Deliver Me

May 30, 2001

It seemed to me that since I have been receiving daily "hits" from search engines looking for "Chattooga + River," that I should put some more information here than just one or two photographs of the river. If you are looking for information on rafting the famous, or infamous river, then read on.

For me, it all started with a novel by James Dickey who wrote a book about 4 men who were caught in a violent and primitive test of their manhood, where wilderness meets white water in the back woods of the deep south.

Modern man met modern Neanderthals, and trouble was found not far behind.

In 1972 the screenplay that Dickey wrote was made into a movie and filmed on the Chattooga River. I have only seen snatches of the movie, primarily because I am not into violent death and sodomy and the like. But in the early 70's the legend of the river loomed large, and hosts of people decided to try and float down the river in and on just about anything imaginable.

Some of them died. When we rafted the river the guides told us of bodies pinned under water, released only with a sticks of dynamite. Legend or not, it made for an interesting story, and for a while, we heard the dueling banjos everywhere we went.

Since body retrieval is not the natural "sport" of the river, the National Park Service banned the use of floats and inner-tubes on sections of the river.

Two years after filming on the Chattooga, the river was added to the "Wild and Scenic River System" so that it can be preserved in its natural state.

The river runs for 50 miles or so from the Appalachians on the border of Georgia and South Carolina and empties into lake Tugaloo.

My wife and I rafted the river in June of 1979, as part of a trip from Michigan to Hilton Head Island. Since we would be driving near it, and because of it's legendary status, I just "had" to raft the Chattooga. We started our vacation by rafting the New River in West Virginia, and a day or so later we connected with the NOH guides for our trip down the famous and dangerous "Deliverance" river.

We arrived at the river in the early evening and set out to explore the trails in and around the launch site. One of the two signs posted at the river's edge proclaims in bold print:


It was sounding good to me.

Although one reviewer stated that he was disappointed by the scenery I found the area extremely beautiful and indeed, a wilderness. The river that evening was full, but after a night of rain, we were greeted the next morning with boiling muddy water.

On our trip we were accompanied with many guides in kayaks and in support rafts who positioned themselves downstream of the major rapids, to recover rafters who might be thrown out or washed out of the rafts. Many times they were positioned on the rocks with ropes to either throw into a raft, or to an errant swimmer. It seemed that we had no more than started our rafting experience when we tied up on shore and we were taken to scout and prepare for our first big ride through the rocks.

Perhaps the river is THAT dangerous, but it seemed to me that we spent a lot of time looking at the rocks and rapids, time when I would have preferred to be smashing into walls of water.

We ate lunch beside a gorgeous waterfall and proceeded in our stop and go fashion till we reached the last series of 6 rapids, known as 5 falls. I remember that the one of the guides was positioned to throw a rope into each raft before it could go over the last "rapid" (read waterfall.) One of the rafts in our trip came too close to the edge of the fall and the guide was pulled off of the shore still holding on to the rope. Several of us jumped into the shallow water to grab the rope, and we pulled the raft from the brink of what could have been a nasty accident.

My wife really enjoyed the river, and although I did as well, I still recall my irritation with the frequent stops. On a 1 to 5 scale, I would give it a 5 for beauty and wildness, and a 3 for excitement and a wild ride. My personal preference is tainted by a desire for continual non stop thrills, so stopping for a safety lecture 5 or 6 times on the trip was not enjoyable to me. Our five man rafts were a great size for the river, and the NOH outfitter was a great company to ride with.

My personal rafting preference for Eastern Rivers happens to be either the New or the Ocoee (Tennessee). I am glad I rafted the Chattooga, and would do it again if my travels took me into that area of the country.

Future raft trips include the Lower New (again 4th time - that should tell you something) river in two weeks, and hopefully the Gauley in the fall of 2001.

Some of the photographs in the gallery were taken with an underwater Nikon, and you may find a blur or two from water drops on the lens. Many of the photographs taken with the underwater camera are a bit dark, and I have tried to adjust with Photoshop as much as possible. The launch site photos were taken with a Nikon F, and all of the photographs are scans from slides.

Slideshow Gallery

Happy Rafting

Paddling the Chattooga River (And Others)