Whenever I drive over the 13th street bridge, though I drive this route several times a week, the river takes my breath away. Whatever is going on at home, or in our country, during pandemic, or daily routine, the river is there. It is a force entirely its own, it flows, it floods, it rages, it protects the life that depends on it. And yet it depends on us.
Though the river contains a power that can overtake a strong man given the right conditions, it is a natural resource vulnerable to man. Our actions directly affect the river, and have repercussions that then directly affect us and future generations. An apathy towards the river, or worse, a lifestyle of abuse towards nature can only result in a river that cannot provide for us the benefits it was meant to provide.
The river unites us. It flows through two cities not as a division but as a place to converge. It provides us recreational entertainment, a place to relax, kayak, even swim. It harbors the natural wildlife that we enjoy observing. Fish abound in healthy waters, providing fishermen recreation or even sustenance. And most importantly, the river is our source of water, the element necessary for life.
Unfortunately, the river is often taken for granted. People who have always grown up near this natural waterway forget that some cities do not have a river running right through the middle of it. Trash accumulates along the banks of the river when careless people leave it behind, and when the river floods, trash makes its way into the watershed, posing risks to wildlife, and contaminating the water source our community relies on. A river cannot trash itself. It cannot in and of itself, be unclean. If a river is trashy or dirty, it is a direct result of the carelessness of the people surrounding it. An apathy towards the river means less support for organizations and projects designed to work towards a healthier river and thriving community. The work meant to be shared by a community often falls on a few shoulders which can only affect a certain degree of change.
A clean river matters. The intention we put into caring for our community flows, like the water which unites us, into other aspects of our daily lives, and a mindful commitment to protecting our waterways can only positively affect our community.
People of all ages, income levels, and backgrounds enjoy the river. And when we unite as a community, committed to restoring and preserving this natural resource, we can thrive.
At Chattahoochee River Conservancy, we share a love for the river that inspires us to continue to work towards a healthy, clean, thriving waterway for all to enjoy. We are unspeakably grateful to you, our supporters, who work alongside us whether literally or figuratively, encouraging us in our efforts. We can do so much more for our river when we unite in our endeavors.
If you share our love for our river, please consider joining us as a member, organizing your own solo clean up, or signing up for volunteer opportunities which will resume when social distancing precautions are no longer necessary.
Goat Rock Lake is a 940 acre reservoir on the Chattahoochee River that lies between Lake Harding and Lake Oliver. With over 25 miles of shoreline bordered by the state of Georgia on one side and Alabama on the other, it is a peaceful body of water not frequently seeing recreational activity. The occasional fisherman can be seen enjoying the solitude that can be found in this little wild space. Because of its seclusion and serenity, various forms of wildlife take refuge along the lake. Cormorants, Canadian geese, ducks, ospreys, and even the majestic bald eagle can be spotted out and about along Goat Rock.
Though recreational activity on Goat Rock is limited, like many other natural spaces near human activity, trash has accumulated along the lake and can be seen littering the shoreline.
On Monday our organization spent several hours cleaning up trash along the shoreline of this waterway. We traveled north by boat on the Georgia side, stopping in heavily littered spots. The shoreline slopes in areas and forms sloughs where trash collects and accumulates during flooding, and we focused on these areas, covering them by foot and collecting as much trash as we were able to carry back to the boat. Piles of plastic bottles and large and small chunks of styrofoam as well as various other remnants of discarded waste were collected and hauled back to the boat in buckets and trash bags while we continued to make our way north.
When we ran out of time we ended our efforts for the day, hauling the trash we collected back to the arranged drop off site and leaving behind a much cleaner shoreline on Goat Rock Lake.
In all we covered about 3/4 of the Goat Rock shoreline on the Georgia side and collected 209 lbs of trash. We marked locations still needing to be cleaned up for when we return to continue our efforts.
If you’re interested in joining us for our next clean up, please check out our Facebook page for volunteer opportunities.
Trout originally were native to the Upper Chattahoochee and are now common there because of heavy stocking by DNR to support angler demand. However, they are not found in the Middle and Lower Watersheds due to a variety of reasons, water temperature being the primary one. Trout are a cold water fish and just a little south of Atlanta the Chattahoochee heats up too much for them to survive. Typically, trout do best in waters staying between 45 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lake Harding is a man-made reservoir on the main stem of the Chattahoochee, formed by Bartlett’s Ferry Dam. The lake is south of Lagrange but north of Columbus and is not very deep so water temperatures stay fairly warm throughout the year. Due to the size of the reservoir, geographic location, and temperature of the waters, this is one of the last places you would expect an angler to catch a trout…but about two weeks ago, one did.
