A drone’s eye view of the Chattahoochee River

The river is one of the oldest in the country and provides drinking water for 70 percent of Atlantans
Photograph by So Fly Pictures

Because the Chattahoochee snakes to the west—rather than through the heart of the city—the river is not linked to Atlanta in popular imagination the way that, say, Boston is paired with the Charles, St. Louis with the Mississippi, or Chattanooga with the Tennessee. There are no iconic photos of rowers gliding by city landmarks, no stately bridges crossing the water.

But the symbiosis between Atlanta and the Chattahoochee runs deeper than any pretty picture. The river, which stretches from the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Georgia to the Apalachicola Bay in Florida, is one of the oldest in the country, providing drinking water for 70 percent of Atlantans—450 million gallons a day. Its wooded banks shelter red-tailed hawks, river otters, great blue herons. Hikers explore the trails that overlook its shores; anglers reel in trout, bass, and bream from its depths. And in the sweltering days of summer, revelers lazily ride its steady current. They drift along on anything that floats—sturdy craft rented from local outfitters, high-tech kayaks, rubber dinghies, even drugstore pool loungers. Drone elevation: 76 feet

This article originally appeared in our July 2015 issue.