The Conasauga Ranger District covers the western third of the nearly 867,000 acre Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests in northern Georgia. It includes 35,284 acres of the Cohutta Wilderness, which was established in 1975. It is administered by the US Forest Service.
This area is primarily hardwood forest, including magnolia, dogwood, and chestnut. Natural water sources are plentiful, including Lake Conasauga and the Conasauga River, which is popular for trout fishing. It’s a native habitat to such plant species as blue cohosh and scarlet cardinal flower, and home to many types of wildlife, from black bear and copperheads to more than 100 species of birds.
A wide variety of recreational and other activities are available, including: 7 established campgrounds, two shooting ranges, miles of trails, including a section of the Pinhoti, picnic areas, and even ginseng-harvesting. I hiked some of the Bear Creek trail and stayed at its adjacent dispersed camping area for several days around Easter 2017. While there, I got to meet several members of local outdoor activity group Stay Active Ellijay, several of whom reported that the Bear Creek area (which was also very popular for fishing) is among their personal favorite outdoor places.
Fees on the District vary according to the activity; with many areas free to access. Campgrounds range from free to $10/night. Each of the shooting ranges charges $5/vehicle per day. The District offers 2 ginseng-harvesting passes per year on a lottery system. The harvest permits are $20. Check the forest website or with the District’s Ranger Office, which is near Chatsworth, GA, for the most-current information regarding fees, and also closures and alerts.
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