Unsure, but with a few ideas, I followed up with DNR Fisheries Biologist (and frequent Podcast guest) Amy Cottrell and we settled on a few likely options of how a trout could end up hooked by an angler on Lake Harding.
Regardless of how the trout ended up in Lake Harding, it is fascinating the fish was able to survive long enough to be hooked and landed by an angler. Congratulations to Steve Scott for a truly unique catch for this area of the river!
Riverbend is unlike any other sections of the Chattahoochee River. The individual qualities of this area all come to together to create an experience that, at times, can seem completely surreal. Downstream of Columbus and upstream of Florence Marina, the Riverbend area is characterized by natural shoreline, very little boat traffic, and a sense of stillness that is regularly interrupted by the chatter of machine guns, Blackhawk helicopters flying low over the water, paratroopers dropping from the sky, and the concussive explosions of tank training. The majority of the shoreline here is owned by Ft. Benning and Chattahoochee River Conservancy has gone through the proper channels to obtain permission to be working here.
Accessing this part of the Chattahoochee is best done through Riverbend Park in Cusseta, GA. Built by the Corps of Engineers and then later abandoned, the park has fallen under the care of Chattahoochee County Public Works. The county is extremely proud of this park and works diligently to maintain the grounds, boat ramp, restrooms, and camping area.
Just upstream of the boat ramp is a series of islands formed by the river changing course many times over it's history. These islands are inundated with trash and Chattahoochee River Conservancy started working to clean the islands in January of 2018. The trash is primarily single-use plastic and styrofoam items carelessly discarded by consumers in the Columbus, GA and Phenix City, AL communities.
On Thursday our organization led a team of volunteers and staff members from our partners Georgia Power and Columbus Water Works to begin the clean up effort on an island we had not yet worked on. Over the course of the morning, close to 400lbs of trash was collected from the island, bagged and loaded on boats, and carried downstream to Riverbend Park where pickup was arranged with Chattahoochee County Public Works.
Ongoing cleanup projects are not possible without partners such as Georgia Power and Columbus Water Works. Our nonprofit organization is able to maximize our effect because of partnerships with entities whose resources are far greater than our own. These partnerships are crucial to fulfilling our mission statement and we could not be more thankful for people within Columbus Water Works and Georgia Power who love the Chattahoochee River as much as we do.
Cleaning up in the Riverbend area is made possible by Chattahoochee County Public Works and their dedication to this part of the Chattahoochee River. Proper disposal of the trash collected is just as important as the cleanup effort and Chattahoochee County is always excited to have our team working on their part of the river.
Are you interested in joining our next cleanup? All volunteer activities are posted on our Facebook Event page for easy communication.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Executive Director Henry Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
With a wind advisory in affect starting at 12pm, Programs Director Sanna Moravek and myself made fast work of completing a watershed survey on Goat Rock Reservoir this morning. A narrow, winding, riverine reservoir with miles of natural shoreline and low traffic, Goat Rock is one of the most beautiful sections of river in the Fall Line Region.
Watershed Surveys are relatively simple activities that provide a lot of information about a section of the Chattahoochee River. We have always gone out and collected data on the various sections of the river but decided to formalize it with a name and schedule for 2019. Hence, the last Friday of each month (weather and water levels permitting) has been allocated for this initiative.
Data collection involves selecting sample locations and dropping a pin on the GPS so we can return to the site when needed. We typically establish a site at the top of the section we are surveying, a site in the middle, and a site at the end. This gives a basic overview of what is happening in that part of the river.
The parameters monitored are Ph, Conductivity, Dissolved Oxygen, Clarity, and E.coli Bacteria. Each of these parameters are used to determine the health of the river and indicate if anything could be amiss.
Here's today's info:
Site #1 Goat Rock Reservoir (South End)
Clarity 1.5 meters
Site #2 Goat Rock Reservoir (North End)
Clarity 1.5 meters
Site #3 Mulberry Creek
Clarity < 1.5 meters
E.Coli information is available after a 24hr incubation in our lab.
