Chattooga - Rock Gorge - Burrell's Ford to Lick Log Creek

Chattooga, Georgia, US/South Carolina, US


Rock Gorge - Burrell's Ford to Lick Log Creek (AKA Section 1)

Usual Difficulty II-V (varies with level)
Avg. Gradient 38 fpm
Max Gradient 125 fpm


Photo by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 @ 1.6-1.6 at Burls

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02176930 200 - 2000 cfs II-V 00h28m 255 cfs (running)
Due to an arbitrary decision by the Forest Service, the river is not boatable unless the river has previously exceeded 350 cfs the same day.

River Description



The new rules include:

  1. Allow paddling to occur between Green Creek and Lick Log Creek (about 15 of the 21 miles of the Upper Chattooga),
  2. Allow paddling to occur between December 1 and April 30, on days when flows have hit 350 cfs or higher.
  3. Permit must be obtained at locations shown below.  Burrell's Ford (GA side) is easiest for this reach.
  4. Leave paddling banned on the uppermost two miles, the lower four miles, and all tributaries all year. 
  5. It would also ban paddling from May 1 through November 30 on the entire Upper Chattooga, and on all days when flows have not hit 350 cfs or above.
  6. Impose no direct limits on other similar visitors.


These severe restrictions are the only of their kind in the entire Unites States, and are intended to benefit anglers who pursue heavily stocked non-native trout. The artificial fishery created by the USFS-sanctioned stocking has significant impacts including hatchery pollution, backcountry helicopter disturbances, near elimination of native brook trout, user created angling trails, and the elimination of nature based paddling from the upper Chattooga River. Ironically, the USFS decision actually harms anglers across the Country by creating potential competition for wild rivers that are currently shared by all forms of backcountry recreationists, and by degrading the rights of anglers to fish from a boat.

During a press briefing, the acting Sumter Forest Supervisor, Monica Schwalbach, stated that the US Forest Service has determined that boating on the upper Chattooga -- even in unlimited numbers -- "would have no impact on the resource."

AW has been working for a decade to bring responsible, nationally consistent river management to the Chattooga, and this work continues today.

For more information about American Whitewater's efforts to remove this boating ban go to the Chattooga Project page

This page was put together from information gained during the Forest Service Boater Trials as shown in this video and Trip Report

River Description

The upper approximately 2.5 miles of the run is swift water and gradually increased in difficulty culminating in a few Class III ledge drops just upstream of Big Bend Falls. At moderate flows, these drops are easy to approach, scout and run from a boat.  Stop on the river right above Big Bend Falls, at approximately Mile 3. The Big Bend Falls rapid is a river-wide waterfall made up of a series of smaller ledges dropping approximately 25 feet.  Mile 4 included a number of Class III to IV read-and-run rapids. At approximately Mile 5, you reach four approximately Class IV rapids above the Rock Gorge.  The Rock Gorge consists of a series of Class 4 rapids closely spaced in a narrow canyon.  Following the Rock Gorge, and approximately 1 mile upstream of Lick Log Creek, the river returns to Class I and swift water.  Approximately 200 yards below Lick Log Creek is the required last legal takeout for the run.  The next five miles to the 28 bridge consists entirely of swift water but are illegal to boat to protect an artificial fishing experience created by heavy stocking of exotic fish.  The total run time is about 5 hours.(adapted from FS Expert Panel Report)

This run is the best scenic run on the Chattooga.  The moss covered rock cliffs along the sides, relatively open vistas from the water, and relaxed nature of the trip makes this a wonderful way to spend the day on the water.  The rapids are all significant so its a long flatwater trip if you don't have Class V skills.

Emergency Locations

Big Bend Trailhead N34°57.006' W83°06.870'
Rock-in the-Hole-in the-Wall N34°56.509' W83°07.237'
Lick Log Creek Trailhead N34°55.821' W83°07.878'


Reach Profile



Related Reaches
Chattooga Cliffs (AKA Section 00)

Ellicott Rock (AKA Section 0)

Rock Gorge (AKA Section 1)


Woody Debris

This section of the Chattooga has special concerns about large woody debris for fish habitat. Please respect the environment and leave wood as you find it, even if it adds a portage. The Chattooga has a remarkable ability to clean itself and the rapid may be ready next time.

For more information about woody debris in rivers go to Large Woody Debris and Stream Ecology

Permit Information

Permit must be obtained at Green Creek Trail, County Line Trail, or Bull Pen Bridge in NC, Burrell’s Ford Rd (GA side of the river), Warwoman Campground (FR 86) and Overflow Creek in GA, or Hwy 28 boat landing, Low Water Bridge, Earl’s Ford, Sandy Ford, Fall Creek, Thrift’s Ferry, Hwy 76 / Bull Sluice lot, and Woodall Shoals in SC.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2013-04-19 14:30:28


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Burrell's FordN/APutin
2.7Big Bend Falls5.1Waterfall Photo
4.5Rock-in the-Hole-in the-WallIV+Hazard Photo
5.2Maytag5.0Hazard Photo
5.6Harvey WallbangerIVPhoto
5.8Upper Big Hairy BastardIVPhoto
5.9Lower Big Hairy BastardIV
7.4Lick Log Creek TrailN/ATakeout Photo
11.328 BridgeN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

Big Bend Falls (Class 5.1, Mile 2.7)

Big Bend Falls

Big Bend Falls
Photo of Big Bend Falls by Todd Corey В© 2007 taken 01/05/07 @ 1.5 (Burls)

This waterfall is one of the largest drops on the river. Lines exist on the far right and left but the consequences of missing are large. In an emergency there is a trail head just upstream from the falls at the right bend in the river that goes up to the Big Bend road. Low Water

Rock-in the-Hole-in the-Wall (Class IV+, Mile 4.5)

Rock in the Hole in the Wall

Rock in the Hole in the Wall
Photo of Wade Vagias by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/05/07 @ 1.5 (Burls)

Significant drop signaled by a rocky slide upstream. A rock resides in the middle of the hole in the bottom of the drop. Run to either edge of the hole.

