Rafting the Chattooga River – Section IV

My wife Liz asked for one thing for her birthday this year…a rafting trip on the Chattooga River, Section IV with her family. We have rafted other, nearby rivers including the tame Nantahala and the more challenging Ocoee in the past. But the Chattooga River Section IV is where the movie Deliverance was filmed in 1972, a thriller film starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox, and Ned Beatty. The movie provided a new level of popularity for the river and especially for thrill-seeking whitewater rafters. Around this time, the river was restricted to commercial development and only three rafting companies in business there at the time were grand-fathered in and allowed to continue providing white-water rafting trips on river.

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The river follows the Georgia – South Carolina border and this section covers level IV and V rapids which in rafting lingo is code for difficult and dangerous (expect to go swimming)! But the other rivers were just too tame for my thrill seeking wife so I got my son Matt and daughter Lauren in the loop and plans were completed. I had recently rafted with my men’s discipleship group on the Nantahala earlier in the summer. Fortunately, the water in the Chattooga is significantly warmer than the Nantahala which gets its water from the bottom of a lake making it too cold for me. 

This was an all day event beginning at 8:00 am and going until about 3:30 pm that afternoon. We drove to the Wildwater campus in Long Creek, South Carolina where you board a bus for about a 20 minute drive to the river. Once there, we had to all pitch in and carry the rafts and equipment about 1/4 of a mile down to the river’s edge. This is because there is a protected barrier along the length of the river so you will not see any signs of civilization on this trip.

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We were one of few rafts that never flipped and we only lost my daughter once when we entered a rapid with no warning. Most of the other six rafts in our group were not so lucky with many folks getting to swim part of river without a raft under them. Fortunately, the water was warm and we stopped at several locations to jump off the rocks into the water, some spots being around 30 feet high. At one point we got out and each person who wanted to could crawl down into a water-filled hole about 6 feet deep and about 4 feet of water. We would then hold our breath, go under-water and swim through a hole in the rock about 2 feet in diameter and come out on the other side under a water-fall. This was an unusual experience and nearly everyone tried it.

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At one point, there is a beautiful waterfall from a stream that enters the river. We stopped there and had our photo taken in front of the falls. Other stops included more swimming, jumping off of high rocks into the river and a final stop for lunch on a sandy beach. At the end of the trip, the rapids end and the river enlarges into a broad, deep and sleepy flow. There, all the rafts are tied to a small motorized fishing boat that pulls them further down river into beautiful Tugalo Lake, formed by a damn just beyond our pull-out point.

This trip was truly a great one and am so pleased my wife chose this as her birthday treat. We all had a great time and now look forward to when we can do it again.

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