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“When you get below Peachtree Creek, access to the river kind of stops,” says George Dusenbury, a vice president and the Georgia state director of the Trust for Public Land. “Communities in West Atlanta, South Cobb, South Fulton, and Douglas County don’t have the same access that exists in the north.” But that’s about to change, due to a flurry of new plans to expand opportunities to hike, pedal, paddle, and even camp along Atlanta’s iconic river.
In 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request by Florida to limit the amount of water Georgia can withdraw from a shared river basin—the latest and most significant development in a tri-state battle over how to apportion the waters that flow through those two states and Alabama, a fight that’s cost untold millions of dollars and sparked multiple lawsuits. The decision was widely regarded as a victory for Georgia. So: Are the water wars finally over?
After decades of pollution, South River activists are hoping to find a sustainable solution for the waterway
Through a slim gap in the chain-link fence, Jacqueline Echols leads me down a short, steep embankment and across a wide sand beach toward the banks of the South River. Deer tracks and footprints pepper the sand at our feet; ahead of us, water rushes dramatically beneath the Snapfinger Road bridge and tumbles over shoals, where Echols tells me she’s seen river otters play. With its sprawling stretch of beach and sounds of rushing water, the Panola Shoals trailhead feels like an urban enclave of natural beauty—idyllic, almost, if not for the signage on the fence warning visitors of the contaminated water.
With one-third of the salt marshes on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, the Georgia coast is celebrated for its natural beauty—but natural can be a deceptive concept. Humans are part of nature; to effects good and ill, we’ve shaped the world around ourselves. That includes the coast.
The Okefenokee Swamp, the largest blackwater swamp in North America and one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders, is a rare ecological treasure. Home to thousands of native plants and animals—including at least 15,000 alligators—it also supports a thriving tourist economy in Southeast Georgia, employing over 700 people and bringing in $64.7 million of revenue a year. But the Okefenokee’s delicate ecology is frequently threatened by mining interests: an ancient sand dune that borders the swamp is full of valuable heavy minerals, buy hydrology experts say extracting them would cause significant water loss in the Okefenokee, leading to more frequent drought and fires.
After 15 years of living beneath Atlanta’s storied tree canopy, the city’s birds of prey still get me every single time. It’s a feeling that goes a bit deeper than sheer novelty, or even fondness. Seeing an owl silently swooping past street lights and power lines, or spotting a hawk circling above the highway, feels extraordinary, almost fake—a welcome visual record scratch ripping across the mundanity of cityscape.
In 1867, a naturalist walked 1,000 miles to the Gulf. 150 years later, a former AJC reporter retraced the path by car. How their journeys intersect.
In 1867, naturalist John Muir embarked on a 1,000-mile “botanical journey” across the South, walking from Kentucky to Florida. Five years ago, former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Dan Chapman decided to retrace his route, albeit in a car: In the century and a half since Muir’s trek, his path has been chopped up by interstates and highways—“not a lot of fun hiking terrain,” Chapman says.
"I discovered that Atlanta had all of these hidden forests and pockets of nature—over 90 hidden forests that were all a short drive from my house. I started compiling them into a book, Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out."
The forgotten forest long known as Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve stands to become one of Atlanta’s largest public parks, an archaeological treasure trove, and a model for urban forestland preservation.