Day trips from Macon don’t always mean getting out of town. The Ocmulgee Heritage Trail runs through the heart of downtown Macon and crosses its bustling interstates yet brings peace and tranquility to those who enjoy the “boiling river.” (According to the Georgia River Network, “Ocmulgee” is derived from the words “oki,” meaning “water,” and “mulgis,” meaning “it is boiling.”).
A public-private partnership of NewTown Macon and the Macon-Bibb County Parks & Recreation Department, the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail offers residents and visitors year-round recreational opportunities, including walking, running, biking, and bird-watching; seasonal activities such as swimming, fishing, and boating are in the mix, too.
The trail encompasses more than 1,400 acres of green space, connecting the downtown river front with Central City Park, Ocmulgee National Monument, the historic Rose Hill and Riverside cemeteries, and the newly opened Amerson Water Works Park just north of downtown, near Pierce Ave. and Riverside Dr. The nine miles of trail currently open will expand to 22 once complete. Charles H. Jones Gateway Park and Rotary Park are pleasant places to simply stop and watch the world go by or enjoy a picnic lunch.
Active pursuits – running, biking, walking, canoeing – are joined by more leisurely activities such as bird-watching or enjoying displays of public art. Visitors are encouraged to explore the river’s features and the nature found throughout. Of special interest is the “Trees of the Trail” project, which allows tree lovers to download a map and podcasts that discuss the more than 20 varieties planted along the trail. Another option is to enjoy an afternoon of fishing anywhere along the river’s banks, including locales such as the foot bridge near the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge.
The trail is accessible from a number of locations, including Central City Park, Charles H. Jones Gateway Park, and the centrally located Spring St. trailhead, which offers convenient parking, a boat ramp, and a playground. Generally speaking, the trail is open daily 9am-5pm.
Before visiting the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail for the first time, it’s best to explore the trail’s website, which provides maps, updates, and information about becoming a member of FOOT, Friends of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail. Those wishing to get the closest view possible of the river may rent canoes, kayaks, or tubes from Ocmulgee Expeditions.