Location: Roswell, Georgia Cost: Inexpensive Overview: Interpretive areas throughout, animals (especially birds of prey), hiking, two lakes and a garden including an area designed to attract butterflies, boardwalk with tours.
Lake at the Chattahoochee Nature Center
Want an outdoor adventure not far from downtown Atlanta? The Chattahoochee Nature Center is the place to go. Whether you enjoy visiting the American bald eagle and other birds of prey, watching butterflies in the garden, or simply hiking almost 3 miles of trails, the Nature Center provides a family break that can fill a morning or afternoon.
Our journey to the Chattahoochee Nature Center begins in the gift shop, where visitors pay a modest entrance fee. Yearly memberships are also sold, and members get free admittance, a newsletter and invitations to special events held at the Center. From the entrance our destination depends on the time of day (believe it or not). Over the years we have found that early morning and late afternoon are the best times to view the abundant river life from the shore of Bull Sluice Lake, although you can almost always see some waterfowl from the boardwalk. From the entrance, turn right and descend the hill to a wire gate with a traffic light. Press the button on the right-hand side and walk across Azalea Drive when the light turns green. This is a very busy road and caution should be taken even if you have a green light.
Photographers will want to have a camera with a macro for close-ups
Bull Sluice is the name of the Chattahoochee River impoundment created by Morgan Falls Dam. These falls were covered by the lake's waters when it was formed in 1904. Waterfowl and birds of prey frequently visit the 580-acre lake from nearby nesting areas and its easy to spot herons, egrets, even an occasional osprey or cormorant. Other common large birds include Canadian geese, hawks and owls.
After visiting the River Boardwalk Trail return across the street and explore the Center using the network of hiking trails. On the right, the Georgia wetlands trail carries visitors along the shore of a small pond, modified to look like various natural water habitats in Georgia including the Okefenokee Swamp. A bog on the right side of the trail has pitcher plants, a native Georgian flora that consumes bugs for sustenance. As the shore of the lake curves left you are presented with a choice of trails, the Woodland Trail, Homestead Trail or the Kingfisher Pond Trail. Of the three the red-blazed Woodland Trail is the hardest, a steady climb to a grave on the top of a small knoll overlooking the Chattahoochee River and the easiest is the light-blue blazed Kingfisher Pond Trail. The orange-blazed Homestead Trail climbs to a settler’s homestead complete with chimney. Two other trails, the Stone Cabin Trail and Beaver Pond Trail explore the northern reaches of the Chattahoochee Nature Center, well away from the river.
While the Center offers some great hiking, it also lets visitors see some very special animals, birds and plants close-up. In the garden the trail winds past a series of specially selected plants designed to attract butterflies including the butterfly bush, honey bells, lantana and sage. After passing through the butterfly garden a side path curves around to a beaver habitat. Nocturnal animals in the wild, these captive beaver are occasionally active during the day and are fun to watch.
American Bald Eagle at the Chattahoochee Nature Center
Continue down the hill to averies filled with an assortment of birds of prey. Largest of the averies hold two American bald eagles, a great place to introduce the kids to this amazing species. This eagle is the national symbol and at one time they flourished in Georgia. They are members of the Accipitridae family, which includes hawks, kites and some vultures. The center has what is commonly known as the southern bald eagle, the more endangered of the two. Northern bald eagles have a strong presence in Alaska, British Columbia and the Northwest United States. Eagles are only found on the North American continent and are now protected under various acts and treaties since the early 1900's.
Birds and animals being housed at the Chattahoochee Nature Center are kept here because of a problem that prevents them from being reintroduced into the wild. One frequent problem is eye damage, which makes it impossible for the bird to hunt. If the bird were released into the wild, which is the Center's preferred ending to treatment, the bird would starve. Among the raptors kept at the center are Great Horned Owls, Barred Owls, Red-tailed hawks, black and turkey vultures, red-shouldered hawks, and cooper's hawk.
Additional information on the Chattahoochee Nature Center
Directions from GA 400 North: Take exit 6 (Northridge Rd.) At the end of the ramp turn right, crossing over the expressway. Turn right (Dunwoody Place) and follow it to Roswell Road (1.2 miles) and turn right. After crossing the Chattahoochee River, turn left onto Azalea Drive, then left on Willeo Road. Turn right into the Chattahoochee Nature Center.