Julia Chattahoochee Trip

Julia Grochowski takes a canoe trip down the Chattahoochee River with guides from the Chattahoochee Nature Center.

I’ve somehow managed to make it this far in life without going on a canoe trip, much less a canoe trip on Georgia’s own Chattahoochee River.

It was a real oversight on my part. As I’ve said multiple times to my patient friends, Roswell has a gem few cities have: a natural river. It’s a shame to not visit and appreciate its splendors. Which is why when I got the chance to finally travel down the river with guides from the Chattahoochee Nature Center, I jumped on it. 

Not literally — that could capsize the canoe, after all. But I was excited.

Nervous too, once I actually got to see the canoe. I would be out on the water with only one other person to help. And my recent string of bad luck, starting with a dead car battery and ending with a broken paddle before I even got on the canoe, didn’t help. Would I be able to move the canoe along? Would I get us capsized or stranded?

As soon as my canoe was pushed in the water, all of those worries were left on the riverbank.  The first few swipes of the paddle were rough, and I banged by fingers against the side of the canoe more than once. But when I got the hang of it, it was thrilling. 

The guides lead me and the group down the river, toward Bull Sluice Lake, north of the Morgan Falls Dam. Along the way, the guides taught us about the local vegetation and ecology.

Despite the high humidity and heat that has been plaguing Atlanta the past few weeks, an almost continuous breeze cooled the river. And the rains from the previous day had brought much-needed cloud cover. Even if I didn’t go anywhere, I thought, just being surrounded by the serene atmosphere of the river was a treat. 

Several birds agreed with me. A pair of egrets seemed to trail us for a while as a great blue heron watched from the shore. Overhead, starlings fought over insects, a vulture darted into the bush and a bald eagle soared down the river. And while we didn’t see it, we heard the call of the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s mascot, the kingfisher. 

A dragonfly even joined me on my canoe for a length of the trip. 

The real fun, and this might sound odd, was grabbing any trash we saw floating along the way. It became a game of sorts. As soon as someone spotted an old beer can or piece of Styrofoam, we raced for it. The satisfaction of “winning” was doubled by knowing you were helping keep the river clean. 

The highlight of the trip was a short section where we passed by an island. We were in luck, the guides said. Sometimes the waters are too shallow to take that route.

Silence descended for a few minutes as we let the current ferry us through the area. The sounds of the busy road had fallen behind us, and all we could hear was the buzz of cicadas and chittering of birds. We were on guard to spot deer and beavers in between the verdant leaves. It was dreamlike.

We didn’t see any animals on that go around but experiencing that gorgeous stretch of river more than made up for it. 

If you get the chance, take a trip on the Chattahoochee River. I know I’ll be back soon. I’ve got a lot of missed opportunities to make up, after all. 

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