Six mysteries of the Chattahoochee River
The river monster
In 2016 state environmental officials finally caught up with a female alligator near Cochran Shoals that occasionally startled parkgoers since the late 2000s. Almost seven feet long and missing its tail, the creature was transported to South Georgia—closer to where the reptiles tend to live. Expect more gators as the Earth’s climate changes, says Jerry Hightower, a park ranger. “They’re an exceptional species, and they’re expanding,” he says.
What’s left of Jones Bridge is now a popular hiking stop, but the 113-year-old structure used to connect Gwinnett and Milton counties until enterprising thieves came along in 1945. Cashing in on steel shortages during World War II, a crew tricked local residents into thinking they were Gwinnett officials and—with a crane and in broad daylight—dismantled half the toll bridge. By the time police caught on, the bandits were gone. The bridge, which is still visible today, was never rebuilt.
According to historic researcher Michelle Smith, a murderer fleeing Sherman’s torches hid $100,000 in gold coins under a riverside tree in Cobb County.
Reign of terror
Five of the 29 young victims killed in the late 1970s and early 1980s—the infamous Missing Child Murders—were found along the Chattahoochee.
In 2012, men fishing near Akers Mill found the body of Ralph Taco McGhee, a missing Decatur resident identified partly by his distinctive Rottweiler tattoo, duct-taped into a shower curtain and comforter.
Illustrations by Joel Kimmel