My trip was from the Jones Bridge CNRA (Chattahoochee National Recreation Area) unit to Don White Memorial Park. This is a great place to go canoeing for local Atlantans to get away from the city! The trip is around 10 1/2 miles and varies from relaxing to exciting.
Starting at Jones Bridge, the water is pretty smooth with a few rocks here and there that are easily avoided. The water isn't deep at all and you can stand in it although it is a little cold. There are also a lot of people fishing in this area, and interesting birds. Once you get to where Holcomb Bridge crosses the river (about 2 1/2 miles form starting point) you can only pass on the left side, close to the Dekalb County Water Treatment/Collection plant. It gets a little tricky maneuvering here because the plant feels like it is sucking you towards it.
Once you get past that point, it is smooth sailing, with no rocks sticking up or trees in the way. This is the point of the river where you start to see all of the fancy houses, and can sit back and let the river do the work. This section of the river is definitely Class I, you barely have to paddle. You won't get bored because there are lots of birds, reptiles, and animals to observe. We saw huge blue herons, cranes, hawks, and more. There are tons of turtles sunning themselves on river logs. We even saw a family of otters. The river remains like this for 4 miles until you get around to Old Riverside Rd. The first challenge comes when you get to the point where you have to choose between 3 ways, we went all the way to the right and didn't have any problems.
After this point...hold on and pay attention. The river goes up from a Class I to II ride. You start seeing ducks and people on rafts around here. Rocks start coming out of nowhere and the water gets really shallow. At the point when you reach the Island Ford Shoals CNRA there is no way to get around any of the rocks, and there are two ways to go. We went to the left and had an exciting ride. The bottom of the canoe got scraped frequently by rocks, at several points we got stuck on the rocks and had trouble getting off them. To the right there was a bunch of trees sticking up and a narrower channel of water to go through, maybe we should have gone that way, but we'll see next time.
After you get around Island Ford, your journey is coming close to ending. The water calms down here. We saw some river rats on the trees around this area. The total trip time for us was about 3 1/2 - 4 hours. You'll know when it's time to get out when you see and hear GA 400, the Don White Park is on the right exactly under GA 400. Although the river is developed heavily with houses most of the way, it still is a great trip to take if you live in the area and don't want to deal with the traffic while traveling to a father destination.
There is also concern about the pollution on the "metro hooch," but bacteria levels are usually low and under EPA standards if it hasn't rained in a few days. There is a website that you can see the bacteria levels on, but it's safe to say that if the river is clear and green instead of brown and muddy it is safe to swim in.
At Jones Bridge there are trails, ample parking, 2 boat ramps, and no bathrooms. At Don White Park there are picnic benches, parking, and a river overlook.
At the Jones Bridge CNRA there is a $2 fee to park, if you have a National Park Season Parking Pass it is free.
At Don White Park there is no fee to park.
How to get to Jones Bridge National Rec. Area (starting point) - From GA 400 take exit 7A to Holcomb Bridge Road. Keep going down Holcomb Bridge until you see Barnwell Rd. this will be right after the 2nd Kroger you see, take a left and go down the road until you see the Jones Bridge CNRA sign on the right and turn into the park. There are two boat ramps, one at the far end of the park and one towards the entrance. You can park at either one.
How to get to Don White Memorial Park - From GA 400 get of at exit 7A and turn right. Go down to Old Alabama (2nd stoplight) and turn right. Go all the way until the road runs into to Riverside Rd and take a left. The park is on the left.
I used the map on the Chattahoochee National Park website.
The bacteria levels of the river can also be found here.