These headwaters may be hidden from view now, but the Flint River is an important resource for drinking water, natural habitats and recreation downstream, and the Upper Flint River has  potential to be a natural asset for communities surrounding the airport, improving quality of life and providing recreation opportunities for residents. We’re working with partners in the Atlanta area to put the Flint River back on the map and make the vision of a healthy, accessible Flint River a reality. 


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Photo credit: Stacy Funderburke


OUR ROLE

Since 2016, The Conservation Fund has worked in tandem with American Rivers and Atlanta Regional Commission to launch Finding the Flint, an effort to reveal the Flint River’s hidden headwaters to the public and showcase the river’s potential as a treasured recreation spot in the Atlanta area. Our efforts—which have galvanized around the unique vision of  Ryan Gravel, visionary behind the Atlanta Beltline, and Atlanta-based urban planner and author Hannah Palme—include developing and mapping out ideas for how the Upper Flint River can be rediscovered and restored in a way that supports communities, connectivity and economic development in the Airport area.

Finding the Flint projects will range from creation of new parks and trails along the upper headwaters to larger scale restoration and land protection downstream. The Conservation Fund’s Atlanta office is working with our Finding the Flint partners to build widespread community and stakeholder support for our vision, and our Strategic Conservation Planning team is creating detailed maps of restoration and landscape conservation opportunities for the entire Upper Flint River Watershed, which stretches from Atlanta to the beginning of the coastal plain in middle Georgia.

Why This Project Matters

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Photo credit: Stacy Funderburke

The Flint is Georgia’s second longest river, starting in Atlanta and flowing 344 miles south to the Florida border, where it joins with the Chattahoochee to create the Apalachicola River. It flows for nearly 220 miles without a single dam, making it one of just 40 rivers in the United States that flow unimpeded for more than 200 miles. The Flint and its surrounding lands are also important ecologically. The Flint River Basin is home to an estimated 412,000 acres of wetlands, and the river itself is home to three endangered mussel species: The Shinyrayed pocketbook mussel, Gulf mocassinshell mussel, and the Oval pigtoe mussel.

The Flint River also serves as a water source for more than one million people, and boasts prime fishing and paddling opportunities. All of these critical benefits of the Flint River are at risk because of the many challenges it faces upstream—rapid urbanization, increasing demands for drinking water supply, extremely low flows in times of drought. Our goal is to restore and protect the upper reaches of the Flint River, while turning it into a space that metro Atlanta residents can enjoy.

With Finding the Flint, we hope to showcase all that makes the Flint River unique and create new ways for metro Atlantans—and all Georgians—to access and enjoy the river.