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Duluth Massage

Johnson Ferry Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 2.0 miles Type of trail: Loop
County: Cobb County, GA Our rating: E
Features: river, fishing, canoeing, 60hikes Your rating:
Usage: Light Added on: September 17, 2004
Last hiked: October 06, 2011 Updated on: October 07, 2011
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Additional Trails
Hiking trails in Cobb County, GA

Directions to Johnson Ferry Trail

Entrance to Johnson Ferry
This trail passes what remains of the Chattahoochee Outdoor Center, crosses a field that was once their parking lot, then circles a forested wetland in a flood plain of the Chattahoochee River. Along the riverbank there are a number of scenic long distance views of the river.

From the time we arrived in Atlanta in the early 1980's until it closed in 2002, the Chattahoochee Outdoor Center, located at the Johnson Ferry Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area was the epicenter of outdoor fun in Atlanta. Each weekend from May to October thousands of people would put into the Chattahoochee River at the Center and float to one of two pickup points further south. Today the deteriorating brown building and overgrown parking lot stand as a testiment to the pollution of the Chattahoochee River, especially after heavy rains.

After a rain the Chattahoochee River would run reddish-brown from the non-point source pollution, mostly soil sediments. On a rainy Sunday we were indoctrinated to the new Chattahoochee, a smelly, foul-looking green one. Today, effluent packed with e-coli pushes the water well above the "safe" mark - almost 35 times higher than safe levels and more than 200 time above the "normal" level. Since a peak of some 3.5 million visitors in 1996 the park-wide visitation figures have dropped to some 2.7 million people, in spite of dramatic growth in the metropolitan area.

Still, on days it doesn't rain, the hike offers an excellent look into the flood plain of the Chattahoochee. These flat wetland areas provide important benefits to the eco-system of any river. Flood plains allow the energy of fast-moving flood waters to dissipate, minimizing downstream erosion. They provide additional areas for fish to use as spawning areas and aquatic mammals to use for foraging. During non-flood periods the flood plains provide extensive filtering for water on the way to river, eliminating substantial amounts of pollution.

From the center of the parking lot, near an old kiosk, the hike begins on a paved road that quickly turns to gravel. As you reach the wide, flat area that was once the Chattahoochee Outdoor Center's parking lot, the path splits. We took the path straight ahead, hoping to explore what was left of the center at the end of the hike. In the overgrown lot we saw picnic tables that had not been used in years, and other remnants of civilization. After crossing a wooden bridge at the north end of the parking lot turn left. In about 400 hundred feet the path makes an easy right hand turn and follows the outside of the flood plain deep into the Johnson Ferry Unit.

On the right is a large forested wetland area. Forested wetlands are by far the most common found in North Georgia. On the left is a ridge that forms the Chattahoochee River Valley. On the north side of the loop the trail mostly follows a historic roadway. As the trail turns at a map stand near Mulberry Creek the trail becomes difficult to follow. After climbing around a deeply rutted road and returning, we headed south along the banks of Mulberry Creek, trying twice more to find an elusive trail that appears on the map. The best candidate had been washed out, apparently during a recent heavy rain.

As the trail began to loop, we joined the Chattahoochee River heading southwest along the bank. Frequently separated from the river by a stand of trees, the trail did occassionally offer an unobstructed long-distance view of the Chattahoochee.As each of the four creeks the trail would take a few steps inland, cross a bridge, then return to the river bank. As we returned to the overgrown Chattahoochee Outdoor Center parking area we took the path to the left. As we approached the brown center, a second, narrow trail took us down to the cement launch ramp to the river. We had fun remembering visits to the site. A sign near the ramp warned us that the pollution level was dangerous and to avoid contact with the water.

Return to the parking lot by turning left on a trail just before the steps to the Outdoor Center.


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