I love photographing major rivers and their immediate environs. Besides the unique visuals on display (reflections, dams, bridges, boats, ferries, waterfalls), a river is a time machine, telling a story about history, settlement, industry, commerce, climate, pollution, recreation, restoration and culture. They wander and twist, sometimes still, sometimes in a torrent. Cities, towns and farms hug them and grow. They start high and end low. Their waters give life.
The Chattahoochee is a beautiful example. It is not the widest or longest but it informs and sustains the entire region around it. It was inhabited by native peoples as far back as 1000BC. They were removed (many forcibly) by 1832. It was of considerable strategic importance during the Civil War and as a corridor for trade, navigation and transportation. It has been exploited, polluted and partially restored. Wildlife can be abundant. It is the backyard for expensive homes and powerplants.
The Chattahoochee is 430 miles long, beginning in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the North Carolina border and emptying into Lake Seminole at the borders of Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Many parts have been channeled and dammed but there are also countless parks along its banks.
While photographing this project, I stayed as close to the river as possible, but also explored the culture and human impact on the land within a couple of miles of its waters.
The Chattahoochee River's name is derived from Creek Indian words meaning “painted rock.” It was memorialized in an 1877 poem by Sidney Lanier. The 1st stanza:
Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,
I hurry amain to reach the plain,
Run the rapid and leap the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accept my bed, or narrow or wide,
And flee from folly on every side
With a lover's pain to attain the plain,
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the valleys of Hall.