It was at the confluence of Sope Creek with the Chattahoochee River that General William Tecumseh Sherman crossed the last natural boundary between his men and Atlanta. The rugged creek drops sharply in its last half-mile in a gorge formed along the Brevard Fault Line.
Today, more than ten miles of hiking trails can be used explore the hills of the Chattahoochee River valley, the ruins of the Marietta Paper Mill and Sibley Lake.
Sope Creek is named in honor of Old Sope, also known as Chief Sope, a Cherokee Indian who lived near the Chattahoochee River between Roswell and Marietta. He was popular with early settlers because he spoke English and would teach the kids Cherokee arts like flintnapping. When the Georgia Guard came to Marietta to round up nearby Indians for the Cherokee Trail of Tears in 1838, local citizens told the Georgia Guard to leave Old Sope alone. During the Civil War the Union Army referred to this as Soap Creek.
Today, some people doubt the story of Old Sope, but there is ample evidence that Sope lived along this riverbank, both in Cherokee documents and local papers, however, a search of Cherokee documents did not reveal if Old Sope was a chief.
Work on the Marietta Paper Mill, located on Sope Creek about a half-mile above the Chattahoochee River, began in 1853 and the mill began production in 1855. Early production was centered on linen writing paper and newsprint. On December_19, 1859 the Marietta Paper Mill was incorporated, but quickly entered receivership under M. W. Sessions. At the time, buildings existed on both sides of the creek with the paper mill on the east bank and a warehouse on the west bank.
On July 4, 1860, Sessions sold the mill to C. C. Whitmire of Toledo, Ohio for $80,000. In late 1863 the mill began limited production, mostly because of problems getting rags and cotton. In March, 1864 the mill, largest in the state, was designated a primary target of the Atlanta Campaign because it manufactured the cartridge paper for Rebel guns.
When Sherman's cavalry captured the mill on July_6, 1864 (occasionally reported as July 5) they burned it to the ground. Three days after the mill burned the first time, a few men in Jacob Cox's 3rd Division, Army of the Ohio crossed the Chattahoochee on a Cherokee fishing dam, established a landing and began moving men across the river at an alarming rate. The following morning Lieutenant General Joseph E. Johnston withdrew from his Chattahoochee River Line.
Paper Mill Warehouse
Rebuilt after the Civil War, an accidental fire in November 1870 destroyed the main building but did not reach the powerhouse. The steam driven wood pulp production facility of the Marietta Paper Mill was completed in 1873 upstream from the present-day bridge as demand for higher-quality linen paper weakened because of cheaper paper produced from wood.
The date of last production at the paper mill is normally given as 1902. A story appeared in the Athens Banner in 1907 reporting a steam engine explosion on October 8 that threw pieces of the mill's engine 1/4 mile from the explosion. This probably occurred in the pulp mill, upstream from the Marietta Paper Mill.
Paper Mill Road crossed Sope Creek on a covered bridge, originally a Town Lattice design and 130 feet long built in 1873 and improved over the years. A center pillar support was added in the late 1940's because of increased automotive use. The bridge suffered structural damage in 1963 and on March 29, 1964 the bridge was a complete loss to fire. Arson is suspected but the case was never solved.
The concrete structure that Paper Mill Road used to cross Sope Creek was completed in 1923. Intense flooding of Sope Creek in September, 2009, weakened the original structure. In 2013 Cobb County completed a replacement project for the bridge.
The Sope Creek Unit is administered as part of Cochran Shoals, with whom it shares its southern border. Of the 10 miles of hiking trails in the park, 6.7 miles are designated mountain biking trails. This is a loop trail in the center of the park that carries bikers from Sope Creek Parking Area on Paper Mill Road to the paved Cochran Shoals loop.
Sibley Pond is an impoundment within the Sope Creek Unit and is named in honor of the Sibley family who owned the property before it became part of the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. John Addams Sibley, patriarch of the family, is best remembered as chairman of the Sibley Commission, which advised Governor Ernest Vandiver on potential solutions to the federal rulings against Georgia's segregated schools. Although about 60% of the people appearing before the commission supported resisting integration, the commission supported the desegregation of schools.
On May 23, 2014, a fire at a chemical company resulted in toxic materials in Sope Creek north of the park. The chemicals did kill some 10,000 fish in the creek, including many within the park according to the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.