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 Top Row Dawg
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Georgia Natural Wonder #182 - Chattahoochee River - Bull Sluice Lake
February 26, 2021 02:04AM

Georgia Natural Wonder #182 - Chattahoochee River - Bull Sluice Lake

We floated the Chattahoochee River down from Buford Dam to Holcomb Bridge Road in our last few wonders. We took 3 tangents on Forsyth County and 1 on North Gwinnett County. The beauty of the Chattahoochee River is commemorated in the epic poem The Song of the Chattahoochee (1877), by the noted Georgian poet Sidney Lanier. Lake Lanier is named for him, but he never made it down to here.

Today's float is all Fulton County, and we get get held up by our first dam since Buford Dam. Island Ford Park is our next recreation area and it doesn’t seem to attract the weekend crowds of some of the other Atlanta-area parks on the Chattahoochee River, like the ultra-popular trails at Cochran Shoals.

But that’s a bonus, as far as we’re concerned: the Island Ford Trail packs in a ton of woodland beauty and scenic river views along its length, but with ample parking and some mid-forest serenity.

This park’s lack of crowds seem to draw more local wildlife alongside the trail, too: we’ve seen more deer, turtles, and geese at this park than any other of our favorite trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in metro Atlanta.

Island Ford Park hosts three miles of hiking trails following the broad, smooth-flowing Chattahoochee River just north of Atlanta. It’s a fantastic beginner-friendly and kid-friendly hike, exploring a wildlife and wildflower-filled forest, and visits several large cave-like rock outcrops on a wide loop.

The adventure begins at the park’s historic log park headquarters built in the 1930s, dropping elevation to the banks of the Chattahoochee River. The hike turns left at the river’s edge, crossing a wooden bridge and diving into the forest flanking the river shoreline.

The trail follows the contours of the river’s banks, hiking past large, cave-like overhanging rock outcrops. According to archeologists, these caves likely provided shelter to the early Native American tribes that lived and hunted in the wildlife-rich Chattahoochee River valley.

The route arcs westbound, gaining elevation, departing the widening river, and beginning the loop portion of this hike. Wildlife frequent the more remote stretches of the park; hike quietly for a chance to spot deer, geese, and turtles.

The trail crosses several trickling streams, rolling elevation through a young hardwood forest over several moderately elevated ridges. Ferns and native grasses stretch toward the dappled sunlight beneath the forest canopy. And native Georgia wildflowers, including the three-leafed trillium, thrive here in the springtime.

The loop descends back to the banks of the Chattahoochee River, dropping to reach the riverside trail. At the river’s banks, the hike turns south, retracing its outbound route to the Island Ford Park trail head. Reaching the historic log park office, the hike completes the adventure at 2 miles.

Riverside Drive goes down the West bank of the river for several miles. It maintains its River aspect with shoals across the river at several points. There are some older houses here as it looks like floodplain to me.

The Roswell Riverwalk trail runs from Don White Park at the GA400 underpass to Willeo Park near the Cobb county line.

Looking up stream from Hwy. 400 overpass.

This paved route runs approximately 5 miles along the river. There are multiple parking points for visitors visiting the trail and users will pass various parks and facilities along the way including Don White Park, Riverside Park, Azalea Park, and Willeo Park. Many of these have different facilities including playgrounds, boat rentals, picnic areas, bathrooms, etc. A great trail for users of all skill levels with long-range views of the Chattahoochee and the wetlands. The park also provides access to the Chattahoochee Nature Center and additional connections to the Roswell Historic District.

Roswell Road passes over river.

Accessibility: Off of Riverside Road at the start of the route there are two paved parking lots with designated handicapped-accessible parking spaces and three striped access aisles. The trail surface is paved and typically at least six feet wide. The estimated grade is mostly gentle (all 5% or less) so most wheelchair/mobility equipment and stroller users will likely be able to navigate the trail.

Very easy trail. Very relaxing walk by the river. The boardwalk is well maintained and it was nice to have access to restrooms. Comfortable benches and plenty of geese!

The path is mostly wood and some concrete. Very scenic views from many angles. We were pleasantly surprised by the many river access points.

Future plans will connect this to Lower Roswell to allow users to reach Gold Branch letting you hike Vickery Creek (GNW #144) to Gold Branch and probably put a good 10 to 15 miles of hiking between the two without ever getting in a car. A bonus for families is multiple playgrounds along the route, as well as bathrooms.

Chattahoochee Nature Center.

Willeo Park.

Bull Sluice Lake, 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.

Bull Sluice Lake is a small reservoir located along the Chattahoochee River in northern Georgia, in the northern suburbs of metro Atlanta. It is 673 acres, and is impounded by the Morgan Falls Dam. Besides the hydroelectric power produced by the dam, the lake's primary use is recreation, including fishing and rowing.

The term "Bull Sluice", so named by Cherokee Indians, originally was a shoal on the Chattahoochee River.

Bull Sluice Lake is created by Morgan Falls Dam, a small hydroelectric dam located along the Chattahoochee River at the northern end of Sandy Springs, Georgia, and crossing the river westwards into eastern Cobb County in north metro Atlanta. Originally constructed in 1904 by Georgia Power to provide electricity for Atlanta's streetcars, it now provides enough power for about 4,400 homes. It was named for then recently deceased Georgia Power president S. Morgan Smith's mother whose maiden name was Morgan. At the time it was by far the largest hydroelectric plant in the state. In 1924 it was rebuilt as a 60 cycle plant with 15,000 kilowatts (up from the original 10,500 kW).

