28 arrested at 'Rainbow Family Gathering,' nearly 900 citations issued

LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. — The U.S. Forest Service said law enforcement arrested close to 30 people and wrote nearly 900 citations in connection with what is being called the Gathering of the Rainbow Family of the Living Light inside the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega.

“We estimate there are approximately 4,500 Gathering participants here in the Chattahoochee National Forest,” said U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Cathy Dowd. “Overall, things have been going very well.”

The Rainbow Family is a name for a very loose collection of self-described misfits, nature-lovers and artists that gather once a year in a national forest. This is their 47th gathering, but the first in Georgia.

Dowd pointed out that the Rainbow Family did not have a proper permit for many campers, however, the Forest Service made the decision to work with the campers rather than try to remove them from the woods.


“If you can imagine a large group of people gathering in a place like this and trying to forcibly remove them from that area would be really difficult,” Dowd said. “What we want to do is work with them so that they’ll both mitigate those impacts and then stay afterwards so they can rehabilitate the area and try to bring it back to the way that it was before we had so many people camping in one, small place.”

Dowd said the Rainbow Family does have a plan to try and restore the campsites to their original state and to remove what has become tons of trash since the gathering started several weeks ago.

For the most part, both campers and federal authorities said the two sides have gotten along, though some of the Rainbow Family said law enforcement comes through every day and cracks down on even the smallest infractions.

“The local police will come in here,” said a camper calling himself “Panda.” “They’ll ticket people. They’ll tow people. They’ll do it four or five tow trucks at a time.”

The gathering is scheduled to end July 4, though federal authorities expect some of the campers will remain in the woods for several weeks to come.