Cooling off with the Chattahoochee

By Maureen Aikin, Naturalist and Visitor Services Associate

Have you ever wondered why the Chattahoochee River is so cold, even in the summertime?  While it’s true that the Chattahoochee’s headwaters are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, that isn’t the reason for the chilly temperatures we see in its North Atlanta section.

Strangely enough, the reason has to do with the construction of Lake Lanier and the Buford Dam.  Since their completion in 1956, the water we see in the ‘Hooch below the dam is much colder than it used to be.  This is because it comes directly out of the bottom of Lake Lanier, which is up to 160 feet deep and contains its coldest water!  So the construction of the lake and dam have actually changed the River’s ecosystem, effectively splitting it in two.

Parts of the Upper Chattahoochee (north of the lake) have warmer water – making it suitable for bass, bluegill, and other warmer water fish. South of the dam, in North Atlanta, the water temperature is around 50-55 deg. F year-round, making it ideal for trout. 

It’s also great for a multitude of recreational opportunities on those hot summer days.  The Chattahoochee offers a refreshing place to cool off by swimming, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, sunbathing, and even hiking.  The water is so cold that it actually creates a cool breeze at times.

We are so fortunate to have this wonderful water playground right in our backyard!

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