Maytag (Class 5.0, Mile 5.2)


Photo by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 @ 1.6-1.6 at Burls

Drop into a large hole that is backed up by a rock that intensifies hole quickly with higher water. Trees tend to hang up here. There is an alternate route down river right if needed. Low Water

Harvey Wallbanger (Class IV, Mile 5.6)

Harvey Wallbanger

Harvey Wallbanger
Photo of Don Piper by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/05/07 @ 1.5 (Burls)

Converging water feeds into rock wall on left shore Low Water

Upper Big Hairy Bastard (Class IV, Mile 5.8)

Upper BHB

Upper BHB
Photo of Ben Ellis by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/05/07 @ 1.5 (Burls)

Blind approach into slide.

Lower Big Hairy Bastard (Class IV, Mile 5.9)
Boulder garden rapid with hidden holes

Lick Log Creek Trail (Class N/A, Mile 7.4)


Photo taken 01/19/13

Designated Take Out, Emergency Access Point  From the river to the parking lot is about 3/4 mile all uphill

28 Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 11.3)

This should be the take out except for an arbitrary decision by the Forest Service to protect a heavily stocked artificial trout park on the last two miles of this reach.  Boating is banned on this reach with no justification.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 1 2017 (620 days ago)
Alex HarveyDetails
Level was about 450 cfs. Small dead hemlock in right line of Big Bend Falls, a saw could make quick
work of removing this tree. Right side sneak at Maytag is open, but scout it. Top drop of Upper Big
Hairy Bastard full of wood, there was a sneak to the right. No fisherman encountered.
April 14 2013 (2068 days ago)
Garrick TaylorDetails
Section 1 starts out with a couple of miles of Class I/II and flatwater. Scenic but not exciting.
Then a few good rapids before Big Bend Falls. Big Bend Falls is a big class V looking drop. The
middle lands on rocks. River left side has a rock shelf that extends out from the left. There looks
like an impossibly thin line over on the left that would land you in a nasty hole due to that rock
shelf kicking water back in. River right has what appears to be a fairly reasonable (for a class V)
line. The problem there is it lands in a real boily eddy which has wood in the eddy and blocking
most of its outflow. Decent portage trail on the right that ended by dropping 10-15' down to the
river - ropes were helpful here. Then a mile or more of Class II before it picks up into some Class
III water leading up to what I think is called Rock in the Hole in the Wall. That is a nice rapid
with some quality III+ lead in ledges before the river necks down into a 10' wide slot. The problem
there was the slot had a log in the exact middle of the slot, where all the water goes. Easy
portage on a rock outcropping. More Class III follows, leading up to Maytag. Maytag had all sorts
of wood everywhere. The main line had an overhead log with enough head clearance. Small log in the
right of the main line that was mostly out of play. The drop itself looked to drop into fairly
shallow water that then dumped into a very boily eddy. This eddy had one tree that was easily
avoidable and another tree that went across the entire length of the eddy, most of it underwater
but it was hard to tell how much. The "sneak" described on AW was also clogged full of wood. The
portage for this one was a real pain in the a$$. River left was a rock cliff. River right was a
scramble up a very steep hillside to the Chattooga Trail. Ropes were again handy to pull the boats
up to the trail. After Maytag, the river continued on with some Class III rapids until we dropped
into the Rock Gorge. There was some good quality Class III and IV stuff in there. Also very, very
beautiful with high rock walls. In many spots, moss grew on the rocks, with water dripping through
the moss. The gorge slowly opened back up after just under a mile, and the river slowed back into
Class I/II before coming to the takeout just past Licklog falls. Next was the 0.7 mile takeout up a
steep trail similar to the Upper Green hike out. At least there were some pretty waterfalls on the
small stream along the trail. Worth doing once to see the rock gorge and say you have done it but I
am guessing I got my PLD on the same days as my PFD. If someone I trusted told me that all the
rapids were clear and I could run Big Bend Falls, Rock in the Hole in the Wall, and Maytag and it
was a nice day and the river was at a good level, I'd probably do it again. Barring that unlikely
event, it's probably a PLD (personal last descent) Harvey Wallbanger and Upper Hairy Bastard were
both a lot of fun!
January 15 2013 (2157 days ago)
Section 0 has a significant class 5 on it. The rest is class 3 at ordinary flow.

Section 1 has a bunch of 4/5 stuff. Both must have run at yesterday's levels. They run with a
little less water than Overflow.
November 30 2008 (3664 days ago)
Brian and Maria JacobsonDetails
Comments promoting exclusive use by any user group for their benefit will be removed by the
July 18 2005 (4894 days ago)
Jerry JascombDetails
We stopped by the Burrell's Ford bridge to check the level on July 8 when Overflow was 2.6 and Hwy
76 about 6 ft, just to have a look. A ranger, Dave Heddon, drove up warn us that boating above Hwy
28 was illegal. He said he drove around on high water days looking to bust boaters trying to poach
a run. Fine for 1st offense would be $150, more after that. He wrote down our tag #'s as souvenirs.
Word to the wise.

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