You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

breaking news

New I-85 bridge on schedule, could cost up to $16.6M

North Georgia rivers offer great snorkeling


Summer’s over for most families with children, and the beach vacation is just a memory. But why not reclaim the feel of summer during the waning warm weather by going picknicking, hiking and snorkeling in North Georgia?

A little-known spot near Cisco is a prime place, although snorkeling is usually associated with coastal areas. More than 70 species of fish can be spotted in the Conasauga River,which merges with Jack’s River to form a well-known snorkeling hole. Some of these fish are found no place else on Earth.

Jacq Marie Jack recalls taking her nephew there when he was 12. “He loved it,” she says.

It was a summer day and he was bored. She suggested they go snorkeling. “What?” he exclaimed, “Drive all the way to Florida?”

Nope, she said. It’s a day trip to the mountains.

After exiting the interstate at Cartersville, they drove to Cisco on U.S. 411. Eventually they turned off on a dirt road for about 30 minutes, entering the Chattahoochee National Forest (which becomes the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee). Just across the state line, where the conjoined streams loop into Tennessee before bending south again into Georgia, they reached the site, a recreation area with picnic tables where they picnicked before swimming.

Then they walked down a gentle incline to the Conasauga River. It was clear and clean with a large deep pool where fish collect. Because both the Conasauga and Jack’s rivers originate in the federally protected Cohutta Wilderness, the water is unusally clean and clear and boasts an unusual abundance of fish.

“He liked the sense of discovery,” Jack said of her nephew. His most vivid memory is the large snapping turtle he found.

For Jack, it felt like a rich experience. “We don’t realize we have the ability to look under the surface” in the tumbling rivers and creeks of North Georgia and Tennesee, she said.

The pool in the Conasauga was designated for snorkeling by the U.S. Forest Service in 2000.

“It’s like swimming in an aquarium,” said Jim Herrig, an aquatic biologist with the Forest Service. When he takes groups to the snorkeling hole, he generally able to point out no fewer than 20 species of fish, many of them colorful.

This time of year, one of the most colorful is the Blue Shiner, gray-blue with a gold stripe. An endangered species, it is only found in four other streams in the world — but it’s common here.

Snorkelers can also see the Mobile logperch, a yellow fish with tiger stripes, which can reach half a foot long. This fish flips rocks over with its nose to eat the bugs underneath. It’s a good indicator of clean streams, since it can’t survive in polluted ones.

Darters and minnows can be seen easily in the shallows, Herrig said. Swimmers only have to dip their masks slightly below water level to see.

Drum fish, up to 20 inches long, and redhorse suckers, which can be 2 feet long, are beginning to migrate downstream for winter. The river redhorse has a distinctive red tail. These fish normally are at their most colorful in the spring.

You can go it alone, or join an organized group. The Forest Service takes groups of 12 -20 people snorkeling from May into early October. Equipment is provided for $20 a person. Financial assistance is available.

School groups, Boy Scouts, Boys & Girls Clubs and conservation groups have taken trips.

In mid-August, the Georgia Conservancy took a group to the area.

They donned wetsuits at the recreation area and then slid into the river.

The wetsuits aren’t necessary, Brian Foster of the Conservancy said, but they improve buoyancy, allowing swimmers to float easily on the surface to view fish underneath. They can be rented from outfitters. Herrig said the water temperature ranges from from 72 to 75 degrees in the summer, and is in the high 60s now.

Foster said children as young as five or six would enjoy a trip. The water at the edge of the pools is shallow, but deepens to almost 8 feet.

Jack’s advice to snorkelers is to wear a T-shirt over bathing suits to avoid any snags on the rocks. She also prefers to swim to the pool through shallow water rather than walk across the rocks. Herrig suggests wearing wading shoes.

The last four to five miles to the area are on a forest access road of dirt and gravel.

“You have to pay attention to the directions,” Foster said.

Families who would like to go snorkeling can simply make a day trip to the area. Or combine it with a hiking and camping trip, staying at one of the riverside site for tents. Other pools good for snorkeling are found for four miles downstream from the designated snorkeling area. They can be reached by a hiking trail along the river.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Travel

Everything to know about Georgia's
Everything to know about Georgia's "Little Grand Canyon"

Everyone is familiar with Arizona's Grand Canyon, but many Georgians aren't aware of the state's "Little Grand Canyon," which is formally named Providence Canyon. Compared to its more famous counterpart, it may be relatively small, but by any other measure, the gullies are massive. Located about 150 miles southwest of Atlanta, the canyon...
Giraffe's baby bump boosts tiny zoo's upkeep, conservation
Giraffe's baby bump boosts tiny zoo's upkeep, conservation

April the giraffe has brought a bundle to a tiny zoo in rural upstate New York, thanks to a YouTube video livestream of her pregnancy and birth of an incredibly cute calf that has riveted viewers around the world.  Owners of the for-profit Animal Adventure Park won't say exactly how much they've pulled in from all April-related ventures, but internet...
Suitcase GPS? Scented bags? The latest travel gadgets.
Suitcase GPS? Scented bags? The latest travel gadgets.

At the International Travel Goods Show, held this month in Las Vegas, I saw the future of travel. We will always know the whereabouts of our checked luggage. We will sleep as comfortably on planes as kittens in a basket. And we will never again experience the horror of watching our gadgets power down with no outlets in sight.  Fortunately, we...
Travel Tips: How to pick a travel agent
Travel Tips: How to pick a travel agent

Finding the right travel agent is like finding the right doctor, according to David Kolner, who oversees the travel agent membership program for Virtuoso, a network of more than 15,000 agents globally. “This may sound extreme — after all, they’re only booking your travel — but your leisure time is one of your most valuable assets...
Brace yourself for overbooked flights this summer

When United Airlines dragged a screaming man from his seat recently, bloodying him in the process, it caused a justifiable uproar. The resulting outrage is spurring a cry for additional fliers’ protections. When passengers aboard a small plane in Rochester, Minn., were held hostage for five-plus hours overnight in 2009, the incident and similar...
More Stories