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Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park: Why Kids Love It

The Chattahoochee River has seen all of Atlanta’s history – the good and the bad – over the years. What is now a beautiful body of water that offers a little oasis amongst a growing city, was once a pivotal area in Civil War history. Today, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park prides themselves on conservation of the river, keeping the history alive and it’s a great destination for families. Check out why kids love this Georgia national park and tips to plan your visit.

Tips for visiting the Chattahoochee National Recreational Park with kids - including the Junior Ranger program!

Compared to other Georgia parks, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park is mistakingly bypassed and less popular. It’s tucked away and slightly off the beaten path. Guests don’t happen to drive by, and it’s not an obvious landmark like Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield (that sticks up in the sky). You kinda have to know about the park and curiosity will peak.

The lesser known park is perfect for families though. Even on busy Saturdays, there aren’t big crowds. Escape to the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park for the perfect half-day as a family. You can get a little bit of peace and quiet, along with educational fun, that’ll lead to great family memories.

Pack the jogging stroller or carrier for little ones and wear comfortable shoes. Check the weather before planning your trip because some of the unpaved trails can be muddy with recent rains. Whether you’re planning to “shoot the hooch” and go tubing or complete the Junior Ranger booklet, the kids are bound to have some fun.

Looking for more family fun near the park? Check out the Chattahoochee Nature Center and Computer Museum of America – both in Roswell (just over the river).

4 Must-Do Kids Activities At Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park In Atlanta

Visitors have to pay $3 for parking and register their license plate to park. The actual address of the visitors center, that you want to use in your GPS is 8800 Roberts Dr, Sandy Springs, GA 30350. It can be difficult to find the visitors center, unless you use this address. I recommend starting at the visitors center when you’re visiting with kids. You’re technically visiting the Island Ford Park portion.

Kids love ask a Park Ranger questions about the park, it’s history and animals that call the park home. Plus, you can pick up your Junior Ranger booklet at the visitor’s center. Definitely park nearby and start there.

hands-on learning centers at visitors area
Kids love the hands-on educational activities at the Visitor’s Center lodge.

Junior Ranger Program At Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park

If you’re unfamiliar, the Junior Ranger program is an educational learning opportunity that’s offered to kids who are visiting any national park. They can complete a booklet in exchange for a badge. It’s a great way to teach the kids about the parks they’re visiting and they’ll love to collect badges at every park they visit.

Junior Ranger Program Chattahoochee River
Kids love earning Junior Ranger badges for completing the booklets!

The Junior Ranger program at CRNRP can be completed at the visitor’s center without completing any hikes or outdoor activities. They’ll enrich your visit, but the booklet can be completed without that.

Through the Junior Ranger program, kids will learn about the Civil War history associated with the Chattahoochee River, visiting the park responsibly and the area’s Native American history. It takes about 30-45 minutes for the kids to complete and it’s recommended for ages 8 or older (however, I help out with middle child who is younger).

Earning Junior Ranger Badges
Earning their Junior Ranger badges at the Chattahoochee River.

Family Hiking With Great Riverside Views

Quiet forested trails offer scenic views of the slow moving Chattahoochee River. Dog are allowed, on a leash, and the hikes are easy enough for kids. Plus, the unpaved trails are also wide enough for a jogging stroller. Enjoy the woodland area as you leisurely hike along the river banks.

The kid-friendly hiking trails are 3-miles long and you’re guaranteed to see a lot of interesting things. Since there are less crowds, you’ll see more animals. Plus, there are huge rock formations (that kids love) and several caves outcrops within the rocks.

Rock formations at Chattahoochee River
The rock formations are a part of Native American history.

According to historians, these caves likely provided shelter to the early Native American tribes that lived and hunted in the Chattahoochee River area. If you following the Island Ford Park Trail, it’s a large loop that leads back to the visitor’s center (which is great when you have tired kids).

Tubing In The Chattahoochee River: Float Away With Kids

The 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is available for raft, canoe, kayak, motor boat and other small boat use year round. Kids love Chattahoochee River tubing and floating the day away during the hot summer months. It’s a great way to feel some relief from Atlanta heat and humidity.

Chattahoochee National Recreational Park

The river is slow, without much of a current, and rubber-sole water shoes are recommended when tubing. The national park doesn’t rent out tubes, but you can check out nearby outfitters for day rentals. Per Georgia state law, a Personal Flotation Device is required for everyone on the water.

Come prepared with life jackets for the entire family. Check out the Chattahoochee River Float Times to find out the estimated amount of time it will take you to float between two destinations.

Suggested Float Route: Island Ford to Azalea Park
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time: 4-6 hours
If you’re looking for a longer route, start at Island Ford and end at Azalea Park.

Fishing With Kids At Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park

The Chattahoochee is best known for trout fishing, but you can also catch catfish and bass. The Island Ford area of the park, near the visitor’s center, offers pond fishing and the river. There is a daily limit of fish that guests can catch and you need to have a Georgia Fishing License. The pond areas are great for catch-and-release to teach kids who are beginners. They can fish from the deck areas and do not have to get into the water.

Fishing pond areas at the park
Pond fishing areas are perfect for kids to learn!

Our kids loved visiting the park and I truly enjoy the smaller crowd levels. It’s a great hidden escape from the city of Atlanta and plenty of fun for families. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Park is definitely a gem that locals love and don’t want others to know about, but it’s too good to keep a secret.

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