Oconee Rivers Greenway Trails System
The Oconee Rivers Greenway is a linear park and trails system that provides wildlife corridors, a wetland hiking trail, and a family friendly multi-use path for the public's enjoyment. Currently, the Oconee Rivers Greenway System provides 3.1 miles of natural surface hiking only trails and 8 miles of concrete, multi-use trails that are designated for non-motorized use
The Oconee Rivers Greenway System of trails and wildlife corridors is maintained and operated by the Trails and Open Space staff of the Leisure Services Department.
North Oconee River Trail
This trail winds its way along the North Oconee River from Sandy Creek Nature Center through Dudley Park and the Oconee Hill Cemetery up towards Bailey St and Carriage Lane. Along the way you will see views of the North Oconee River, North Oconee River Park, Aguar Plaza, Oconee Hill Cemetery, and Dudley Park.
This multi-use paved trail is available for use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and any non-motorized modes of transportation.
East Campus Connector
This trail is a concrete, multi-use trail that connects the Oconee St Park and Ride Parking Lot near the Loop 10 interchange with the North Oconee River Trail and the UGA campus. It is available for use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and any non-motorized modes of transportation.
This SPLOST funded project was completed in 2018 and serves as an important transportation and recreation corridor from the Eastside of Athens to UGA Campus and downtown.
Cook's Trail is a 2.1 mile natural surface trail that runs alongside Sandy Creek south of Sandy Creek Park. Please be aware that the trail does not loop and may flood during periods of heavy rain. Cook's Trail is open to foot traffic only. The trail head is located at Sandy Creek Park.
While enjoying the scenery, you can take the 1 mile Oxbow Loop trail. This trail follows the edge of a lovely Oxbow Lake and presents many opportunities for viewing the wildlife that is unique to this habitat.
Trail Creek Trail
This is a paved multi-use path within Virginia Walker Park, that is approximately one-mile in length and provides opportunities to experience nature in a variety of ways while linking parks, neighborhoods, and points of interest such as a Civil War gun emplacement site. It is available for use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and any non-motorized modes of transportation.
The 2005 SPLOST project was designed by W. R Toole Engineers and built by Structural Resources. Additional project funds included a Georgia Department of Transportation and Enhancement grant.
Pulaski Heights Trail
This is a paved multi-use path, is ¼-mile in length and follows Moore's Branch, a creek draining from Downtown to the North Oconee River. The trail connects from Pulaski Street near the Leathers Building to the intersection of Hull and Hoyt Streets. It is available for use by pedestrians and any non-motorized modes of transportation, including bicycles.
The trail passes through the site of a former rail yard once used by the Southern Railway. The Southern Railway's historic depot is currently occupied by the Athens Community Council on Aging, a partner in the project.
Milledge Extension Trail
Milledge Extension Trail is a 1/4 mile paved multi-use trail that connects Milledge Avenue Extension with South Milledge Avenue. There is a UGA bus stop at the north end of the trail. Per the 2016 Greenway Network Plan, this trail will eventually extend down Macon Highway with a street based connection.
It is available for use by pedestrians, bicyclists, and any non-motorized modes of transportation.
|Trailhead||Address||Closest Trail Segment||Parking||Restrooms|
|Bailey Street Trailhead
||439 Bailey St||North Oconee River Trail||NO||NO|
|Carriage Lane Trailhead||101 Carriage Lane||North Oconee River Trail||NO||NO
|Dudley Park Trailheads||1170 E. Broad St or
286 S. Poplar St
|North Oconee River Trail||YES||
|Easley's Mill Trailhead||470 Oconee St||North Oconee River Trail||YES||NO
|College Avenue Trailhead||1003 MLK Jr. Parkway||North Oconee River Trail||YES||NO
|Oconee St. Park and Ride Trailhead||Lexington Rd at Loop 10||East Campus Connector||YES||NO
|Sandy Creek Nature Center Trailhead||215 Old Commerce Rd||Cook's Trail (closed indefinitely)
& North Oconee River Trail
|Sandy Creek Park Trailhead||400 Bob Holman Rd
|Walker Park Trailhead||200 Trail Creek St||Trail Creek Trail||YES||YES
|Pulaski Heights Trailhead||135 Hoyt Street||Pulaski Heights Trail||YES||NO
|Milledge Extension Trailhead||1760 Milledge Ave. Ext||Milledge Extension Trail
Charles Aguar Plaza
Charles Aguar is generally accredited with being the father of the Oconee Rivers Greenway system. He began advocating for a Greenway in the early 1970s and lived to see the official ground breaking nearly 30 years later. Aguar was an advocate for protecting and conserving the rivers of Athens while providing recreational amenities for citizens to enjoy. A portion of the trail has been named in his honor to celebrate his legacy. A design competition won by Lea Gardner (MLA) decided the layout of the area near the intersection of Willow Street and East Broad. Charles Aguar Memorial Plaza is located on Willow Street between East Broad and North Avenue.
Cook and Brother Plaza
The site of the former Cook and Brother Armory can be found at the edge of Dudley Park along the North Oconee River Trail as it winds next to East Broad Street. Many interpretive panels line this section of trail to explain the history of some of the structures and features you encounter.
