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Upper Chattooga Rules Shared - Paddling to Start Soon!

Posted: 11/27/2012
By: Kevin Colburn


The first season of legal paddling on portions of the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River since 1976 is nearly upon us.  The Forest Service will begin allowing paddling on December 1, 2012, through April 30, 2013, under various restrictions.  This policy, or one granting additional paddling access will almost certainly continue for years to come, and is the result of well over a decade of dogged effort by American Whitewater and our partners.     

American Whitewater, along with our partners, are overjoyed that paddlers will finally get to enjoy the Upper Chattooga River.  In addition to sharing the Forest Service regulations below, we also have a few requests for paddlers:

  • First and foremost be safe.  Be sure that you are up to exploratory-style Class V paddling, are with the right group, have the right equipment, have enough time, and make good choices.
  • Follow the rules.  Our visits to the river will be monitored closely, so please follow the rules imposed by the Forest Service.  Respect private property upstream of the Green Creek put in and north of the Green Creek Trailhead.  Do not miss the final takeout about 100 feet below Lick Log Creek on river left. 
  • Avoid crowding.  A generation of paddlers has been waiting to paddle this river, and it would be better if we didn’t all go at once.  Opt for week days if you can, avoid the very first opportunities if you don’t mind, and if one access area is overly busy opt for another.
  • Leave no Trace.  Avoid causing erosion or other effects by scouting and portaging on rock, using existing trails, or other durable surfaces whenever possible.   
  • Enjoy! Please consider sharing any photos or videos on the American Whitewater website, and supporting our work on the Chattooga. 


Here are the US Forest Service rules:

  • Flow and Time-of-Day Limits: Paddling is allowed from the time that flows reach 350 cfs or greater at the USGS Burrells Ford Gage during daylight hours.  Daylight hours will be 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset that same day.
  • Permits: A permit is required.  Pick one up and fill it out at any of the put in locations (Green Creek Trail, County Line Trail, Bullpen Bridge, Burrells Ford Bridge).  
  • Group Size: 2-6 people, minimum of two craft.
  • Boat Types: Single / tandem hard boats or single / tandem inflatables. 
  • River Reach: Paddling remains totally banned on the Chattooga River upstream of Green Creek, and between a point ¼ mile downstream of Licklog Creek and Highway 28.  Paddling is banned on Upper Chattooga tributaries as well. 
  • Strainers: Removing strainers (wood, logs, log jams, etc) from the river is prohibited. 


Access Details: Paddlers are prohibited from launching at Whiteside Cove Road, and taking out at Highway 28. Below are the access options and run details:

  • Chattooga Cliffs (Section 00): Paddlers may park at the signed Chattooga Trail trailhead on Whiteside Cove Road and hike 0.3 miles to the river.  Follow the old road bed, which should be flagged to the river itself to launch.  Park in the lot, or well off the main road to the south of the trailhead.  Do not park on or block small roads/driveways in the vicinity (especially north of the trailhead) as they serve private residences.  For a shorter run, paddlers may park at the County Line trailhead and hike 1.2 miles to the river.  Park in the signed lot, and follow the trail (a recently used logging road blocked by an earthen berm). (See NC Access map in document box to the right of this article). The normal takeout for this reach is Bullpen Bridge. 
  • Ellicott Rock (Section 0):  This section requires no hiking.  Launch at Bullpen Bridge (or one of the upstream hikes) and take out at Burrells Ford Bridge.  At Bullpen Bridge, put in just above the bridge on river right or put in below the bridge by walking west about 200-300 ft and drop down on river left.
  • Rock Gorge (Section 1):  Put in at Burrells Ford Bridge, and hike out approximately 100 feet downstream of Licklog Falls, noticeable on river left.  This “suggested” takeout is flagged with orange ribbon and marks the temporary trail up to the Chattooga River trail.  Once on the Chattooga River trail turn left (or North/East).  A little ways up the Chattooga River Trail, you will notice a brown fiberglass post to point you toward the parking area.  After crossing Lick Log Creek, climb the steps and, again, follow the sign toward parking.  From the take out, hike 3/4 miles up the trail to the parking area. (See the SC Access Map in the download box to the right of this article).  

Be Safe, and Enjoy!  Please note that we are continuing our legal challenge of the unjustified and unfair total bans, seasonal restrictions, and flow restrictions listed above. 

Associated Projects

Chattooga Headwaters (NC)

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


Chattooga 2012 SC Access Map (11/27/2012)

Map depicting USFS "suggested route" for the required Lick Log take out / hike out (Rock Gorge aka Section 1 take out).

Chattooga Access NC 2012 (11/27/2012)

A USFS map depicting the suggested trail access for paddling access to the Chattooga Cliffs reach (Section 00) of the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River.

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