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Chattooga River Update - Some Boating Possibly Allowed Soon

Posted: 03/16/2012
by Kevin Colburn

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:

  • between the confluence of Green Creek in North Carolina and one-quarter mile downstream of the Lick Log Creek confluence in South Carolina.
  • From December 1 to April 30.
  • From the time that flows reach 350 cfs or greater at the USGS Burrells Ford gauge during daylight hours. Daylight hours will be 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. Once boating is allowed, it may continue until 30 minutes after official sunset that same day.
  • With a self-registration boating permit.
  • Using tandem/single capacity hard boats or tandem/single capacity inflatable boats.
  • With a minimum of two craft and a maximum of six people per boating group.
  • Starting or ending only at specific put-ins and takeouts as outlined on the self-registration permit:

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  Before visiting, paddlers should check 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!

Associated Projects

Chattooga Headwaters (NC)
The US Forest Service has banned boating on the upper 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.

Associated Rivers