Johnson's Ferry to Paces Mill is a fun and popular river downstream section on the Chattahoochee River. It runs 6.5 miles of mostly flat, clear water that is also home to some great trout fishing. This not a hard paddle for intermediate or experienced paddlers but novices may have a hard time in the shoals so pay attention to to the river. Along the way, you find manicured landscapes, rock bluffs, and lots of wildlife. Be on the look out for Barred owls, hawks, cranes, Kingfishers and the non-native Canadian geese.
The river starts out slow for the about the first 3 miles, but once you pass Powers Island Park and cross under the Interstate 285 bridge, you will start to hit shoals and the water picks up pace. When going through the initial shoals, make sure to stay toward the right side as the left side of the river is nearly impassible. As you continue toward the bridge, be watchful of fly fisherman and tubers launching in the river. This area can be a little congested but in a kayak or canoe you should be able to avoid them with few problems. Once passing the bridge, you once again forget you are in metro Atlanta and will be in the shoals and faster moving water for another .75 miles. Be diligent on reading the river so you find a good line to make it through.
After the last big shoal, you will round a corner with a nice picnic area and make shift beach and restrooms on the right side of the river. Directly across the river there is a rock formation about that people jump off of so pass with caution. The next 2.5 miles are easier on the arms and don't require much technicality. The river gets pretty shallow but easily runnable. Along this section of the river, there are very few buildings, which make for a nice a quiet paddle.
What Makes It Great
Shortly after the first mile, Sope Creek meets the river on your right. For more experienced paddlers, this is a chance to work through class III rapids. After a heavy rain, the waters are higher and rapids become class IV.
Back on the Chattahoochee River after Sope Creek, Cochran shoals warms you up for the next three, more technical shoals. The Cochran Shoals trails are to your right, and on weekend mornings you'll catch glimpses of runners and walkers through the trees.
You pass under 2 bridges- Interstate 285 and Interstate 75- which are easy to navigate, but can be a little noisy. These bridges frame the highlight of your paddle: Devils Race Course shoals, Thornton shoals and Long Island shoals. Navigating through this section will give you views of the jumbles of boulders that create a scenic view at East Palisades trail.
Who is Going to Love It
Paddlers who want a little excitement -- but not too much!
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Both the put-in and take-out point includes a park with bathrooms and picnic tables. Both of these parking lots are part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, so there is a $3 parking fee. At Johnson Ferry, only carry-in boats such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are allowed.
Be aware that the boat ramp at Paces Mill is on the left side of the river. The Chattahoochee River is heavily patrolled, so be sure to wear a life preserver or have one in reach while you’re on the water.
Before paddling, check the water release schedule here.