article photo 1

Lift Boating Ban on Wild & Scenic River!

Posted: 04/20/2004
by Risa Shimoda

Please donate to AW to help us protect access to America's Wild and Scenic Rivers


Your help is needed now, please read on….


·  In 1976, the United States Forest Service made the poor decision of banning boating from the headwaters of the Chattooga, one of the nation's first Wild & Scenic Rivers. This ban was introduced without research, with a complete lack of information and understanding of whitewater 'users', and was supported by local 'good old boy' politics.


·  On January 15th 2004 the Forest Service made an even more outrageous and inexcusable decision, deciding to maintain this 30 year ban on floating the Chattooga Headwaters. They


o       ignored volumes of existing information regarding whitewater and paddlers;

o       disregarded research and regulations on rivers across the country;

o       overlooked more than 1,000 letters from paddlers like yourself; and

o       once again bowed to local politics and bureaucratic red tape.


American Whitewater is challenging this reprehensible decision by the USFS because it states that boating use of this river -- your use -- is less important and more environmentally destructive than angling, hiking and other recreational use, even though the Forest Service studies and surveys prove the opposite!


American Whitewater is contesting this decision because, if upheld, it could set a precedent that blocks your access to rivers on Forest Service lands across the country, including those which include our nation's outstanding Wild & Scenic Rivers. 

American Whitewater is fighting this because it's just wrong!  Instead of promoting the fair and shared use of our public's precious rivers, this decision promotes only discrimination and may limit angling, hiking, and paddling elsewhere.  We believe that you have as much right to enjoy a National Wild & Scenic river as does any other visitor!


What Happened, Exactly?


Sadly, the recently released Record of Decision, final environmental impact statement and new Sumter Forest Plan did not incorporate American Whitewater's comments submitted in early July, 2003.  The Record of Decision (ROD) is a plan that will govern how the National Forests bordering the Chattooga River will be managed for the next 10-15 years!  Importantly, the ROD also determines whether boaters will be able to float the headwaters section of the Chattooga River during that same time period.  


AW submitted comments to the Forest Service in connection with the ROD.  AW's comments suggested a workable solution for managing the Chattooga River that would restore boaters' access to the headwaters section, while maintaining and preserving the cherished wilderness characteristics of the river and surrounding areas.


Unexplainably, the ROD ignored AW's comments and continued to exclude boaters, offering no rational basis for the exclusion.   Boaters, who arguably have the least environmental impact of any recreational user group, are the first and only such group to be completely banned from a section of the Chattooga River (or any other section of river managed by the Forest Service in the United States).  This decision is particularly painful given that AW has been in an ongoing dialogue with local Forest Service officials for nearly a decade in an effort to restore the access boaters have traditionally enjoyed to this pristine wilderness-access that dates back to before the Chattooga was designated as a Wild and Scenic River in the late 1970s.  


We are left with only two options:  (1) quietly accept the fact that for the next 10-15 years, boaters will continue to be unfairly and irrationally denied access to one of our nation's most scenic and challenging stretches of whitewater-whitewater that is set in pristine, isolated wilderness; or (2) formally appeal the ROD to the Chief of the Forest Service in Washington, D.C.


The answer is obvious.  We must appeal the ROD because it sets a dangerous precedent.  This precedent could be used by the Forest Service to deny floating use on other rivers and streams throughout the country. We must not let this decision stand.


We are pleased to announce that a prominent Washington, D.C.- based Patton Boggs law firm has agreed to represent American Whitewater in our appeal efforts with their donated time.  AW could not have asked for a better legal team and we are thrilled that Patton Boggs has embraced this matter with such enthusiasm.


The appeal was filed on April 16 and now the forest service has until September to rule on the appeal. We will continue to work on this issue throughout 2004. To download and view the full text of our appeal click here.


AW needs your help! Your financial support will help us build momentum as we fight to restore public access to this incredible natural resource.


If you love the Chattooga and want to help insure AW's efforts to open the Chattooga headwaters to canoeing and kayaking here is how you can donate at


Fill in the requested information and check the 'access' button.  In the 'Comments' Field write 'Forest Service Appeal.'


P.S.     Help our effort to establish boaters' rights to use our Wild and Scenic rivers with a generous gift. When you send a gift of $100 or more you'll join us at the Ender Club Level:  we'll send a 2004 Ender Club t-shirt as a gesture of thanks.

For a gift of $250 you will be supporting AW as a Platinum Paddler and receive a pair of Smith Sport Optics sunglasses, in addition to the standard 'thank you,' a Patagonia polo shirt. Supplies of the Smith sunglasses are limited, so don't delay!   Go to  To be sure to receive your 'thank you' gifts, please type 'Chattooga' in the Comments box.