Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area | GOLD BRANCH UNIT

Marshy terrain at the Gold Branch Unit

Marshy terrain at the Gold Branch Unit


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The Gold Branch unit of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area offers excellent hiking opportunities and views of the river that differ from the other park units. The water surrounding the unit is not considered the Chattahoochee River, but Bull Sluice Lake. Whereas Lake Lanier is nothing more than a “backed-up” Chattahoochee River due to the Buford Dam, the water surrounding Gold Branch has been backed up by the Morgan Falls Dam, which is south of the park and not within any units of the Recreation Area. The dam was built in 1904 by the Atlanta Water and Electric Company.

The shoreline along Gold Branch consists of coves and inlets that run the gamut of very narrow streams of stagnate sludge to open areas that actually do resemble a lake more than a river. However, don’t expect to find another Lake Lanier. While the environment is noticeably different from the rest of the river, had it not been pointed out that I was looking a “lake,” I would have never guessed it. Due to a lack of rapidly flowing water as exhibited in the mainstream river, the water around Gold Branch has turned somewhat “marshy.” As a result, there is a much larger variety of birds and waterfowl than on the main river.

There is no boat, canoe, or raft launch in the unit, so visitors are pretty much limited to hiking.

There is a small fee to enter any of the park units. Day passes (currently $5) and annual Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area passes (currently $40) are available. The day pass is good for entrance into as many park units as you can get to in a day, but it is good for only one day.

You can purchase a pass at the Island Ford Visitor Center (cash or credit); in advance online at Recreation.gov; or at the park using the Internet and your cell phone. Cash is no longer accepted at the park units. Some units have credit card machines, but most have been shut down and are no longer working. If purchasing a pass at the park unit, you enter your license plate number when purchasing. This is how the park Rangers know which vehicles are parked legally. Park Rangers sporadically patrol the parking lots and will issue tickets for those who have not paid. Keep in mind that this is an entrance fee, not a parking fee, so you need a pass even if you walk or bike into the park. If asked by a Ranger, you must be able to show a hard copy pass or a digital pass on your phone.

Annual National Park Passes are also good for entry.

For current fees, see the the park’s Fees and Passes web page.

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Last updated on September 28, 2020
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