Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River
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- No Fee
The Chattooga was designated a wild and scenic river in 1974. It is one of the longest and most spectacular free-flowing mountain rivers in the Southeast.
Few rivers live up to their reputation. The difficult, 19-mile Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River in South Carolina’s northwest corner does. Steeped in history and Hollywood, this gush of whitewater churns along the border of South Carolina and Georgia for 40 miles. Most river aficionados know it best as the backdrop for James Dickey’s classic novel, “Deliverance,” and the subsequent 1972 movie starring Burt Reynolds. At one time, local paddlers considered it the final exam for “expert” status, but today, several other Southeastern rivers overshadow it. Still, the lower 31 miles of this 40-mile river, including the vaunted Section IV, (which is only for experienced paddlers) remains among the best whitewater trips anywhere. Even the relatively tame Section II (open to tubers and boaters and thus better for inexperienced paddlers) contains 20 rapids. The Chattooga thunders through the Sumter National Forest, a mountainous woodland of red and white oak, birch magnolia, and profuse mountain laurel thickets. And while the landscape may suggest tranquility, the Chattooga doesn’t cooperate.
The river has many dangerous hydraulics and undercuts. Because the river is so powerful, the Forest Service imposes regulations for its use. Among the considerations:
Length: The trail described here is 23 miles one way, although 30 miles of the Chattooga is open to paddlers.
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous (varies according to water levels, activity and location on the river)
Camping: Camping is allowed anywhere in the Chattooga River corridor as long as campsites are 50 feet from any stream or trail and quarter-mile from any road. Several designated campsites with fire rings are located along the river on the Chattooga Trail.Directions:
Access Points (mileage and GPS coordinates are approximate and for reference only):
Mile 0 - Overflow Creek Bridge - This is an entry to the West Fork, or Section I on the Forest Service map of the Chattooga River. This section is small and suitable for beginners and inner tubing. From Walhalla, drive west on SC 28 and cross into Georgia. Turn left onto Morsingills Creek Road (GA 884), then right onto Overflow Creek Road (Forest Service Road 86). You can access the river at the bridge or 0.2 mile downstream at a parking area.
Mile 4 - Highway 28 Bridge - Also known as Russell Bridge, this is the beginning of Section II, which has 20 rapids and is open to boaters and tubers. From Walhalla, drive west on SC 28 to the bridge. Access is at the bridge, or at the Forest Service parking area a bit downstream. Be sure to register at the self-registration station.
Mile 11 - Earls Ford - This is the beginning of Section III and for experienced whitewater boaters only. Access is .2 mile from the parking area. From Walhalla, drive west on SC 28 and turn left onto Whetstone Road (Oconee County S-193). Continue on Whetstone Road (Whetstone changes to FS 721) to the parking area.
Mile 14 - Sandy Ford - A put-in here cuts 3 miles from Section III, and also bypasses two major rapids. From Walhalla, drive west on SC 28 and turn left onto Whetstone Road (Oconee County S-193). Approximately 3 miles from the junction of S-196 turn left onto Forest Service Road 721A and continue to the parking lot.
Mile 23 - US 76 Bridge - Also known as Rogue’s Ford Bridge, is a recommended take-out, since this is the beginning of Section IV and is only for advanced paddlers with good equipment. From Westminster, drive west on US 76 to the bridge.
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