundays and at gainesvilletimes.com.