This project is funded by your donations and membership dollars! To become a member, please click here.
To Donate to Chattahoochee River Conservancy, please send a check to:
Chattahoochee River Conservancy
PO Box 985
Columbus GA 31902
My obsession with rivers never fails to land me in interesting situations.
Those of you who attended Trees Columbus' hosting of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival over the weekend were given the first look at the product of a truly outstanding experience.
Perusing Instagram, a photo of a pillow mapping out all of Georgia's rivers caught my attention and started an exploration into the work of Cathy Fussell that led to the commission of a quilt depicting a section of the Chattahoochee River.
Cathy's bio on her website describes her as a quilter of 50 years experience who maintains a studio in Columbus, GA where she produces quilts by hand and with the assistance of sewing machines. Retired from a 28 year career in education (literature and composition), Cathy has devoted herself to her artwork full time for the past 6 years. Perhaps most notably, Cathy was commissioned a few years ago to create a piece for then-First Lady Michelle Obama.
The studio Cathy shares with her husband Fred, an accomplished artist in his own mediums, is housed in one of Columbus' old textile mills and directly reflects the Fussell's experience in curating exhibits. Every surface features the original work of artists local and abroad, famous and unknown. A portrait of Fred with angel's wings and a halo was given as a gift from Seale-based folk artist Butch Anthony who credits Fred with his success and fame.
Careful placement appears in even the book shelves lining the hallway and the titles range from Southern folk-lore to edible mushrooms found in the North Georgia mountains. As an obsessive bibliophile and aesthete, the Fussell's studio is to me a haven, an oasis of eccentricity arranged in a manner appearing both simultaneously random and deliberate. If I was to attempt to arrange such a variety of objects in a small space it would come across as cluttered but the Fussells achieve purpose and creativity in a manner that appears effortless.
Overshadowing all other works in the studio are Cathy's quilts. The moment I saw them I knew I may have come for a pillow, but it was a quilt with which I would be leaving. We discussed ideas for the commission and Cathy was eager to hear our contributions but in the end, I felt any influence I had over the piece would detract from it's originality and this quilt is, after all, not for me.
Following Cathy through the process of constructing this quilt was an enlightening experience. The idea of taking a topographic square and expanding it to the size of a quilt to show every single detail was entirely Cathy's. The area shown on the quilt is a 9 square mile region about 20 miles south of Columbus known as Snake Shoals. This particular area appealed to Cathy because of the dramatic double bend in the river's course, a friend's family history, and the fascinating historical significance of the area. Her and Fred's research found this area was inhabited by the Spanish in the late 1600's, a plantation in the 1800's, a ferry helped travelers cross the river at some point on this stretch, and in 1928 the Holy Trinity Catholic Mission was founded here.
Cathy's description of the quilt's construction is as follows:
"The quilt is made of cotton canvas and features both machine quilting and hand quilting. The contour lines are true contour lines, derived from U.S. Geological Survey Maps. The red lines indicate 50-foot differences in elevation; the smaller dark brown lines indicated 100-foot differences. The blue threads indicate creeks and marshes. While this region is primarily rural, a few roads do traverse it. I opted to omit the roads and focus on the natural landscape. The only "human element" I have included is the hand quilted suggestions of plowed furrows in the big flat regions."
As mentioned above, this quilt is not for me. It was commissioned for you. It is with great hesitancy that I follow through on my plans. If I had the financial ability to reimburse Chattahoochee River Conservancy for the organization's investment, I don't know I that I could resist the temptation for this beautiful work of art to hang above my desk in my home office where I could break from working into the night to reflect on what a great experience this has been, both the creation of the quilt and the last 18 months at the helm of this organization.
Cathy's outstanding work of art will be the sole focus of a raffle in September, held at our 8th Anniversary Dinner event on September 14th. We will enjoy a Chattahoochee-inspired dinner prepared by Chef Austin Scott, beer and wine from B&B Beverage and Omaha Brewing, and there will be a separate drawing for door prizes.
Ticket sales to the dinner are open now. The event is posted on our Facebook page with links. Raffle tickets will be available for purchase August 16. The funds raised from the dinner and the raffle will support our conservation work in the Chattahoochee River and tributaries. Please join us for this fun, casual evening and celebrate the Chattahoochee River, friends, and the power of art.
