|From 2010-06-29 Settles Creek|
OK, we should understand by now that some of the best truly local hiking can be found at the many different units of the Chattahoochee National Wildlife Refuge. So when I was perusing their site, I stumbled upon a new unit of the CNWR, which had a link for hiking maps, but no maps. This was something I had to check out. So I made my way up to the Settles Bridge Unit in Suwanee, Georgia.
Upon arriving, I noticed that the other folks there were certainly not there for hiking. Sure, there was a young couple out for a romantic stroll by the river, but most were in swimsuits and many were carrying canoes or tubes for water fun. The trailhead sign said that the hike was a mere .5 miles, and that with significant grades to them. So we ventured forward.
The centerpiece of the park is the remnants of Settles Bridge, an Iron & Wood framework structure built in 1896, much of it rotted away or possibly stolen. The structure does span the entirety of the river and could be crossed with considerable difficulty, and there are signs posted letting you know that that is against the law. But if you search Youtube, you will find clips of folks jumping from the bridge into the water (for example here and here). I will tell you that isn’t something I would normally do.
At the bridge, we first hiked up the river downstream and couldn’t make it that far, maybe about .2 miles. We came back under the bridge and headed downstream, initially at the top of the ridgeline. The trails are rough and lightly traveled, we headed that direction for about a ¼ mile and came to a turn away from the river which ran along a small creek. At one spot there was a “T” in the road, turning right would no doubt take you back to the parking area. We headed left, did a little wet foot crossing of the stream and follow on about a half mile. My belief is that this trail is part of the trail to connect the whole CNWR and not just part of Settles Bridge itself. We turned around and made our way back this time hugging the river. There was evidence of trails across the creek going upstream, but we did not explore that area.
Along the river, you get views of the stream, and the rocks, and the bridge. We saw a pack of canoeists coming from the North and they landed at the bridge side dock. Apparently there is some sort of boat rental place that uses the bridge as an end marker. We came within about 8 feet of a huge bird pictured below. And then we made our way along the stream back. This “trail” runs maybe a ¼ mile and is some serious tricky footing, complete with rocks and mud and climbs, but fun nonetheless.
I look forward to the completion of the Settles Bridge Trail System. Right now it is predominantly a happy swimming hole. But the serenity and peace there give me high hopes for the future of this greenspace. There is a nearby park of the same name, run by Gwinnett Parks & Recreation, which is very popular with dog lovers and skateboarders.
Approximate Time: 45 min to 1 hour
Approximate Distance: .75 miles
Trail Surface: Red Clay, Compact Soil, Water Crossing, Rocks
Features: Wildlife, Bridge Ruins, Riverside Walk,
Overall Rating: B-
Scenic Quality: B
Parking: $3 (2010 – Standard CNWR rates)
Hours of Operation: Daylight hours
Maps: None available at this time