Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest

Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest
Fall in the Chattahoochee National Forest

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in northern Georgia comprises two United States National Forests, the Oconee National Forest and Chattahoochee National Forest. The combined total area of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest is 865,855 acres (3,504 km2), of which the Chattahoochee National Forest comprises 750,502 acres (3,037 km2) and the Oconee National Forest comprises 115,353 acres (467 km2). The county with the largest portion of the forest is Rabun County, Georgia, which has 148,684 acres (601.7 km2) within its boundaries.



The Chattahoochee National Forest takes its name from the Chattahoochee River whose headwaters begin in the North Georgia mountains. The River and the area were given the name by the English settlers who took the name from the Indians living here. The Cherokee and Creek Indians inhabited North Georgia. In one dialect of the Muskogean languages, Chatta means stone; ho chee, marked or flowered. These marked or flowered stones were in the Chattahoochee River at a settlement near Columbus, Georgia.

Anna Ruby Falls.

In 1911, the United States Forest Service purchased 31,000 acres (125 km2) of land in Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin and Union Counties from the Gennett family for $7 per acre. This land was the beginning of what would become the Chattahoochee National Forest. The initial land purchases became a part of the Cherokee National Forest on June 14, 1920.

Ranger Roscoe Nicholson, who was the first forest ranger in Georgia and had advised the Forest Service in its initial land purchases, continued the growth of the Chattahoochee by negotiating the purchase of most of the Forest Service land in what is now the Chattooga River Ranger District. The Coleman River Scenic Area near Clayton, Georgia was dedicated to "Ranger Nick", as he was called, in honor of his promotion of conservation ideals.

Ranger Arthur Woody also promoted conservation and was a key figure in the early development of the Chattahoochee. Unwise land and resource use had caused the deer and trout populations to virtually disappear in the North Georgia mountains and Woody brought trout and deer back to the area. The trout were shipped to Gainesville, hauled across the narrow, dirt, mountain roads and eventually released in the streams. Woody also purchased fawns with his own money, and fed them until they could be released on what became the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area. Many landmarks in the Chattahoochee bear Ranger Woody’s name in tribute to his work. Sosebee Cove, a 175 acres (0.7 km2) tract of prize hardwood along GA 180 is set aside as a memorial to Woody, who negotiated its purchase for the Forest Service.

On July 9, 1936, the Forest Service was reorganized to follow state boundaries and President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the Chattahoochee a separate National Forest. In 1936, the Chattahoochee was organized into two Ranger Districts, the Blue Ridge and the Tallulah.

In 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed 96,000 acres (388 km2) of federal lands in central Georgia as the Oconee National Forest. The Oconee then joined the Chattahoochee to become the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests of today.

The Chattooga River was designated a Wild and Scenic River during the 1970s. The Chattooga remains one of the few free-flowing streams in the Southeast and is known for its white water rafting and beautiful scenery. The movie Deliverance was filmed on the Chattooga River, which became the fictional Cahulawassee River in the movie.


General map of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.

The Chattahoochee National Forest today covers 18 north Georgia counties. The Chattahoochee currently has three ranger districts:

  • Blue Ridge Ranger District, Office in Blairsville, GA
  • Chattooga River Ranger District, Office in Tallulah Falls, GA
  • Conasauga Ranger District, Office in Chattsworth, GA

It includes over 2,200 miles (3,500 km) of rivers and streams (including about 1,367 miles (2,200 km) of trout streams). There are over 450 miles (720 km) of hiking and other recreation trails, and 1,600 miles (2,600 km) of "roads." In addition to the Chattooga River and the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River, natural attractions within it boundaries include the beginning of the 2,174-mile (3,499 km) Appalachian Trail, Georgia's highpoint, Brasstown Bald and Anna Ruby Falls.

The Chattahoochee also includes ten wildernesses that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. all of which are managed by the United States Forest Service. The wildernesses are:

  1. Big Frog Wilderness
  2. Blood Mountain Wilderness
  3. Brasstown Wilderness
  4. Cohutta Wilderness
  5. Ellicott Rock Wilderness
  6. Mark Trail Wilderness
  7. Raven Cliffs Wilderness
  8. Rich Mountain Wilderness
  9. Southern Nantahala Wilderness
  10. Tray Mountain Wilderness

The Oconee National Forest today is spread over eight Georgia counties and is organized into one ranger district. The Oconee Ranger District maintains several hiking and other recreational trails in the forest. Forest headquarters are located in Gainesville, Georgia.

Map showing the lands of the National Forest

Georgia counties

Listed below are the counties with land in the Forest showing the area and the relevant ranger districts.[1]

Chattahoochee National Forest

Chattooga River Ranger District

Conasauga Ranger District

Blue Ridge Ranger District District

Oconee National Forest

The Oconee National Forest is almost halfway between Macon and Athens. There are several man-made lakes in the region that are available for public watercraft. Hiking and camping are encouraged, but there are some places in the forest that are considered to be private land. Galingayle, a master planned community in Madison, is an example of some of the private land that is not available to outsiders unless they are with a member. These communities work with park rangers to ensure that their lifestyle has little or no impact on the environment.

Oconee Ranger District


External links

Coordinates: 34°45′49″N 84°06′56″W / 34.76361°N 84.11556°W / 34.76361; -84.11556

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