Jun 29, 2022 - News

Tube, paddle and swim safely on the Chattahoochee

Illustration of a caution sign on an inner tube floating on the water.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a 48-mile paradise for tubers, paddlers, anglers and swimmers.

  • But not paying attention to the river conditions, overestimating your ability to swim in cold and fast-moving waters, or not having proper gear can result in injury. Or worse.

Driving the news: Park officials and outfitters are urging people to be smart and play safe after two people died near the popular Diving Rock between Powers Island and Paces Mill in the past month.

Catch up quick: Located across the river from Akers Mill, the granite outcropping is a popular stop for those who want to traverse the waterway.

  • Since 2012, says Ann Honious, the superintendent of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area, 15 people have died at Diving Rock — the majority of whom were swimming across the river.

Context: The flows of the Chattahoochee can vary wildly because of releases from dams at Morgan Falls and Lake Lanier. In addition, temperatures can run cold even during the summer.

  • "Something that looks very easy to cross becomes very difficult," says Honious. "They're just not able to survive."

Before you go: Call 770-945-1466 or toll free 1-855-DAM-FLOW (1-855-326-3569) to check the water release schedule from Buford Dam.

  • Every day, the Shoot the Hooch crew checks the United States Geological Survey’s website to gauge the flows above and below Morgan Falls. If they get too high, the company won't put in tubes.
  • Ditto if weather conditions aren't favorable.

Get the gear: Spend the extra bucks on a durable tube, says Barbara Russell of Shoot the Hooch. And get a proper-fitting personal floatation device.

  • The National Parks Service provides loaner PFDs at Akers Mill and has signs encouraging people to be safe.

Yes, but: If you don't feel comfortable on your own, call an outfitter like Shoot the Hooch, High Country Outfitters or the Nantahala Outdoor Center and let them do the work.

The big picture: The Chattahoochee is a precious river with gorgeous scenery, wildlife and some of the best trout fishing you’ll find near an urban area.

  • Play it smart so you can enjoy this natural wonder again and again.

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