Field Trip: Chattahoochee Fish Hatchery


I spent most of my day in the Chattahoochee National Forest yesterday. With the temperatures in the 90's it was a cool respite under shady greens with flickering sunlight dancing through the leaves. I took the forest road out to the fish hatchery and was blown away by the scope of the project. They are hatching our native Brook Trout, Brown Trout (a European native) and Rainbow Trout from out west. There were about 24 long pools of fish and a building with smaller pools for the tiny rainbows. Outside of the hatchery, you could find fish in the Toccoa river very easily, and of course, there were plenty of fishers  there just pulling them out of the water constantly.

This hatchery is slated to be closed after 2012. The reason? The budget. The financial sector of this country has bankrupted the nation and while a tiny percent has made a fortune on top of their already obscene fortune through fraud and corruption, their debts must be paid. And so we lose the hatchery.

Driving back to Chickory through the Skeenah gap area I was on the verge of weeping at the beauty of the valleys, still green though we've had little rain. Fields had been cut and the hay was rolled dotting the landscape with their familiar cylindrical shape. The mountains, gentle and ancient, were very blue and the clouds bright and rising high until finally releasing the much needed water in the afternoon along with dime-sized hail. It was the first real rain I've seen in two weeks and it was the perfect endnote to a perfect day.

I can't believe I live here. Whatever I was doing before, I only thought I was living. Now I know what it is to be really alive and connected to the source of life. It is a privilege to live in a landscape that is still relatively wild and so breathtakingly beautiful. But it is fragile, just like the tiny fish, so it must never be taken for granted. Being present and awake in each moment is a discipline that must be cultivated and nurtured, so that I am worthy of this life.


  1. Chickory, your blog is so inspiring (except for the Burt Reynolds stuff). As someone wanting a far-reaching life change, I greatly enjoyed reading the last paragraph of this post. Thank you!

  2. Well saied.

  3. Chattahoochee ... running water ... fish ... Burt Reynolds. I'm thinking Deliverance!

  4. John, thank you! Im sorry about Burt, I have endured so much ridicule for my love of him. In his prime, he was prime, but then he got old and had a face lift and ruined himself. I like to think he died, like James Dean, forever "Lewis" in Deliverance. Go ahead, change your life. Step off. The road will rise to meet you.

    Mago: thanks a million!

    XL: grrrrrrhahahaha. that was the Chatooga! two counties over. but, yeah! Its a great idea to have a bad ass with a compound bow around when youre way up in the sticks alone.

  5. I remember the first time I ever snagged a rainbow trout. Even though we were allowed to keep three to eat, I had to let mine go, it was so pretty. Although, they are terrifically yummy and readily available here in NM.

    Did you shoot the video?

    P.S.: Let's not forget the part We the People played in bankrupting this country as well, due to our thinking we have a right to a whole bunch of stuff we have no way of paying for. We still think that way, unfortunately.

  6. I would like to put in a good word for Burt for his role in Boogie Nights. I think he did a good job of tapping into his 70s vibe for that one.

  7. Do you ever camp in the various semi-wildernesses you're so lucky to live near?

    If so, please recommend one.

    Make that two.

    One with facilities and one primitive one.

  8. Moi: they are gorgeous gorgeous fish. The brook trout are almost the same except they have the "worm crawl" pattern on their upper back. And yes they are a great tasting fish - I believe I served it at the 2010 summit.

    On the bankrupting thing, iM not gonna take that rap as part of "we the peeps". But I know what you are saying. However, there is systemic fraud in the major financial houses that makes Bernie Madoff look like a boy scout. You know this is true.

    I am not ragging on the millionaire next door -the kind of person I admire and respect and would like to be.

    xl: he did. but that movie was weirdly depressing for me.

    Troll: Here are two I like and know. We used to camp at Coopers Creek before we got Chickory. Great fishing and beautiful forest. Camping sites are primitive...cleared and thats it. We always bought a bit of firewood on the way in (and brought our own fish, just in case)

    Then, right down the road from my house is the Cohutta Wilderness. It is for experienced backpackers. But up at Jack's river (great fishing) is a level field like area for camping. You can hunt up there too. A gps loaded with the trails is a great idea and if you ever get in a jam climb as high as you can get and call the forest ranger.

    north of me, in Blairsville, is Vogel state park and that one has cottages and stuff...and i think outdoor showers in the camping area.

