The Chattooga River

Pristine and, for the most part, remote, the Chattooga River is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in the Southeast. Designated by Congress in 1974 as a National Wild and Scenic River, it is an outdoor treasure to behold—the crown jewel of southern wilderness waterways.

From its origins in the mountains of western North Carolina, the Chattooga flows some 50+ miles and helps form the border between South Carolina and Georgia, creating a natural passageway carved by the hand of time. Recognized as one of the region’s premiere whitewater rivers, it provides world-class recreation as well as unmatched opportunities for inspiration and solitude.

Although secluded, the natural beauty of the Chattooga River lures around 100,000 visitors each year. No motorized vehicles are permitted within a 1/4-mile corridor on either side of the river, and man-made facilities are minimal, consisting primarily of hiking trails.

Paddle sport enthusiasts can choose their own degree of adventure as they navigate rapids with names like Sock’em Dog, Crack-in-the-Rock, Shoulder Bone, Corkscrew and Bull Sluice. Groups can raft the Chattooga on their own (check-in required), or if desired, several rafting companies in the area (listed below) offer guided trips where all the gear and expertise are provided.

Hikers can enjoy the area’s seemingly untainted beauty on a number of scenic and remote trails which traverse much of the river’s length. At various spots along the Chattooga River Trail, sandbars and quiet pools between cascading waterfalls provide exemplary locales for picnicking and swimming. Many other trails, including the Foothills National Recreational Trail, meet or run concurrent with the Chattooga River Trail, offering the opportunity to enjoy every facet of the river environment.

Horseback riders (as well as hikers) can take advantage of 28 miles of designated horse trails. Opportunities for fishing for rainbow and brown trout and redeye bass are plentiful. Idyllic spots for swimming, wading, wildlife viewing, and simple river-watching abound.

More than forty years ago, the river gained nationwide popularity when it was used for the backdrop of the book and subsequent movie, Deliverance. The fictional Cahulawassee River roared to life on the big screen, courtesy of the Chattooga River. 

The anniversary of the film will be commemorated on June 22-24, 2012, with the inaugural Chattooga River Festival. The festival will include venues in both Georgia and South Carolina, but the main setting will take place at the picturesque Chattooga Belle Farm in Long Creek, SC, a small, rural community located a few miles from the river in Oconee County.

"Between the 40th anniversary of Deliverance and the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic River designation in 2014, there is no better time to create a festival celebrating the river," said Ed Land, one of the event organizers and owner of Chattooga Belle Farm.

The three-day festival will feature a musical appearance by Ronny Cox - who played the character of Drew in the film and performed in the now-famous "Dueling Banjos" scene - at the Rabun County Civic Center.

Activities at the event will also include numerous other musical performances, a "Dueling Banjos" competition, storytelling, guided hiking tours, an art showing, the Banjo Boogie Hills n' Chills Fun Run, and much more.

"The main music festival will be an all day event at Chattooga Belle Farm with a constant rotation of music on two stages," added Land.

On Sunday night, the festival will officially conclude with a special screening of Deliverance at the Tiger Drive-in, a 1950s-era drive-in theater in Clayton, GA.  (Click here for a complete itinerary.)

Primitive camping on Friday and Saturday nights will be available at the 138-acre farm as well.

To purchase advance tickets to the Chattooga River Festival, click here.

Resources/Sources: The Untamed Chattooga River The Chattooga Wild and Scenic River The Chattooga River The Chattooga River

Rafting Outfitters:

Nantahala Outdoor Center, 888-905-7238

Wildwater, 866-319-8870

Southeastern Expeditions, 800-868-7238

Chattooga Whitewater Outfitters, 864-647-9083

Getting There:

The most visited access point is at the Bull Sluice rapid, located at the Highway 76 bridge approximately 4.5 miles northwest of Long Creek, S.C. in Oconee County.

For directions to Woodall Shoals, a popular spot to lounge, fish, swim and river-watch, click here.

For directions to the Highway 28 bridge, click here.

For directions to Long Creek, S.C., click here.

James Richardson is a freelance writer and the publisher of the Travelers Rest Tribune. When he's not writing, James enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two children at any one of many places across the Upstate.