Discover the Resources of the Flint River, One of Georgia’s 14 Major Watersheds

flint watershed
The Flint River. Photo by Beth Young

The Flint Watershed is one of Georgia’s 14 major watersheds. Beginning in the heart of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area near Hapeville, the Flint River flows 349 miles in a wide eastward arc to its junction with the Chattahoochee River at Lake Seminole in southwest Georgia. At Lake Seminole, the Flint is joined by the Chattahoochee, becomes the Apalachicola River and flows 106 miles through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. Read a Paddling Guide to the Flint River. Read How Jimmy Carter Saved the Flint River

See all of Georgia’s 14 Major Watersheds

Altamaha, Chattahoochee, Coosa, Flint, Ochlockonee, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Ogeechee, Satilla, Savannah, St Marys, Suwannee, Tallapoosa, Tennessee

The Flint Watershed System

The Flint watershed is part of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River system that drains an area of 20,038 square miles in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. Of that total, 8,460 square miles lie along the Flint; 8,770 square miles along the Chattahoochee arm and 2,808 square miles along the Apalachicola River in Florida. Beginning near the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the upper reaches of the Flint flow through the Georgia Piedmont, a plateau characterized by rolling red hills. At the Fall Line, the river drops about 400 feet over a distance of 50 miles. (In the Yellow Jacket Shoals area, a section of the Fall Line between GA 36 and Po Biddy Road Bridge, the Flint has slopes of 50 feet per mile). Below the Fall Line, the Flint flows through the soft, sandy sediments and limestone that make up the Coastal Plain. For 200 miles the Flint is a wild and free-flowing river. It is one of only 42 U.S. rivers with 124 miles or more of unimpeded flow. The Crisp County Power Dam on Lake Blackshear, approximately 220 miles from the headwaters is the first dam on the Flint and one of only three dams on the river – the others being the Georgia Power Dam at Lake Chehaw and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jim Woodruff Dam at Lake Seminole. At Lake Seminole, the Flint merges with the Chattahoochee, becomes the Apalachicola River at the Florida State line and flows 106 miles through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico.

How the Flint River Got Its Name

The Creek Indian name for the Flint River was Thronateeska, which meant flint-picking-up place. (The properties of flint made it ideal for chipping into arrowheads or spear points. It was highly valued and traded throughout the region.) The name derives from the Creek word ronoto, meaning flint, and hachi, meaning creek stream. Some old maps show the river as Hlonotiskahachi. Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins wrote that the Indian name for the Flint River was Lonatiskahatchee and that the word lonato meant flint; hachee was the Creek word for stream or creek.

River Protection

A Flint Riverkeeper organization was chartered in June of 2008.

Experiences in the Flint Watershed

Listed below are locations and experiences where you can make contact with the Flint River or its tributaries.

F.D. Roosevelt State Park

Located on Pine Mountain, this 9,047-acre park is deeply rooted in the historical era of four-time President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Seeking a place for treatment after he was stricken with polio in 1921, Roosevelt discovered the therapeutic waters of Warm Springs, a tributary of the Flint River and the creek for which the town of Warm Springs is named. He built the Little White House nearby. Several structures within the park, including the mountain-stone swimming pool, were built by Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps during the Depression. Above Kings Gap is Dowdell’s Knob, Roosevelt’s favorite picnic spot, which overlooks a magnificent view of the valley below. Hikers will enjoy the scenic trails in Georgia’s largest state park.

The Flint Watershed Connection: Warm Springs flows into Rocky Ford Branch, which joins Cane Creek, which merges with the Flint River near Woodbury.

Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park

This park on the shore of Lake Blackshear, an impoundment of the Flint River, was established as a permanent memorial to U.S. veterans who served their country. Two museums are located in the park. The indoor museum includes exhibits that interpret military actions from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War. The outdoor museum is comprised of aircraft, armored vehicles and guns from World War I through Vietnam. The park also features an 18-hole golf course and 7,000-acre Lake Blackshear.

The Flint Watershed Connection: Lake Blackshear is the Flint River impounded by the Crisp County Power Dam, the first dam on the Flint. That means that the river is free-flowing for some 200 miles, making it the longest undammed stretch of river in Georgia and one of only 42 free-flowing rivers with in the United States with greater than 125 miles unimpounded. Below Lake Blackshear, the Flint flows another 100 undammed miles through Albany and Bainbridge to merge with the Chattahoochee at Lake Seminole. Below Seminole, the Flint and Chattahoochee, renamed the Apalachicola at the Florida state line, flow 106 miles to the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola, Florida.

Little White House State Historic Site

Franklin Delano Roosevelt first came to Warm Springs in 1924 hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (polio) which had struck him in 1921. Swimming in the warm, buoyant spring waters brought him no miracle cure, but it did bring some improvement. He built a cottage there in 1932 while governor of New York. After he was inaugurated president in 1933, it was christened the Little White House. On April 12, 1945, during his 41st visit to the rural community of 500, he suffered a massive stroke while his portrait was being painted and died shortly thereafter. Today, the “Unfinished Portrait” is a focal point of the Little White House tour. The house furnishings have been carefully preserved very much as Roosevelt left them in 1945. The adjacent museum displays memorabilia collected in honor of the statesman and presents a brief film containing historic footage of Roosevelt and his contemporaries. Visitors can also see the guest house, servants quarters and Roosevelt’s hand-controlled 1938 Ford roadster convertible in which he toured the Flint River Watershed to places such as Flat Shoals, The Cove and Manchester.

