Ocmulgee Bluff North to Wise Creek
For a great hike along the Ocmulgee River, start northward from the Day Use Area and follow the eastern edge of the river up to Wise Creek (map at bottom of this post). “Day use area” is the common local term for the Ocmulgee Bluff Equestrian Trailhead located on Smith Mill Road about 2.8 miles northwest of Hwy 83. It’s called the day use area because it’s a parking area for day use only and not a campground. It’s open from 6:30 am to 9 pm every day and the fee is $5 (or you can buy a Chattahoochee-Oconee annual pass for $25). The day use area is located across Smith Mill Road from Saddle Horse Campground.
You’ll exit the day use parking area at it’s northwest corner and take a short connector trail over to White’s Bottom Road, a FS road closed to vehicle traffic. It’ll take you down the slope towards the Ocmulgee River floodplain. After 1/4 mile or so, at the bottom of the hill, you’ll reach a point where the FS road ends and trails take off left and straight. The path to the left will take you southward on the Ocmulgee Trail, but you’ll take the straight ahead trail northward up the Ocmulgee. The trail is in good shape and regularly used by equestrian traffic.
Your first creek crossing will be Long Branch, where a nice steel bridge was damaged by a fallen tree in 2018. As of spring 2019, there are no plans to replace or repair the bridge, so you’ll have to cross the sandy ford just east of the bridge. It’s not a treacherous ford, but you’ll probably get your feet wet. The damaged bridge is shown below.
As you work your way northward, you’ll encounter several small streams, many of which have concrete pavers lining the small fords as shown below, so the crossings are not difficult at all. There is not much elevation change on this section of the Ocmulgee River Trail, as it stays mostly within the floodplain or on its boundary.
About two-thirds of the way from day use up to Wise Creek, you’ll do a short loop upstream to get across a tributary entering the river from the east. There you’ll encounter some nice rocky waterfalls and a good place to stop and take a break if you are so inclined. After looping back down near the Ocmulgee shoreline, you’ll work northward up to the currently-closed FS Road 1098 that serves the closed Wise Creek canoe take-out. The take-out is currently closed due to damage to the retaining wall along the shoreline.
The Ocmulgee Trail portion of the hike at this point has been 3.8 miles. You can hike eastward along the FS road about 1.2 mile to Smith Mill Road. Parking a vehicle at the intersection of FS Road 1098 and Smith Mill Rd prior to your start might be a good option if you don’t care to hike the 2.2 miles of dirt Smith Mill Road back to the day use area. The entire hike, including FS Road 1098 and Smith Mill Road on the return would be 7 miles. The map below shows the entire loop including the Smith Mill Road return section.
Total climbing: 928 ft
Total time: 00:03:16