Monday, March 3, 2008

Sunday in the park

This weekend the Significant Other and I finally got around to visiting one of the several National Park sites located either in or close to Atlanta. I'd been procrastinating, didn't want rip the scab off the still-festering sore created by leaving the best job I've ever had, but decided the time had come to face the pain directly. Given a choice between two historic parks, Martin Luther King jr NHS and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, and a recreational area, Chattahoochee River NRA, the river won.

I must confess a fondness for river parks anyway. While working in the Midwest Region I found myself hitting most of the river and water parks – Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshores, both on Lake Superior, Saint Croix NSR in Wisconsin, Buffalo National River in Arkansas, Ozark NSR in Missouri and even the Niobrara NSR in Nebraska – as a routine part of the job. I was definitely curious about the Chattahoochee as compared to other streams I have known it's not a particularly attractive river. The glimpses I've had of it or its tributaries (I cross North Peachtree Creek twice a day as I walk to and from work) left an impression of watercourses that came real close to qualifying as open ditch sewers. The river's color made the Missouri look clean and there was usually highly visible trash either floating in the water or lodged on the banks. I was a little dubious that any of the park's units that fall within the Atlanta metropolitan area (and most of them do) would ever merit a second visit.

I was wrong. The Island Ford unit, which is in the general vicinity of Roswell, is quite nice. I have no doubt it can feel as congested as any typical city park on a nice spring or summer day, but we were there early enough in the season that the trails weren't jammed with joggers or dog walkers. There were about half a dozen fishermen trying their luck in the river (the Chattahoochee is a trout stream, a fact that astounds me) and several families with kids ambling around. I did spot one person out on the river in a river kayak, and am told that people do tube it and canoe it with great enthusiasm in the summer. Having seen real rivers (e.g., the Saint Croix, the Buffalo), I'm not sure I'd ever want to float the Chattahoochee, but I will concede it doesn't look quite as nasty up close as it does from highway overpasses.

The Island Ford unit isn't particularly large, but it does encompass enough land to have a decent trail system – you can experience a variety of terrain as you have a choice of ambling along paralleling the river or doing some loops that have you walking up and down some fairly steep hillsides. If it's representative of the other units making up the Chattahoochee any of them should be worth a day trip. Next time I think we'll try the unit that includes what the park map notes as "paper mill ruins."

Island Ford is home to the park's visitor center and headquarters. The building is a nice 1930s rustic log lodge built originally as a private residence. The offerings in the book store were a little thin, at least when it came to books for adults, but the kids' section was great.
The visitor use assistant/park guide/interpretive ranger/whatever they're calling the underpaid staff at the information desk was knowledgeable, but, no surprise here, a term employee who's considering leaving NPS for a job with more security. We commiserated about being torn between love of the parks and a desire for a steady paycheck. Some things never change.

1 comment:

  1. We commiserated about being torn between love of the parks and a desire for a steady paycheck. Some things never change.

    Guess I have to update this post.

    The situation is infuriating, no question.


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