A day on the river sounds ideal, drifting along in a tube or canoe, wading in for some fishing or just doing a little swimming. On many rivers in Georgia, this may mean spending time on calm, slow-moving water. But in areas like the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam or on rivers designated to have “hazardous waters,” the atmosphere may change rapidly – from low and calm, to high and swift-moving. How do you stay safe?
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER
The Georgia DNR encourages everyone to be cautious around any water body. However, the Chattahoochee River in the Atlanta area has some unique qualities that make it potentially more hazardous than others. This includes the area below Buford Dam to the Highway 20 bridge and the area from the Morgan Falls dam boating safety zone markers to the DNR Boat ramp in Fulton County.
Water Release from Buford Dam
- Water Release Schedule Varies: Water is released from Lake Lanier at Buford Dam on a varying schedule. To find out the current water release schedule, call Buford Dam at 770.945.1466. For Morgan Falls Dam schedule, call 404-329-1455.
- Water Release Signal: A horn signals the release of the water. Immediately upon that sound, river users are encouraged to exit the water as the water level will begin to rise rapidly and the flow of the water will increase.
- Water Temperature: The water that is released is cold water coming from the bottom of the lake. This can create hypothermia on those immersed in the water.
- Water Obstructions: Fallen trees, slippery rocks, logs – one might encounter any of these items while on the water. Know how to steer your vessel or yourself around these types of obstacles safely.
- Water Conditions: Upon release of the water from the Dam, the water on the Chattahoochee River can rise as much as 11 feet. You need to make plans on how to get off the water quickly and safely.
Life Jacket Requirements and Use
- State Law: The Chattahoochee River contains portions that are designated as hazardous waters (as detailed under an above paragraph). State law requires all those aboard a vessel (any watercraft that can be used as a means of transportation) in areas designated as “hazardous waters” to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- State Law: State law also says that there must be one U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket on board any vessel for each person on the vessel. Any vessel user age 10 and under is required to have a life jacket on when a vessel is underway.
- Federal Law: Additionally, federal law states that a life jacket must be worn in the area below Buford Dam to the Hwy 20 Bridge, or downstream of Morgan Falls Dam and the Morgan Falls boat launch when boating, tube floating or wading.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources wants you to have fun on the water, but make sure you are prepared for water conditions with plenty of preparation and encourages caution and awareness at all times.
For more information about boating safety, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com . For more information about the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta, visit the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/chat/planyourvisit/things2know.htm .