December 2020

The Park Loses a Fearless Advocate

Joni House was a powerhouse. Every single thing she did was accomplished with great vision, determination, passion, and generosity. Among those passions were the Chattahoochee River and Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. She lived in a  wonderful house overlooking Morgan Falls Lake and the park’s Gold Branch Unit. 

Joni loved to paddle the river, walk park trails, and support innovative ways to teach children about nature. Through CNPC, she annually funded a hands-on park program at Sibley Pond in the Cochran Shoals Unit. Nearly a thousand young students were able to experience interactive learning in the woods and on the water because of her generosity.

In early December, Joni lost her hard-fought battle with lymphoma. An Atlantan who won a scholarship to Woodward Academy and then a full scholarship to the University of Virginia, she also earned two MBA’s in finance and management before becoming a consultant. On St. Simons Island, Joni overcame a fear of water and learned to kayak. In Yellowstone National Park, she and her longtime partner Alan Toney spent hours observing reintroduced wolves, including the infamous alpha female known as ’06. On the Altamaha River, she worked with local advocates to protect that mighty waterway, but she always came home to her favorite place: the Chattahoochee River. CNPC is saddened by Joni’s passing, as we celebrate her generous, nature-filled life.

Hike 66 Miles of Trails with HikeCRNRA

CNPC launched HikeCRNRA to recognize individuals who hike all designated trails within the entire Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA). The CRNRA is a series of 15 park units of the national park system along 48 miles of the Chattahoochee River in metro Atlanta. Each park unit offers well maintained and diverse hiking trails which provide recreational opportunities and access to historic sites along the river. CNPC created the HikeCRNRA program to encourage hikers to visit all park units within the CRNRA and to experience all 66 miles of designated trails.

To begin the program, go to where you will find park unit trail maps and trail segment tracking forms for downloading. A summary form is available to submit to CNPC once all trail segment hikes have been completed. Credit will be given for trail segments completed after December 1, 2020, and hikers will have a lifetime to complete all trail segments.

Individuals who hike all designated CRNRA trails will receive an annual membership to CNPC and recognition at the annual CNPC members meeting. Join the HikeCRNRA challenge to explore trails throughout the CRNRA!

CRNRA is REI's Hikes for Health Challenge Featured Greenspace!

For the month of December, REI is highlighting the CRNRA as their featured greenspace as part of the Hikes for Health Challenge. Hikes for Health encourages participants to hike ten different parks, including any CRNRA unit, over the next ten months. For more information and to register, go to

Audubon's Christmas Bird Count - A Holiday Tradition

In the 1800s, hunters gathered for a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt.” The hunters would divide into sides and compete to see who could bring in the largest amount of wild game. Concerned about declining bird populations, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman of the Audubon Society proposed holding a “Christmas Bird Census” to create a new tradition of counting birds during the holidays rather than hunting them.

The Audubon Society’s first annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) began on Christmas Day in 1900 and continues every holiday season as a community science event. Thousands of volunteers go to designated areas across the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere to count the number and species of birds they observe over a specific 24-hour period. The data collected by CBC participants provides critical information informing ornithologists and conservation biologists about bird health and populations.

This year is Audubon's 121st Christmas Bird Count and will be conducted between Monday, December 14, 2020 through Tuesday, January 5, 2021. Last year, 2566 species and nearly 43 million birds were counted. Despite a record level of count efforts, the number of birds observed was approximately 6 million lower than the previous year.

Participating in the CBC is free, but advance sign up is required and specific methodology must be followed to ensure accurate counts. If you are interested in joining the count in your area or want to learn more about the program, go to

Acorns as a Source of Food

By: Sarah Obernauer Pfeffer

The Chamblee neighborhood where I live is filled with towering, grand oak trees. I notice and admire their presence year-round, but perhaps most so during the fall months when I’m engaged in a constant battle to prevent my dog from eating acorns. Tucker, I know, is far from the only animal who enjoys acorns as a source of food. More than 150 types of wildlife reap acorns’ nutritional benefits including birds, grey and red fox, grey squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, racoons, opossums, wild turkeys, quail, and white-tailed deer.

