Cohutta Wilderness Closures Partially Lifted - Trails on north end of Wilderness to remain closed for extended period

Release Date: Aug 3, 2018  

Contact(s): Conasauga Ranger District, 706-695-6736


Today the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests announced the extended closure of trails on the north end of the Cohutta Wilderness area as a result of damage caused by high winds, heavy rain and flash flooding on July 21, 2018. Forest Service Road 51 (East Cowpen Road) also remains closed at this time. The storm caused significant damage and hazardous conditions that will continue to exist for an extended time period. Visitors should avoid the following closed trails: Jacks River, Beech Bottom, Rice Camp, Horseshoe Bend, Hickory Ridge, Rough Ridge, and Penitentiary Branch. The danger of suffering injury in a remote wildland area is serious, as communications and emergency response access is limited.

trail closure map v6

Cohutta Wilderness Trail Closures. Find updates on the July 21, 2018, Cohutta storm event on the agency website.

 

Cottonwood Patch Campground and trails on the south end of Cohutta Wilderness have reopened. Trails reopened to public use include the Benton Mackaye, Hemptop, Conasauga River Trail, Hickory Creek, Tearbritches, Panther Creek, Chestnut Lead, and East Cowpen.

On July 21, 2018, high winds and a flash flood occurred on the Chattahoochee National Forest, affecting a broad area of the Conasauga Ranger District, including the Cohutta Wilderness area (photos). More than 4-inches of rain fell across the isolated area in a 2-hour time span. 

The storm damage in this remote and rugged wild forest is expected to require the agency to keep affected trails closed for an extended period, to ensure public safety and the safety of people working to remove the dangerous debris hazards. Some sections of the Jacks River trail were completely obliterated, and no decision has been made on the future of this trail while assessments continue. The Cohutta Wilderness is regulated by federal law and special rules designed to protect the wilderness values. Designated Wilderness areas like the Cohutta Mountains are special because they are wild and quiet, without the noise and effects of motorized machines.  

"Even though the storm may be over, debris piles and falling trees make it extremely dangerous for hikers to visit certain trails in the Cohutta Wilderness," said District Ranger Jeff Gardner. "We are working to get trails open for visitors while we respect the values and rules making this a special place to visit."

Visitors play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please avoid closed areas and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Cohutta Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area. Please see our website for updates and information on joining a volunteer group if you wish to help our national forests.

The future of wilderness lies in the hands of the citizens that care about them. Groups like the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) program of The Wilderness Society, the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, the Benton MacKaye Trail Association and Team Conasauga, among many others not mentioned, are helping us to put "boots on the ground" to help manage wilderness and engage the next generation in wilderness stewardship.

Learn more about Designated Wilderness Areas at www.wilderness.net