January 2021

Celebrating CNPC Co-founder John Kohler

We are celebrating the life of John H. Kohler III, one of CNPC’s co-founders and long-time CRNRA volunteer and advocate. John passed away on January 4, 2021 from a long gradual advance of pulmonary fibrosis. John was genuine and generous, and he will be remembered as a humorous storyteller, gracious host, loyal friend, and dedicated volunteer.

With degrees from Millsaps College, Appalachian State, and a PhD from Georgia State, John’s profound love of history led him to a career as a history professor and Dean of Arts & Sciences at Clayton State College & University in Morrow, Georgia. Following his retirement, John and Dyna, his beloved wife of 41 years, helped found the Chattahoochee Parks Conservancy, now known as the Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy. He served on the Board for four years and played an instrumental role in garnering early community support for the organization. John and Dyna were longtime NPS volunteers for Ranger Jerry Hightower’s education programs. If you ever attended an Owl Prowl at the Chattahoochee River Environmental Education Center in the Jones Bridge unit, then you probably met John by the campfire as he stoked the flames and encouraged participants to roast marshmallows. John was also park chair for many years for his neighborhood’s Rivermont Park, adjacent to the Jones Bridge unit, overseeing improvements while ensuring conservation measures were followed.

John loved the water and enjoyed a lifetime of boats – fishing boats, sailboats, kayaks, motorboats – and navigating waters from the Georgia coast to the intracoastal waterways to the Chattahoochee River. He and Dyna loved to travel, often with special groups of friends, relaying stories of their outdoor adventures at potluck park volunteer dinners. They shared a special affinity for Georgia’s barrier islands, taking regular trips to Sapelo Island and Cumberland throughout their marriage. Another favorite trip was Spain’s Camino Santiago de Compostella, which they walked three times for a total of 1,100 miles.

John’s love for the outdoors and efforts to support the CRNRA will live on through the creation of CNPC, and we are grateful for his efforts.

Looking Forward to 2021: A Message from CNPC Board President Phillip Hodges

While 2020 was a successful year for CNPC (thanks to you), I still say to it, “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” At CNPC we are looking forward to an even more successful, and more social, 2021.  As we begin 2021, we are closing out our 2020 projects to replace the pier in the Jones Bridge Unit and rehabilitate seven miles of multi-use trails in the Cochran Shoals Unit. Now, we turn our attention to new programs, including the dog waste campaign Lead the Pack, Bag and Bin It! and our new HikeCRNRA program to hike all 66 miles of official trails in the CRNRA. When it is considered safe, we will resume our Walk & Talk Series for our members and other outdoor events. We are also developing a schedule for corporate volunteer events and expanded educational programming in the CRNRA. In 2021, we will be focusing on additional facilities improvements, such as replacing the three river overlook piers in Cochran Shoals, and implementing the upcoming comprehensive trail plan that park management has been diligently working on over the past year. We have our work lined up for 2021, and we are ready.  Really ready!  Let’s all start 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose and remember one of the best prescriptions for our health in 2021—get out in the park and recreate responsibly! Adios 2020, and welcome 2021!

CRNRA Winter Fun

Many people spend most of their time in the CRNRA in warmer months, but there are a lot of wonderful ways to enjoy the CRNRA in the winter. Here are a few of our favorites:

Winter is an excellent time to see unique topography in some of the park units. Go hiking at Palisades West for beautiful views of the rocks and rugged cliffs of the Palisades. At Vickery Creek, enjoy the loop walk and great vistas from the ridge tops. A hiking loop at Gold Branch winds quietly through the woods, creating a surreal experience of solitude that feels far removed from the surrounding busy streets.

Winter is also a great time of year to enjoy some of the park’s cultural history. At Sope Creek, visit the stone ruins of the Marietta Paper Mill, once the largest paper mill in the state. The mill was in use from 1853-1902 and used river water to make paper from linen rags and old cotton. Kids will enjoy exploring rock shelters in the Island Ford unit. These naturally occurring cave-like rock overhangs once provided shelter for early native Americans.

For birders, head over to Johnson Ferry to see multiple species of ducks, woodpeckers, and sparrows. Look for nuthatches running up and down the tree trunks. You may even see a brown creeper that “creeps” up the tree trunk in a spiral path.

Send us a photo of your favorite CRNRA winter adventure for us to share on CNPC’s social media at images@chattahoocheeparks.org.

Photo by: Tom Wilson

Exploring the National Park System in Georgia

There are many incredible national parks in our country. Fortunate Atlantans have the beautiful CRNRA right in their backyards, but there are many other wonderful national park system units, drives, trails, and even a national seashore in the state of Georgia. This year we will be highlighting some of these areas and encouraging their exploration.

Adventures at the Cumberland Island National Seashore

The first sight of Cumberland is from the water. The best view is from the top of the ferry, facing the wind as gulls circle overhead. A ferry is the only route to the island, home of the Cumberland Island National Seashore. Across the water, salt marshes and then beaches appear, edged by thick tangles of greenery and trees.

On the southeast Georgia coast, Cumberland is the state’s largest barrier island. The island hosts a unique combination of ecosystems from beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests to tidal creeks and mud flats. These ecosystems support a great diversity of wildlife, migratory birds, and even wild horses. Spanish explorers and then generations of landowners brought horses to Cumberland, and their descendants  now roam freely around the island. The horses are often seen grazing in the meadows, walking on the roads and trails, and wandering along the beach.