The Flint Watershed Connection: The warm waters that Roosevelt found so therapeutic are the waters of Warm Springs, a creek that flows into Rocky Ford Branch, which flows into Cane Creek, which merges with the Flint River near Woodbury. Photographs in the museum show him picnicking and fishing at Flat Shoals on the Flint between Gay and Concord.

Seminole State Park

This Southwest Georgia park is on beautiful Lake Seminole, a 37,500-acre reservoir known for its sport fishing. The lake is shallow, but natural lime sink ponds have left areas of cool, clear water with a variety of fish. The threatened gopher tortoise, the only tortoise native to Georgia, makes its home along a 2.2-mile nature trail designed to interpret the wiregrass community habitat. The park is located near one of Georgia’s largest wildlife management areas, providing great duck hunting and deer hunting.

The Flint Watershed Connection: Lake Seminole is formed at the junction of the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers and Spring Creek. Jim Woodruff Dam impounds the lake. Below the dam, at the Florida state line, the river’s name changes to the Apalachicola and it flows 106 miles through Northwest Florida to the Gulf of Mexico.

Sprewell Bluff Park

At this little-known gem on the Flint River, visitors can cool off in the gently-flowing river, skip rocks across the water, picnic on the river’s edge or toss horseshoes in a grassy field. A 3-mile trail winds along the bank and up rocky bluffs, offering excellent views from high above the river. A boat ramp is available for canoeists, kayakers, rafters and anglers. Canoes may be rented nearby and camping is available approximately 25 miles away at F.D. Roosevelt State Park.

The Flint Watershed Connection: Sprewell Bluff is directly on the Flint River. From here canoeists can paddle from Georgia’s Piedmont, across the Fall Line and into the Coastal Plain, a distance of only about 10 or 12 miles. Jimmy Carter was born in Plains, in the Flint River Watershed. In 1974 as Governor of Georgia, he vetoed a U.S. Corps of Engineers dam proposal that would have inundated this site and much of the surrounding landscape.

Apalachicola

Behind New Orleans and Mobile, Apalachicola was the third busiest port on the Gulf Coast in the early 1800s. Cotton and other agricultural products from the Chattahoochee and Flint River Watersheds were transported downriver to Apalachicola via paddleboats. More than 200 homes, commercial structures and historic sites are located in the 2.5-mile National Historic District of Apalachicola. The Trinity Episcopal Church-sponsored Tour of Homes takes place annually the first Saturday of May. Unguided walking/driving tour brochures are available. More information: Apalachicola Area Historical Society, Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce.

Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve

Staff members conduct educational programs on estuarine ecosystems for large audiences ranging from school groups and the general public to environmental management professionals. Visitors experience hands-on exhibits; guest lecture series; interpretive field trips and hikes into the river, bay and barrier island habitats. Teacher workshops, classroom curriculum materials, traveling displays and publications are available through the Reserve.

Bainbridge

Located on the Flint River where the river begins to back up to form Lake Seminole and near the pre-lake junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers, Bainbridge is one of Georgia’s most historic river towns. It was an important riverboat port in the early 1800s from which cotton and other agricultural products were shipped to the port of Apalachicola on the Gulf of Mexico. The Bainbridge Heritage Tour is a self-guided driving tour of more than 50 historic homes and churches. A free guidebook for the tour is available. More information: Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce.

Newman Wetlands Center

Visitors learn about the characteristics, wildlife and plants of wetlands and how to preserve these environments. The natural areas around the wetlands trails are home to 130 species of birds, as well as beaver, river otter, fox, raccoon, muskrat, deer, wild turkey, opossum, mink and many other species of reptiles, insects, and amphibians. Staff members give guided tours of the wetlands to groups of 10 or more as well as to school groups. The Newman Wetlands Center is technically not in the Flint watershed – it is in the Ocmulgee – but its location on a ridge dividing the Ocmulgee and Flint tributaries illustrates how a change in elevation of only a few feet can divide one watershed from another. It’s also one of the best river and wetlands educational experiences in the state and demonstrates common characteristics of all watersheds and wetlands. Directions: From Jonesboro, take US 19/41 south about 5 miles to McDonough Road. Turn left and to go Freeman Road. Follow Freeman Road about 1 mile. The Wetlands Center is on the left.

Saint Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

Saint Vincent is an undeveloped barrier island just offshore from the mouth of the Apalachicola River that supports wetlands, dunes, cabbage palm and pine habitats. Staff-guided tours may be arranged for school groups and conservation organizations. Public tours emphasizing wildlife habitats occur in October. Hiking, hunting, fishing, and boating are available.

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