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Why Is the Chattahoochee River so Dirty?

The Chattahoochee River is a large waterway that stretches from Georgia through Alabama and Florida. The waters of the Chattahoochee provide electricity, drinking water, and recreation for people close to its shores. Thanks to country music star Alan Jackson, it’s even a famous river. 

If you were considering going “way down yonder on the Chattahoochee,” it’s best to get to know a little about the river first. Let’s explore the Chattahoochee. 

Where Is the Chattahoochee River? 

The Chattahoochee River is a tributary of the Apalachicola River. It starts in the Appalachian Mountains in the northeastern corner of Georgia. The river then flows through Union County and through the city of Atlanta into the panhandle of Florida. It runs 434 miles and ends in Lake Seminole at the Georgia/Florida border.

What Is Special About the Chattahoochee River?

The Chattahoochee River is home to thousands of different animal species and is the most heavily used water resource in Georgia. People use it for drinking water, hydroelectric power, and much more. Many lives depend on its water flow. 

The Chattahoochee is home to the famed Lake Lanier, where gobs of ghost stories and unexplained disappearances originate. The creation of a dam formed the lake, which flooded small towns that now lie at the bottom. 

Many visitors explore the lake, hoping to get a peek of the underwater town. It’s also great to have some fun in the sun, especially if you have a boat.

Pro Tip: The Chattachoochee River isn’t the only water spot in Georgia. Check out these 7 Best Lakes in Georgia (and Awesome Nearby Campsites).

Two kids sitting on a boat driving on the Chattahoochee River
Go boating with the whole family along the Chattahoochee River.

Why Is the Chattahoochee River so Dirty?

Not every part of the Chattahoochee River is super dirty, but you shouldn’t swim or fish in some parts due to the high pollution levels. The city of Atlanta mainly causes the dirty spots of the Chattahoochee. 

More than 3 million people drink and deposit their sewage into the river. Additionally, numerous parks and recreation areas bring in harmful waste and runoff from the people who frequent the grounds. And hundreds of businesses along the shoreline must be regulated so they don’t dump their garbage and waste products into the river. 

The full scope of the strain placed on the Chattahoochee River is wide, but recently people have taken steps to protect and clean up the river. 

Can You Swim in the Chattahoochee River? 

Swimming in the Chattahoochee is a calculated risk. Over 13 hydroelectric dams along the river create some very hazardous water conditions. For that reason, some areas are off-limits to swimmers. 

However, you can swim in some places. The river is very long, and humans haven’t ruined all of the beauty along the way. You can even go tubing which locals call “shootin’ the hooch.” 

Lake Lanier is another place where you can swim, though many locals feel a little afraid to swim there. The many mysterious deaths on the lake serve as a deterrent. 

Three friends tubbing along the Chattahoochee River
Go tubbing on the safe parts of the Chattahoochee River.

Why Is the Chattahoochee River Unsafe? 

The many hydroelectric dams make the Chattahoochee unsafe in some areas. If you swim unaware, the opening of a dam could mean big problems. The currents get very powerful when thousands of gallons of water come rushing downstream simultaneously. 

The release of water from the dam can also cause the water temperatures to fall quite a bit, making it easier for people swimming in the water to experience hypothermia. Knowing where you are to the nearest dam is important when looking for a safe spot to take a dip. 

Does the Chattahoochee River Have Alligators?

The Chattahoochee River does have alligators but mainly in the southernmost part of the river. You’ll have to go south of Columbus to find any major sign of their presence. 

You may hear of an occasional gator sighting a little higher north, but those gators are typically a product of rehoming or rescue. Gators will only reproduce in the river’s warmer waters, south of Columbus, Ga. 

Pro Tip: Definitely go chasing waterfalls while in Georgia! Check out these 7 Amazing Waterfalls In Georgia we think are well worth a visit!

Father and son looking out together at the Chattahoochee River
Enjoy some peace and quiet while fishing in the Chattahoochee River.

What Fish Live in the Chattahoochee River?

The Chattahoochee River has trout, bass, catfish, and about 20 other species, depending on where you go. It’s a great place to throw a line. Additionally, you can find more than 240 bird species that live along the river. The river also has many species of frogs, snakes, turtles, salamanders, and more.

You can find a full list of animals in the Chattahoochee River on the National Park Service website.

Is the Chattahoochee River Worth Visiting? 

The Chattahoochee River is a place you should check out. You just have to make sure you do enough research on your destination before packing up the kids. You’ll find tons of information regarding the river online. 

You can visit some recreation spots that are more popular than others. If you enjoy the crowds, visit Lake Lanier. If you want a more secluded experience, try investigating Eddy at Waveshaper Island in Columbus, Ga.

Which lake would you want to visit first? Tell us in the comments!

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