Monday, July 16, 2012

Buzzard's Roost

Everyday hundreds if not thousands of Douglas County residents cross the Chattahoochee River to reach work or school via the 92, 166, Bankhead Highway or Interstate 20 bridges.

I've crossed the river numerous times myself - most of the time with hardly a thought to the water flowing underneath me.

I think, "Oh, there's the bridge...the river..." and then on to other thoughts as I zoom along.

I would imagine most of us never get any closer to the river that makes up a portion of Douglas County's geographical borders than our car windows.

What about you?

Sadly, I was never allowed to participate in the great raft river races on the Chattahoochee during the late 1970s like many of my friends. In fact, the closest I've gotten to the Chattahoochee River has been to stroll along the stretch that passes by Ray's on the River after Sunday brunch or from the patio at Canoe during lunch, and then there was the impromptu instance last summer when I made the Mister walk to the middle of the 92 bridge to snap a few pictures. 

You should have seen me attempting to dodge dead animals on the side of the bridge and try  NOT to fall over the side since heights make me dizzy (that bridge railing is not as high as you might think) while trying NOT to fall into the line of traffic (it would seem everyone is speeding these days).

The view of the river seen above is looking up towards Atlanta.

The river doesn't just serve as a geographic border for Douglas County. It figures prominently in our history, of course, going all the way back to our early Native American history before there was a Douglas County and even before there was a Campbell County.

In fact, per The River Keeper's Guide to the Chattahoochee River by Fred Brown evidence of both Woodland (1,000 B.C. to 900 A.D.) and Mississippian (900 A.D. to 1,600 A.D.) villages as well as Paleo-Indian (10,000 B.C. to 8,000 B.C.) mounds have been found throughout the area including along the river. I mentioned this briefly in a past post regarding Native Americans in the Douglas County area here.

The book also mentions Buzzard's Roost Island and describes it as one of the most important archaeological sites in northwest Georgia.

If you take at look at the maps you can see it right where the borders of Fulton, Cobb, and Douglas Counties meet along the river.

Franklin Garrett speaks of "The Creek village of Buzzard Roost" stating it "lay along the southeast bank of the Chattahoochee River at a point approximately one mile below the mouth of Utoy Creek in territory which would become Campbell County in 1828 and was annexed to Fulton in 1932."

I have seen the island referenced in various treaties the Creek and Cherokee Nations made with the government regarding boundaries, so I decided to research it a bit more.

It just seems natural the Creeks would have settled near the island as it became a crossing point in the river - part of the Sand Town Trail - said to be one of the oldest "roads" in the southeast. The Indian trail went all the way out towards present day Alabama and was used by natives and then later pioneer settlers. In fact, today's Cascade Road follows the old Sand Town Trail.

East - West trails such as the Sand Town Trail typically crossed waterways at the Fall Line or close to it because the streams were shallow making a better place to cross. Travelers sometimes were able to wade across.

I've searched many records looking for a description of the Creek settlement at Buzzard's Roost/Sand Town, but haven't found any extensive research....yet.

The Treaty at Indian Springs of January 8, 1821 mentions Buzzard's Roost as a geographic feature stating "beginning on the east bank of the Flint River, where Jackson's line crosses running thence up the eastern bank of the same along the water's edge to the head of the principle western branch; from thence the nearest and direct line to the Chattahoochee River, up the eastern bank of said river along the water's edge to the Shallow ford where the present boundary line between the State of Georgia and the Creek Nation touches the said river, provided, however, that if the said line should strike the Chattahoochee River below the Creek Village Buzzard's Roost, there shall be a set-off made so as to leave the said village within the Creek Nation."

I located another description offered by Wilson Lumpkin in April, 1821...four months after the Indian Springs agreement. Lumpkin would go on to be a governor of Georgia, but in 1821 he was responsible for addressing treaty line disputes with the Creek Indians. He was sent out to Buzzard's Roost area to gather information and report back to then Governor Clark. Lumpkin wrote to Governor Clark what was likely one of the few, if not only visual accounts of a river trip from Buzzard's Roost up to Standing Peachtree (site of present day Atlanta).

Lumpkin's report says:

"From the Buzzard Roost village to the Standing Peachtree I estimate the distance of fifteen miles - this is computed more by the Indians. I found some difficulty in arriving at this village, in determining on the correct course. For several miles on the river, these improvements, is the most striking appearance of a town, the buildings being more compact in this, than any other part of the settlement. But there is no appearance of Capital, Town-house, or public square about the place...."

I know. Lumpkin's report doesn't give the kind of description I want either, but he does confirm there were buildings, dwellings, etc., and the place wouldn't have looked like a town as we would recognize it.

Other sources describe the Sand Town/Buzzard's Roost settlement with cornfields planted along the river and scattered dwelling structures here and there stretched for one miles north and south from the island on both sides of the river.

It's just as hard to find documented trips to the island today. I did find one website with pictures and a slight description here. The site states, "The island has a big beach and a good amount of interior woods to walk." The "beach", of course, is on the Atlanta side of the island when you look at the satellite image from Google.

I would imagine the trees on the island are old.

I would love to hear from any readers who have done any exploring on Buzzard's Roost Island or might have a story or two about it!

I'll keep gathering information about it as I run across it, of course.


  1. I've been on the island. It was before the flood. Don't know how that changed things. When I was there the woods were very thick, I didn't go far from the beach. I remember seeing a very large tire and a sign that said 'frog island'

  2. I too have been on the Island for a cleanup organized by the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. I explored the entire island and it is just all woods w/ thick thick undergrowth. Trees don't look especially old. Same as the ones on either bank of the river. Lots of trash. There is actually an old turbine from a hydro dam that has made its way onto the island somehow. Lots of trash on the island from when the river floods, and signs of deer habitation, but no human trails to speak of. Very difficult to manuever around the island on foot.


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