The state of Georgia has over 30 different native species of oaks. So plentiful and respected are these trees that Georgia’s official state tree is the Southern Live Oak (quercus virginiana). Oak trees are generally grouped into two large categories – white oaks and red oaks. The leaves of white oaks have rounded lobes and leaf margins without bristles; acorn shells from white oaks are hairless inside. Red oaks, on the other hand, have bristle tipped lobes and acorn shells that are hairy inside. 

Appearance is not the only difference between white and red oaks – the taste, nutritional composition and size of acorns vary as well. Acorns produced by red oak trees have higher fat, protein, calories, and fiber than their white counterparts, but acorns produced by white oak trees have a hint of tannic acid, making them sweeter in taste and the preferable acorn choice for many animals.

The next time you come upon an oak, take a moment to it look up and down. Appreciate its grandeur and all it does to support the wildlife who benefit from it.

Photo by: Milesizz

Updates and Opportunities

Island Ford named One of the Best Spots for Solace in Nature by Atlanta Magazine
Have you heard the news? Atlanta Magazine recently named the CRNRA’s Island Ford unit as one of the five best spots in metro Atlanta to find solace in nature! Home to the CRNRA Park Headquarters, Island Ford boasts over five miles of hiking trails through the woods and along the Chattahoochee River. The next time you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, we invite you to come relax and replenish on the trails! 

Gift of Membership
Memberships to CNPC make a great gift for anyone on your holiday list! CNPC memberships are available at a variety of levels and help enable CNPC to fund a variety of projects within the CRNRA such as trail updates and restoration and youth programming. CNPC members receive regular updates on our activities and volunteer opportunities, an invitation to our annual member celebration, notice of park and river-related events, participation in our free Walk & Talk series, a discount on Nantahala Outdoor Center boat rentals, and a special CNPC sticker or magnet! Give the gift of membership today here

CNPC Project Update
The Jones Bridge Pier is under construction and looking great. We hope it will be completed by year’s end. 
The restoration of the Sope Creek multi-use trail is completed, and trail signage is in progress.

Book of the Month
When the weather turns cold, there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book. CNPC’s book of the month for December is Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich. Heinrich, an award-winning author and professor of biology at the University of Vermont, provides an in-depth look at the many ways that animals have evolved to survive harsh winters. Suitable for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types, Winter World will leave the reader with a greater appreciation for the natural world. 

DIY Suet
“Suet, suet! Here birdy, birdy, birdy.” You’ll be amazed at the amount of birds that will come flocking with this easy, do-it-yourself suet recipe. Suet is a great cold-weather food source for many types of birds including chickadees, woodpeckers, orioles, and jays, plus secondary feeders including squirrels and racoons. It is generally made with rendered animal fat and a variety of seeds and grains, but this recipe uses ingredients that you probably already have on hand in your kitchen. For more tips on attracting backyard birds, check out this article from Audubon.

Easy Homemade Suet
1 cup Crisco or rendered beef suet
1 cup chunky peanut butter (preferably all natural unsalted)
2 cups plain cornmeal
1/2 cup wheat flour (white is okay)
1 cup unsalted roasted peanut pieces (can chop up whole peanuts)
1 cup black sunflower seeds
optional: 1/2 cup dried mealworms

Line two 13x9 pans with wax paper. Melt the suet and peanut butter together in the microwave in a glass bowl, stirring every two minutes, until they are smoothly blended and liquid. Do not overheat. Add cornmeal and flour, mixing well. Stir in peanuts, sunflower seeds, and mealworms. Mixture should be stiff. If mixture is too loose, add another 1/2 cup of cornmeal. Divide mixture evenly between the two pans, smoothing them down to an even thickness and making sure suet extends to the edges and corner.

Refrigerate overnight. Cut each 13x9 pan into six blocks. You can leave the pan in the refrigerator and take out blocks as needed, or take all of the blocks out, wrap each individually in wax paper and freeze until ready to use.

Happy Holidays!

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CNPC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We are proud to support our Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, a unit of the national park system managed by the National Park Service.

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Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy
P.O. Box 769332, Roswell, GA 30076
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