John F. Schaffner
My first visit to the area of the Morgan Falls Dam was several years ago. I am not sure why I was on the road to Morgan Falls Dam….perhaps to deliver a package to the Federal Express office there. But, as it often does, my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to find out where that road went.
Many people probably have stopped before getting to the end of the road; but I didn’t on that day and haven’t on several occasions since.
The road may have its twists and turns, may be narrow and some spots along it may not be what one would describe as beautiful. But at the end of the road, like at the end of the rainbow, is sort of a pot of gold.
At that point, is a picture to behold. The waters of the Chattahoochee River, which some have dubbed Atlanta’s “river of life,” steadily glide past that point on the shore. Birds strut in the shallow water and along the shoreline and the natural fauna adds rich color to the pastoral setting. Like a bookend to the scene, Morgan Falls Dam rises from the water 57 feet to hold back the waters of Bull Sluice Lake, which if let free would surely ruin this landscape.
The dam may show its age—after all it is over 100 years old—but it shows no weakness. And, it has had no major facelifts to speak of over the years.
All this together makes this spot a wonderful quiet and pleasing place to escape from the hectic business life, the traffic of Georgia 400, Roswell Road or Atlanta’s interstate highways, to calm down from an argument with a spouse or girlfriend or just a spot to take a deep breath and relax for a few moments.
What a shame not many residents of Sandy Springs or the metro Atlanta area even know of this place. Or, would it not be as wonderful a place if they did know of it?
What a shame, too, that few people around know the history of this dam and hydroelectric plant. I was one of those who didn’t know until I took a recent tour of the dam and plant facility with the Georgia Power folk who run it.
I urge you to read the story beginning on page 1 in this issue of the Reporter.
What a surprise to discover that the dam and hydroelectric plant were completed in 1904 primarily to provide electric power for the city of Atlanta’s streetcar system.
Today Morgan Falls Dam is still standing to serve the city of Atlanta, but primarily to level the flow of water down the Chattahoochee for the benefit of Atlanta’s water and wastewater systems.
Atlanta may get the benefit of the controlled water flow of the Chattahoochee, but we in Sandy Springs get the benefit of a beautiful, quiet spot on the river Atlantans can only visit…if they know how to find it.
And, this spot will only become better for residents of Sandy Springs in the future.
Georgia Power has recently leased the city of Sandy Springs four acres downstream from the dam for a small park area and plans to build a fishing platform on the river bank for casting a line into the river. (I understand the fishing is pretty good in that area of the river, but I am not a fisherman.)
That area will need some city attention to make it into a real nice park area, but hopefully that will happen soon.
The Sandy Springs Conservancy is working on another, more massive park on 20 acres just upstream from the dam, which is proposed to have hiking trails through the woods and along the river, picnic areas and a launching area for shallow-water kayaks and canoes. There is not enough depth to the water for much of anything else due to the silt buildup in the river.
There is a lot of work to be done to turn this forest area into a wonderful park for residents to visit and enjoy. But Fulton County has turned it over and it now belongs to Sandy Springs. With that, the momentum is building.
The land must be cleaned up and a road must be built to access the property. But, I sense that all can be done in short order if city officials and interested private citizens can agree on a course and set forth to make it happen.
What a treasure that entire area of the city of Sandy Springs will become along the road to Morgan Falls Dam. Two riverfront parks flanking a historic example of growth and commerce in the Atlanta area over the past 100 years. A sports park where youth teams can compete on many ball fields at a time. A golf course where greens and fairways have replaced what once was a trash dump.
What a complex for a young city to be able to offer its residents. I am impressed. Go take a look and see if you, too, are impressed at what is and what can be.