Dudley Park is a 32-acre park nestled in the confluence of Trail Creek and the North Oconee River, just a short walk from downtown Athens and the University of Georgia.
It's a great spot for a picnic lunch on the grass or to listen to the babbling Trail Creek as it runs under the lower park bridge. Dedicated in 1953 to Alonzo Gordon Dudley, who governed Athens from 1926-1935 and 1938-1939, Dudley park features majestic hardwoods, open fields, several picnic areas, and connections to multiple trails.
On October 20, 2017, the long-awaited Firefly Trail officially opened in Athens-Clarke County and now includes a 1 mile segment which includes a stunning 500'-long bridge over the North Oconee River and a connection to Dudley Park and the North Oconee River Greenway. Eventually, TSPLOST funding will help to complete the eight miles in Athens-Clarke County and Winterville.
North Oconee River Park
North Oconee River Park is bisected by the North Oconee River. Access into the park can be found from Willow Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. It features several sitting benches and a small shelter and picnic table to enjoy riverside views. Expansive grassy areas are great for walking your leashed pets and taking in a bit of nature in the urban landscape.
Easley's Mill Overlook
Located near the site of Daniel Easley's original saw and grist mill, the overlook offers a glimpse into Athens history by allowing travelers on the multi use trail to see the stretch of river that became the industrial hub for the small community of Cedar Shoals that would go on to become the city of Athens.
The overlook at Easley's Mill is located on the North Oconee River Greenway at the foot of Carr's Hill and across Oconee Street from Dudley Park.
Sandy Creek Nature Center
Sandy Creek Nature Center is a gateway to outdoor exploration. The property features 225 acres of woodlands and wetlands with over 4 miles of trails, including an ADA interpretive trail and connections to the North Oconee River Greenway and Cook's Trail.
The SPLOST-funded Education & Visitor Center includes live reptiles, amphibians, marine and freshwater aquariums, interactive natural history exhibits, and an incredible resource library, all housed in an eco-friendly building. There is also a circa 1815 log house and several wildlife observation areas on site.
More Than a Trail
The North Oconee River Greenway is more than a recreation space for residents and visitors of Athens-Clarke County. Beyond the North Oconee River Trail, the Greenway encompasses a corridor of natural spaces along the banks of the North Oconee. These spaces provide many benefits to the river, the community, and the surrounding environment.
By acting as a natural buffer between sources of runoff and the river the Greenway helps to improve water quality in the North Oconee River. Vegetation such as grasses, shrubs, and other ground cover help to slow runoff water as it drains toward the river. This allows sediment and other pollutants to drop out of the runoff before it enters the waterway. Larger vegetation helps to secure the banks and surrounding area against erosion further reducing the amount of sediment filling the river while also ensuring the area remains stable for users, human and animal alike.
The North Oconee River Greenway and other areas like it provide space and habitat for many different species in an otherwise urban or suburban environment. Many species large and small benefit from access to the river as both a source of food and water. The protected corridor along the river also serves as a migratory path for animals connecting many different areas and environments of Athens-Clarke County that would otherwise be cut off from one another by urban development.
Below are examples of work Athens-Clarke County Unified Government has done to protect this vital resource with help from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and hundreds of volunteers.
2019 Reclaim Our River Project
During July 1-3, 2019 over 150 employees from Pilgrim’s Pride worked with Athens-Clarke Leisure Services Department and Sustainability Office staff on the Reclaim Our River Project. The effort focused on removing destructive invasive plants and trash next to the North Oconee River, enhancing habitat diversity, opening up vistas to the river, and reclaiming this incredible community resource. Crews removed 30 tons of invasive plants, 36 bags of trash, and 30 tires from the area as part of the effort. The option to volunteer was made available to Pilgrim’s Pride employees to ensure job security by the company while the local plant was shut down temporarily for equipment retooling.
Watch the video below to learn more about this experience.
2020 Conserve Georgia Grant
Additionally, thanks in large part to the Office of Sustainability, the Georgia Department of Natural resources announced on February 25th, 2020 that one of the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program (GOSP) “Conserve Georgia” grants has awarded $550,000 to Athens-Clarke County Unified Government for 2020.
Ranked by DNR as the number 1 project, the $829,000 project will be used to help further the vision of the “Restore our River” project, which was started in 2019 as an effort to restore approximately 1 mile of a highly urbanized river corridor into a species-rich, ecologically diverse habitat. While plans for SPLOST funded trailhead restrooms and teaching pavilion were already underway, GOSP provided additional funds to build a canoe launch at the College Avenue Bridge, a fishing pier/canoe launch in Dudley Park, and natural surface trails.
The project also includes the restoration of 20 acres of Dudley Park, creating high-quality wildlife habitat, installing nesting and roosting boxes, restoring 150 feet of stream bank, and creating an in-stream pilot trash trap project. The grant award is significantly enhancing Athens-Clarke County’s effort to restore and create a unified habitat and ecosystem services management plan that involves multiple parks as well as multiple departments and stakeholders.
The Restore our River Project is a Sustainability Office initiative that, in collaboration with the SPLOST Project Office and the Leisure Services Department, seeks to involve multiple ACC departments, citizens, and community organizations in the creation of a healthy and sustainable community for our natural and human environments.