Learning Center

Resolving Natural Resource Challenges


What does it take to care for a national forest? Many people think managing a national forest is mostly about taking care of the trees and the animals and that's a big part of it. But equally important, and maybe even more challenging, is managing how people behave when they come to the forest and how well they take care of the trees, the animals, and all the other parts of the forest ecosystem.

This section of our website provides an overview of the situations forest managers deal with and offer you, the student, the opportunity to think about possible solutions to the problems.

To illustrate some of these ideas, take a look at this interactive illustration of how people can affect the quality of the land and water in their daily activities all the way from the forest to the city.


The Upper Chattahoochee River Watershed Field Trip Itinerary

It's always good to know where you're going. So here's a map to help orient you.

  1. Martin Branch
  2. Low Gap Creek Campground
  3. Upper Chattahoochee River Campground and Horse Trough Falls
  4. Jasus Creek

Here is information for you to know before you visit the forest. These are some situations the Forest Service has dealt with and some issues that still need attention.

The upper Chattahoochee Watershed is an important resource for millions of people. Why? Because the Chattahoochee River provides drinking water for Gainesville, Atlanta and many towns in-between.

History of Upper Chattahoochee Campground

Photo of an area in the upper Chattahoochee River Campground before the area was rehabilitated.
Too many people camping in this area killed most of the plants and caused soil compaction in the upper Chattahoochee River Campground. This site is directly on the stream bank. How did this area affect the water in the stream?

Photo of some tents along Jasus Creek. A stream improvement structure is visible in the stream.
A stream improvement structure in Jasus Creek. Why is it important to create small waterfalls in a stream?

This developed campground was once a barren, dirt-covered area without vegetation.  The recreation overuse in this area resulted in an unnatural amount of soil and silt running into the stream, lowering water quality.  Through actions like covering roads with gravel, creating tent sites, and building toilets, the Forest Service manages this campground to provide visitors with a good outdoor experience while protecting a clean and healthy river.

About a mile and a half upstream from the Chattahoochee Campground are two springs that represent the starting point, or source, of the Chattahoochee River.  The water that flows from them is crystal clear and incredibly clean.  Unfortunately, as the water flows south, pollution and erosion threaten its quality.

A jumble of sticks and logs in a stream may look messy, but it is actually good for the stream.  Piles of woody debris in streams slow the flow of water, preventing further bank erosion.  Also, they provide necessary habitat and nutrients for fish, insects, salamanders, and other stream life.  Forest Service managers often place woody debris in streams and leave existing debris in place to improve stream habitat and water quality.

Soil Compaction

Any time a number of people walk, ride their bikes, or camp in the same spot, it squeezes the soil into a hard, cement-like surface.  That’s soil compaction.  It prevents water from soaking into the surface of the soil and when it rains, this water can run off quickly into streams and rivers.  This rushing water quickly strips stream banks of soil, rocks, and trees.  The result is erosion and a river that is muddy.

Loving the Forest to Death

A greater number of people recreate (camp, fish, hike, play, etc.) near the Chattahoochee River and its tributaries every year.  Camping too close to a stream damages the vegetation that holds the stream bank together.

The Forest Service works to provide information to visitors to help them be safe in the forest and to help them protect our natural resources. Here are some examples of information we provide to our visitors.

Rules for Visitors to the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests

Wildlife Safety and Being Bear Aware

Seeing a wild black bear is an exciting and memorable experience when visiting the national forest.  It is important to be aware that you may encounter a bear or other wildlife at any time.  You are responsible for your safety and the safety of the bears.  Please help keep our black bears wild by not approaching or feeding them. Get more info and some basic safety tips when camping or recreating in black bear territory.

Outdoor Ethics

Where are you on the ethics scale? When you camp or hike, do you Leave No Trace?