The title of this post is derived from a quote by Cathy Fussell in which she promises her quilted maps are accurate within the width of her needle.
Cathy's website is hyperlinked above and here.
To see the quilt in person, stay tuned, we will be displaying it throughout the community and will notify of its location via social media.
My note to Cathy: I hope my words and photos do justice to your creation. Thank you for your work and dedication. It has been an honor.
- Henry Jackson
"This year it has been crazy with temperatures fluctuating up and down affecting fish spawning along the ACF. I will keep you updated."
This message didn't come across as a positive one. I had checked in with Carlos Echevarria, Hatchery Manager at Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery, knowing it would soon be time for annual stocking along the Chattahoochee River. Carlos had promised me last year I could follow along and document the process...but now it sounded like it might not happen due to the unusually cold spring.
8 days later a much different message landed in my inbox. Carlos had 800,000 striped bass fry coming up from a Florida Hatchery in a few days and if I could be in Warm Springs on Friday night I could get a look.
Fry are baby fish. They begin as eggs and hatch into larvae which carry around a yolk-sac for nutrition. When the yolk-sac goes away and the fish are able to feed themselves, they are called fry. Quickly showing my naivete, I was shocked to discover 800,000 fry easily fit in the back of pickup truck.
Water quality parameters are checked and the bags holding the fry are removed from the boxes and left to float in the ponds for about an hour so the water inside the bag gradually warms to the water outside of the bag. From the bags the fry are slowly introduced to the pond by way of a trash can with holes in the bottom. The rising water from the bottom of the can gently finishes the adjustment process and after an additional hour the fish are released to spend the next month swimming, eating, and growing. Once scales and fins are developed, the fish are considered fingerlings and are ready for release.
A few weeks later I get a text from Josh Simmons, a biologist at the hatchery. "We are harvesting our last four ponds tomorrow morning and then after we clean them up half are going to Blackshear and the rest are headed your way Friday morning."
Friday morning there's a break in the weather and I get another text, "Chad will be there between 9 and 10." True to their word, a Fish and Wildlife dually pulling a tanker trailer rolls into Lake Oliver Marina about 9:30am. Chad clearly enjoys his work and is extremely accommodating to being followed with a camera while he informs us of the process. Water is released from the tank as river water is pumped in, allowing the fingerlings to adjust to any differences before being released. Water quality parameters are measured and adjustments are made. Quicker than expected, the gate is opened and 40,000 striped bass fingerlings are dumped into the reservoir.
Hatchery programs are never without controversy and striped bass aren't always a crowd favorite but the fish are native to our watershed and this annual program is maintaining a fishery that would likely not exist otherwise. Being anadromous, meaning they migrate between fresh and salt water, striped bass originally entered the Chattahoochee River from the Gulf of Mexico, swimming upriver to spawn. The construction of dams along the river basin caused fish to be landlocked in the reservoirs. These landlocked fish will still migrate upriver in the spring, traveling north until blocked by a dam or a geographic feature.
The native range of stripers is the majority of the Atlantic and Gulf coast and the species has been introduced across the central U.S. through hatchery programs as far west as Arizona. Stream flow of a distance of about 50 miles is a requirement for a successful hatch so most reservoir populations are not sustainable without hatchery stocking. Lake Eufaula along the Chattahoochee River is potentially an exception because the fish are able to travel as far north as the Fall Line in Columbus.
In April we started with 800,000 fry. Hatchery managers expect about a 20% survival rate over the four weeks the fry are growing into fingerlings. Of the 40,000+ fingerlings released into Lake Oliver this year, it is unknown how many will survive to adulthood. If we stick with the 20% rule, that equals about 4 striped bass per acre. In researching other hatchery programs across the U.S., 4-5 fish per acre is the general goal to maintaining a balanced system. As always, this will be too many for some and not enough for others.
A big thank you to Carlos, Josh, Hale, Chad, and everyone else at the Warm Springs hatchery for being so accommodating.
For more information on the fisheries program: https://www.fws.gov/fisheries/
The Warm Springs hatchery is open to visitors and is family friendly. https://www.fws.gov/warmsprings/fishhatchery/
The title is derived from a quote by John Buchan, "The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope."
We need your support to continue our work, please visit our "Get Involved" tab above to learn more about your role in Chattahoochee River Conservancy.