In 1957 it was raised to regulate the flow from the larger Buford Dam, 36 miles upstream, in order to give Atlanta water during the hours it was needed most. It is 896 feet long, and 56 feet tall. The dam's license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was issued in May 2008, and expires in February 2039 which authorizes a capacity of 16,800 kW.

The construction of the dam changed the river upstream from a narrow river with rapids into a wetland. The wetland serves as a habitat for migrating birds, waterfowl, songbirds, beavers, muskrats, and numerous species of reptiles and amphibians.

Wading Dogs too.

The Gold Branch Trail explores the beautiful terrain on the banks of the Chattahoochee River and the shore of Bull Sluice Lake. Young hardwoods shade a forest floor that fills with mosses, ferns, and native Georgia wildflowers in warm-weather months. The tranquil lake and river are home to cattails, marsh grasses, and aquatic plants. And wildlife fills the banks, waters and air surrounding these lesser-traveled, often quiet trails: heron, geese, ducks, fish, turtles, and deer are frequent sights along the trail.

Gold in Fall.

Gold Branch Park is the last of the parks in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area north of the Morgan Falls Dam. In contrast to the whitewater-filled, rocky sections along the river at Cochran Shoals and East Palisades, the river flows broad and serene here, in an almost imperceptible flow.

The river and adjacent Bull Sluice Lake are often glassy, offering beautiful cross-bank reflective views. And the park’s quiet, remote forests make for a great escape from the surrounding suburban sprawl of metro Atlanta and Roswell.

The adventure begins at the park’s trailhead (view maps and driving directions). The hike descends from the trailhead, crossing a wooden bridge over a marshy wetland. The trail climbs from the wetland, reaching an intersection with the main loop trail.

This hike turns left at the intersection, venturing toward Bull Sluice Lake, exploring a young hardwood forest, and rolling elevation through the forest. The lake becomes visible through the grassy lake shore vegetation, and its tranquil surface reflects the tree line on the opposite shore.

Bull Sluice Lake was created when the Chattahoochee River was dammed downstream at Morgan Falls, and the lake spans over 600 shallow acres. It’s frequented by waterfowl and is one of the most popular bird watching and fishing areas in the north metro Atlanta area. The trail follows the lake’s banks, hiking northeast before rounding a curve and veering to the south. The hike reaches the lake’s outlet at the Chattahoochee River, rolling elevation on the banks of the wide-flowing river. Large rock outcrops punctuate the forest floor’s mostly-dirt landscape, crusted in green mosses and silvery lichen.

The hike continues to follow the riverbank’s winding contours, opting for the riverside route at the next few trail intersections. Reaching the southern end of Gold Branch Park at 2 miles, the trail ascends steeply, climbing far above the river, departing the river’s banks, and veering northbound. The route rolls elevation over several moderate inclines, continuing northbound through several signed trail intersections.

A Trail landmark.

The outer loop trail meets the trail head connector, turning left to return to the trail head and parking area, and completing the adventure at 3.25 miles.

Once you ramp up your skills, make the 4 mile paddle from Azalea Park to Morgan Falls . You’ll paddle by horse pastures and golf courses as the river twists and turns, going through Bull Sluice Lake. Allow time to explore the small coves along the way, where ducks and turtles float along the river. The highlight here is Cedar Cliffs, a set of rocky outcrops on the banks where many daring souls will cliff jump in summer.

Oh Man, I found this cliff back in the 1970's when they were building the Hunt Cliff subdivision homes. It is a gated community now, only access is by river/lake. I climbed down to crest of cliff, didn't jump. It was as high as a Nick Chubb 15 yard scamper.

But this house in photo has one of the best lots in Atlanta overlooking this Cedar Cliff, I always called it the Hunt Cliff.

Found this YouTube of kids at cliffs today.

There are several Parks and Trails I may have missed some. Big Trees Preserve is worth a second look down the road. But the last Park above the Dam is the Morgan Falls Overlook Trail. This is a 0.7 mile loop trail located near Atlanta, Georgia that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for walking.

The Waterfall?

The trail winds up and down a hill and is shaded. It’s a well worn dirt path, some stairs. If you are looking for a quick path with a lovely swing / park area to rest afterwards - this is great.

Quiet park with a nice overview of the river. Really nice area with a lot of places to just sit and relax.

Overlook park at end of trail.

The Overlook.

A Homestead was here among the Flora.

This looks like a good place to end this post above the Morgan Falls Dam. I am going to save history tangents for Fulton County for when we detail the many parks we will start to cover once we get past the top 200 Wonders. I want to make sure we have 200 Wonders before we come to Atlanta. The Chattahoochee National Recreation Area continues south of the Dam and this is the area I have floated at least a dozen times in my life. This was the portion that was involved in the Ramblin Raft Race. So we end today's post with some more Hoochie Georgia Natural Wonder Gals.

Page after Page Hoochie Women.

Edited 9 time(s). Last edit at 04/02/2021 06:15AM by Top Row Dawg.

Georgia Natural Wonder #182 - Chattahoochee River - Bull Sluice Lake

Top Row Dawg213February 26, 2021 02:04AM

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