It has been a big week for the management of the Chattooga River.
First, the US Forest Service announced that they will begin allowing paddlers to descend parts of the upper Chattooga River for the first time in 36 years this weekend, under a barrage of the most severe limits the agency imposes on paddling or other similar day-uses anywhere in the Nation. Two sections of the Upper Chattooga River and all tributaries remain totally banned to paddling.
Under the Forest Service plan, boating is allowed:
o Put-ins: downstream of the Green Creek confluence in North Carolina; Norton Mill Creek confluence in North Carolina; Bullpen Bridge in North Carolina; and Burrells Ford Bridge in Georgia.
o Takeouts: Norton Mill Creek confluence in North Carolina; Bullpen Bridge in North Carolina; Burrells Ford Bridge in Georgia; and Lick Log Creek confluence in South Carolina.
Paddlers can confirm water flows on the upper segment of the Chattooga River at the USGS gauge at Burrells Ford at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?02176930. Before visiting, paddlers should check http://fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/upperchattooga for the most current information on where to pick up boater registration permits, parking, access and the decisions related to recreation uses on the upper segment of the Chattooga River. Paddlers should not remove wood from the river.
Second, American Whitewater and our river conservation partners appealed the decision to continue unjustified and unlawful bans and severe limits on paddling the upper Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, while artificially increasing other forms of recreation without any direct limits. This appeal asks the Washington DC office of the USFS to restore nationally consistent and protective management to the upper Chattooga River.
Third, several anti-paddling groups recently requested a stay of the paddling management so that no boating would be allowed. This request was denied on a technicality, because they had not yet appealed the decision. If these groups choose to appeal and request a stay (as they successfully did in 2009), the planned limited paddling will not occur.
Fourth, we learned this week that the federal court challenge of the USFS mismanagement of the Chattooga River will be heading to trial in late 2012.
We hope that any paddlers lucky enough to paddle part of the upper Chattooga in the coming weeks enjoy the river!