    If you want to do the cohuttas you can use my place as Base Camp. :-)!

  9. moi: yes thats my video. you cant tell?

  10. I saw the video and then read your post and they are perfect compliment to each other. You'll read this somewhere else, but I find watching the fish mesmerizing and relaxing. I think your videos are really professional and it's impressive you banged this out so fast. I LOVE the map and the music... but mostly, I love how you love your forest and land.

    Oh, and I also love Burt. xoxo

  11. Wonderful day, so glad you shared :-)

  12. You bet I remember that trout dinner. One of the best I've ever had. I didn't know how popular fly fishing is in your part of the country until I saw the outfitters in Blue Ridge and met your buddies. What's going to happen to that industry if the hatchery goes under? I hate to think of it.

  13. mountain passage
    moonlight spring
    skyward essence
    warming wind
    chords of sunshine
    trees and feathers
    golden trails
    harmony centers
    butterfly pathways
    emerald greens
    flowers bloom
    summers dream
    bumble bees
    rivers roll
    livings lift
    natures glow


  14. Good afternoon Chickory,

    You knew I would enjoy this. Nice job on the video. And oh boy, do I love trout. Pan fried over a campfire, right after you pull them out of the water.

    I never will understand why it is that good projects lose their funding, while so many useless ones get funding increases.

  15. An absolutely lovely video. Most impressive! Will keep fingers crossed the hatchery doesn't have to close.

  16. Hatcheries are amazing. We saw one a few years ago in Missouri and they had brown trout that had to have been 8 - 10 pounds. And they followed the kids around because they had fish food.

    You are indeed lucky to live away from civilization. I would love to do something like Chickory - some day.

  17. smile....endearin' Sugar Pie.

  18. Such a lovely post and day for you dear chickory ... many of your words touched my heart but your last paragraph especially was so moving ... you are worthy of this life in your wilderness as you can see and feel the beauty that is around you and you care, nurture and protect it.

    xoxoxo ♡

  19. Your part of the country certainly has its perks.

    Sad to see the hatchery go. Perhaps there will be a new one when things get better.

  20. boxer: thank you. The projects I am working on are so big they are really too much for my equipment. I need big processing power!! the fish were so beautiful I just couldnt get over it. Nobody understands about Burt except YOU. thanks Boxa.

    fishy: you are welcome. Im sure your won pond is a lovely place too.

    moi: the TVA has something to do with it too. They drew down our big lake last year in july - which meant the rivers' waters got too hot and they killed all the trout. now *surprise* they wont pay their part in restoration. Blue RIdge is Georgias trout capital so it would hurt our local economy. and we have a world class bamboo fly fishing rod maker here -bill oyster - people come from all over the country to get a rod. but when i think of fly fishing i think of a river runs through it country.

    neil: lovely. chords of sunshine trees and feathers is perfection. thank you.

    Karl: i thought so! I wanted you to know its not all flowers and chicks over here! and youre right -when you think of the money hurts even more. thanks for coming by.

    eggy: please do -we need it it. the forest needs it.

    faery: you were with me on the drive: listening to TP Highway Companion.

    buzz: it is amazing, and dont think i dont know how very very blessed i am. I hope your someday comes soon. I Bet the pudge and boy loved the hatchery!

    aunty: *smile*

    dianne: thank you for that! i certainly hope so -i do try and be in it. My moms death made it even more so. SHe was the one who first loved a river place - when i was in high school. she called it the kingdom.

    xdell: it does. but i think with the proper attitude-almost everyones home does. Very sad - and i hop things do get better but i dont see how -at least not moneywise. i just dont. great to see you, xdell.

  21. It's so sad that this will have to close! Perhaps the financial situation will improve before the axe falls, or maybe a protest against its closure could be organised, or fundraising done to help it stay open?
    Your words in this post are just beautiful, and I love Neil's poem in the comments too!

  22. Sounds like a reason to take up a cause. Can there be other sources of funding found for this hatchery? More than one way to skin a cat, I'm thinking. Beautiful post and the love you have for your homeland, your mountain, your Chickory, just leaps off the written page.

  23. whas' wrong wif' ya dawg? ain't ya
    heered that we's paid 5.5 million to study chinese prostitutes in China? C'mon now--how can ya wanna keep open this hatchery at the expense of funding prostitute studies? Some thangs is important , some ain't. The gubmint asks ya to rethink yore priorities.


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