Thu., November 22, 2012 5:30am (EST)

From Maine To The Gulf
By Joshua Stewart
Updated: 2 years ago

ATLANTA  —  
Hikers who reach the end of the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia could eventually have the option of continuing another 500 miles via hiking and water trails along the Chattahoochee River. (Photo Courtesy of National Parks Service.)
Hikers who reach the end of the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia could eventually have the option of continuing another 500 miles via hiking and water trails along the Chattahoochee River. (Photo Courtesy of National Parks Service.)
The Appalachian Trail stretches from Maine to north Georgia, ending in the Chattahoochee National Forest northwest of Dahlonega.

A national preservation group wants the journey to stretch to the Gulf of Mexico and let hikers keep trekking another 500 miles along the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola rivers until they reach the Gulf.

Making that connection might not be as challenging as it sounds, said Curt Soper, the Georgia-Alabama state director for the Trust for Public Land.

“We have been working to conserve land along the river for about the last 15 years and to date have successfully acquired 17,000 acres and 76 river miles and converted that land into public parks and green space,” Soper said.

He said access is good through metro Atlanta, and the trust is working on a 52-mile stretch from West Point to Columbus. South of Columbus is where most of the work remains.

“I don’t think there’s any way that we’re going to successfully acquire enough land to have, literally, a walking trail all the way along the length of the river. But, between hiking trails and being on the river itself, I think that is realistic,” Soper said.

Soper said trails from Maine all the way to the Gulf could be a reality in a decade if conservation continues at the same pace it has in recent years.