When the island ferry docks, adventures begin. A nearby trail leads to the ruins of the Dungeness mansion. Cumberland was home to early native Americans, explorers, Spanish missions, military forts, plantations, and homes of wealthy industrialists. In 1884, Thomas Carnegie (of the Pittsburgh steel manufacturing family) built Dungeness as a winter home for his family, including his wife Lucy and their nine children. Thomas unfortunately died a year after the house was completed. Lucy loved the island and stayed with her children. Over the years she expanded the home and bought additional tracts of land until she owned 90% of the island. Other homes were built on the island for her children, who spent much of their lives on Cumberland. Lucy died in 1916, and the mansion was vacated in 1929. A fire burned the home down in 1959, leaving only ruins of the brick and stone walls. Lucy designated in her will that the land could not be sold until the last of her children had died. Their heirs deeded the land to the National Park Service for preservation. The Cumberland Island National Seashore was established in 1972. To learn more about the Carnegie family’s history on the island, go to: https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/cuis/dilsaver/chap2.pdf

After a self-guided tour of the mansion’s grounds, there are several options for exploration of the island. You can head to the south end to search for sharks’ teeth. Hope you brought your binoculars for some excellent birding. Or you can head north, walking or biking up the unpaved main road fringed by maritime forest, stopping to play among the saw palmettos and twisted limbs of enormous live oaks. Another option is to head east over the dunes to a beach perfect for beachcombers. Tuck a sandy shell in your pocket as a memento.

“Standing beneath the trees, I felt their old power – like I was in a sacred place,” said Decatur resident Robyn Painter, who spent New Year’s Day exploring Cumberland with her family. “The beach was also amazing…I loved seeing my boys ride, ride, ride their bikes across its vast, wintry expanse.”

Both the road and the beach lead north to the sea camp campground. Here, campsites are tucked underneath a web-like canopy of trees next to a short path to the beach. Time for a swim, a bike ride, a picnic under the trees. Relax on the quiet beach and watch the waves. If you are camping (advance reservations are required), set up your tent by the fire ring before heading back to the beach for the sunset. If you are riding back on the afternoon ferry, it is time to wander over to the dock and find a comfortable bench on the ferry for the breezy, sleepy trip back to shore.

To learn more about Cumberland Island’s cultural history, go to www.nps.gov/articles/975727.htm#4/34.38/-98.48

Reservations are required for the ferry from St. Mary’s to the island. During COVID visitors on the ferry are limited and masks are required. Day trippers can go over on the early morning ferry and return in the late afternoon. For camping, reservations can be made six months in advance: www.nps.gov/cuis/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm

Updates and Opportunities

Birds in the Park – Red Bellied Woodpeckers

Many hikers reported seeing Red Bellied Woodpeckers at CRNRA’s Jones Bridge unit over the holiday season. These beautiful creatures are easily identified by their black-and-white barred backs, pale belly with a faint touch of red, and bright red crown and nape for males; females have the red nape, but not the red crown. Found across woodlands in the Eastern United States and Canada, these birds also venture to backyard birdfeeders during winter months, particularly those stocked with suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and cracked corn. Red Bellied Woodpeckers are ~9-inches tall and have a wingspan of 13- to 16.5-inches. Visit Birdwatchers Digest to hear the distinct call of the Red Bellied Woodpecker. 

Book of the Month – Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service by Heather Hansen

If you’re a nature enthusiast, you’ve probably spent time in at least one of America’s 423 national park sites. Spanning more than 84 million acres, NPS sites include National Parks, National Historic Sites, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, and many other designations.

Today, people from around the world visit, appreciate, and explore America’s park system with relative ease, but this was not always the case. In Prophets and Moguls, Rangers and Rogues, Bison and Bears: 100 Years of the National Park Service, Heather Hansen covers the 100+ year-old history of the National Park Service. An engaging author, Hansen’s book explores NPS’ highly debated creation, key characters throughout its history, and the many treasures maintained by the National Park Service.  

Family Fun – Animal Track ID

With virtual learning continuing for many students into 2021, CNPC wanted to share a hands-on outdoor activity for kids – plaster casts of animal tracks! This easy, educational, family-friendly activity requires just a few ingredients and will create a fun souvenir for young nature lovers.


  • Plaster of Paris (available at many hardware and craft stores)
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Plastic cup
  • Plastic spoon


  1. Find a clean, clear animal print. It’s best to search for a print a day or two after a good rain so that the ground is moist, but not too soggy.
  2. Remove any debris, such as stones, grass, or leaves, from the print and immediate surrounding area.
  3. In the plastic cup, mix 1-part water to 2-parts plaster (note: ratios vary slightly depending on brand, so read the instructions on the plaster container). Pour the plaster into the animal track, leaving some extra on the top to serve as a base.
  4. Let the plaster sit undisturbed for at least an hour. Once the plaster is firm to the touch, dig it out of the ground and dust off any dirt. Let the plaster dry for an additional 24 hours before rinsing off any remaining dirt with a wet cloth.
  5. Use an Almanac or other animal identification guide to determine the track’s species.

Photo by: Bill B @billy3001

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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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