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Jones Bridge Trail
Georgia Trails

Trail Length: 5.2 miles Type of trail: In and out
County: Fulton County, GA Our rating: Moderate
Features: scenic, river, picnicking, historic, family, bathrooms, 60hikes Your rating:
Usage: Added on: July 06, 2000
Last hiked: September 06, 2010 Updated on: September 07, 2010
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Additional Trails
Hiking trails in Fulton County, GA

Directions
Directions to Jones Bridge Trail

Introduction

After visiting the centerpiece Jones Bridge, this trail rises to the top of a low ridge near the Chattahoochee River, then runs alongside the river for about two miles, only leaving the river once to climb a second low ridge and avoid a piece of private land in the center of the park.

When Georgia lost Senator Paul Coverdell they lost a vocal advocate of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. He was fighting to add needed money to the budget for continued preservation and better management of this wonderful resource. Created by President Jimmy Carter, this series of parks stretched from Lake Lanier to the north to southern Cobb County. For serious Atlanta hikers they offer the chance to get hiking quickly, in some places without even leaving the city of Atlanta.

History of the park

Jones Bridge, Chattahoochee River
The Jones Bridge Unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) is named for the structure that for nearly 20 years (1904-1922) spanned the river in this area. Prior to that time Jones' Ferry or Martin's Ferry would take people across the river at this point. With the roadbuilding activity in the early 1920's the private toll bridge was made obsolete by no-cost, state-funded bridges. Over the next 20 years the wooden plank bridge fell into disrepair. In 1940 half of the span was "stolen" by an unknown group of men, possibly for the salvage value of the metal. The remaining half still stands at the east end of the park (at this point the Chattahoochee flows roughly east-to-west).

The setting

The pristine wilderness of the 195-acre park is surrounded by the elegant homes of Atlanta's upper-class and is part of the 46 miles of the Chattahoochee River that are included in this recreational area. Jones Bridge is the start of a popular 12-mile canoe run to Fulton County's Chattahoochee River Park, and is the take-out point for the shorter run from Medlock Bridge Park to the bridge. Within the park are picnic tables with grills, canoe, kayak and boat launches, a viewing deck, and about 6 miles of hiking trails.

Hiking trail

The trail starts at the second parking area. From the gated northern end of the parking area follow the graval road up to the top of the low ridge. As you descend you enter the grassy flood plain of the Chattahoochee River. Although it does not flood regularly since the completion of the dam that forms Lake Lanier, prior to 1953 this area did flood on a regularly after most rains. A wet-foot crossing takes you across a small creek and into an area with some picnic tables. Continue across this field as it arcs gently to the right.

The half-span of the historic bridge appears in front of you. Standing by the bridge look out into the river and up. Every few feet a metal bar crosses beneath the line of the bridge. These held the wooden planks that created the roadbed. Following the river to the left brings you to a marshy area loaded with wildlife, and an excellent spot for urban birding. This trail runs near a chain link fence and may be slippery after a rain.

To the right the trail passes an old put-in, then the same creek we stone-stepped across earlier, only this time on a wooden bridge. Further down is a viewing deck built out over the Chattahoochee, which offers an excellent view of the river and the bridge (its a good place to get a picture of the bridge). A second put-in down some squared logs on the left marks a return trail to the parking lot on the right. If you choose to return to the parking lot at this point the hike distance is 1.2 miles.

Continuing on the wide, well-developed path, it crosses 3 wooden bridges and remains flat, eventually crossing the normally crowded first parking lot at 1.7 miles. The trail continues on the other side of this lot, immediately crossing another bridge. Shortly the trail leaves the Chattachoochee's rich riparian zone and begins an moderate climb away from the river and into the Chattahoochee watershed. A 2006 park improvement project added steps up to a switchback and walls to the switchback itself to reduce runoff from the area.

After dropping to a gravel road it continues to climb to a low, unnamed ridge. Here, a few massive American beech trees have spread, almost completely taking over the forest on the ridge. From here it descends into another flood plain crisscrossed with trails. A remapping project, part of the 2006 park improvement project, put wooden map stations at each one of the trail intersection, so you can create your own trail, but in brief, we normally walk one of two inner trails out and the river trail back.

The upper trail, the one furthest from the river, carries hikers onto the ridge above the river and increases the workout. The center trail explores the healthy riverine zones of the Chattahoochee, with abundant floor growth including river ferns. As either of these trails ends, turn left and continue to the Chattahoochee River. Even on hot days, the cool river water makes this section of the hike an enjoyable pause. The riverbank trail only moves inland twice, once to cross a bridge and once to climb the ridge to return to the start of the hike.

We looped this area and returned to our entry point. Then we walked the trail in reverse back to the second parking lot.

Alcoholic beverages are prohibited in this park.

Map

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