EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

November 10, 2012

Ga. river could take Appalachian hikers to coast

ATLANTA (AP) — A river with a history of ferry boats and Civil War battles may one day provide a new route for hikers who finish the Appalachian Trail to continue south until they reach the ocean, a national conservation group says.

Leaders envision the Chattahoochee River as a way to allow Appalachian Trail hikers to reach the Gulf of Mexico either on trails along its banks or in a canoe or kayak on the river. The trail already stretches from Maine to north Georgia.

The Chattahoochee’s headwaters, in the north Georgia mountains, are only a few miles from the trail’s southernmost section.

“The idea is that someone looking for adventure could hike the Appalachian Trail, and then get off the trail and go to the headwaters of the Chattahoochee,” said Curt Soper, the Georgia-Alabama state director of the Trust for Public Land. The nonprofit has worked for years to acquire land in the area and make it available to its partners, such as the National Park Service. The new route could become a reality within the next decade, Soper said.

The trust has already acquired and set aside 17,000 acres of land that touch 76 river miles from the Chattahoochee’s headwaters to Columbus, Soper said.

The trust is also working on a project known as the Chattahoochee Valley Blueway, which involves 52 miles of the river from the city of West Point to Columbus, southwest of Atlanta near the Alabama line. The aim of that project, expected to be completed in the next three years, is to create a so-called “canoe trail,” a well-marked waterway with several places to launch canoes and kayaks, Soper said.

In metro Atlanta, there are already more than 70 miles of hiking trails along or near the river within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, created in 1978 by former President Jimmy Carter.

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