The Chattooga River flows approximately 58 miles from its headwaters in the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina to Tugaloo Lake on the Georgia / South Carolina border. It is a central feature of the 1972 movie ‘Deliverance.’ In 1974, shortly after running a section of the river by canoe, including Bull Sluice, then-Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter pushed for designation of more than 40 miles of the river as Wild or Scenic. It is the only river with Wild or Scenic designation in both Georgia and South Carolina. The Chattooga has several access points on its course, generally via public lands. Its corridor is almost entirely administered by the Nantahala (NC), Chattahoochee (GA), and Sumter (SC) National Forests.
From its headwaters at 3360 feet, the Chattooga descends almost 2500 feet to its southern terminus at Tugaloo Lake, and both the river and its corridor are home to a wide variety of flora and fauna. Trout fishing is a popular activity on the river. It also offers some of the best whitewater in the United States, so is a major draw for boaters of all kinds: canoe, kayak, raft, and even tubing on one section. There are also three commercially-licensed outfitters running guided trips along the river: Nantahala Outdoor Center, Wildwater, and Southeastern Expeditions, who I visited and profile here.
I visited several points on the Chattooga including the access points on both the west- and eastbound US-76 at the GA / SC border, and at its confluence with Long Creek on the South Carolina side of the river in April 2017. In general, access to the river through public lands sites is free. Permits (also free) are required to float the river at USFS put-in spots, and also for some backcountry camping on the river corridor, so check with the appropriate local Ranger District to find out what you need for your visit. Boating season on the upper Chattooga runs from December – April. They can also give you up-to-date information on water levels, safety, and any other important info you may need to make the most of your time on the river.
Scroll down to learn more about this site, watch the American Rivers / NRS video ‘The Wild President’ about how Jimmy Carter was inspired to get the Chattooga designated as Wild and Scenic, and for more visitor resources!
- Chattooga Wild and Scenic River
- Chattooga Wild and Scenic River – Sumter NF
- Chattooga Wild and Scenic River – Nantahala NF
- Chattooga River Ranger District – Chattahoochee NF
- Chattooga Conservancy
- The Untamed Chattooga River (Oconee Country)
- Chattooga River Wild and Scenic Section – Georgia River Network