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Whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River

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By Wayne Lazarus on April 13th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

Whitewater rafting is a popular sport around the world, but a 1970-era film established the Chattooga River, along the border of Georgia and South Carolina firmly on many people’s challenges to be met.

Deliverance, based on the book of the same name by James Dickey and starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty about four men whose boys-weekend of river rafting turned into backwoods terror was filmed on the Chattooga River. The movie stoked an interest in this beautiful area and people began to flock to it. In 1974, the Chattooga River was put under the protection of the Wild and Scenic Act of 1968. Located in the Sumter National Forest, it is managed by the U. S. Forest Service. Under present policy, the upper 20 miles is closed to boaters.

ChattoogaRiverNOCWhile sets are often prettied-up and exaggerated for filming — the beauty of the Chattooga is greater by-far experienced in person. The story line about the city men being terrorized by locals was purely the author’s imagination. James Dickey did take a rafting trip with some friends and wound up needing assistance, but the natives were friendly and helpful.

The thrill and sense of accomplishment of “conquering” these rapids is something else that exceeds that of watching the movie. Section Three of the river has Class III to IV rapids and Section Four (where the movie was filmed) has Class IV and sometimes V. With names like Seven-Foot-Falls, Jawbone and Sock-em Dog, these rapids offer plenty of heart-pounding excitement in a three- or four-hour float trip.

Three outfitters offer guided trips down the river — the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Southeastern Expeditions and Wildwater, Ltd. While the river is open to private boaters, day permits are required. Only very experienced whitewater rafter should attempt it without a guide.

“Going with a guide means you can relax and enjoy the experience, in addition to learning the history and other interesting facts about the river and the area,” explains Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Barbra Rodichok.

Having rafted with each of the outfitters, I can personally recommend all of them. I was very impressed with the attention-to-safety and respect for the wilderness that everyone displayed. One guide explained that he doesn’t even spit into the river — its beauty should be enjoyed by all. The professionalism and training of the outfitters makes this thrill available to all levels of rafters — from ages eight up, including non-swimmers.

Make your reservations through for Clayton, Georgia for your trip down the Chattaooga.

(Photo: Courtesy Nantahala Outdoor Center. Used with permission.)

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