The new rules include:
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.
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.
Related ReachesChattooga Cliffs (AKA Section 00)
Ellicott Rock (AKA Section 0)
Rock Gorge (AKA Section 1)
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
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
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.
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
Converging water feeds into rock wall on left shore Low Water
Designated Take Out, Emergency Access Point From the river to the parking lot is about 3/4 mile all uphill
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
1 year ago
by Matt Jackson
Sign up to join the Sultan River (WA) working group and stay informed on issues related to improving flows through hydropower relicensing.
Report covering the recreation users, use, economic impacts, and economic benefits of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River.
Letters in opposition of paddling on the Chattooga from Paul Broun, Robin Hayes and J. Gresham Barrett - Congressional Representatives
The gage is at Burrell's Ford bridge. There are two staff gages now that the USGS installed a full gaging station. The one on the upstream piling is the one linked to the internet. A reading on the upstream gage of 1.8 is approximately equal to the arbitrary FS minimum level of 350 cfs. Minimum boatable levels are 1.4 ft and upper limits are likely around 2.8 ft on the upper gage.
Correlation information is needed to develop better guidelines. If you are visiting Burrell's Ford, please report readings on the upstram staff gage below the bridge (date, time, level) on the SC side using the "Add a Comment" button at the bottom of this page.
Turn off Hwy 107 onto Village Creek Road which is located 1 mile north of Oconee State Park, go approximately 1.5 miles and turn right on Nicholson Ford Road, takeout parking is at the end of the road. Return to Hyw 107 turn left and go 7 miles to Burrell’s Ford Road. Turn left and go 2.6 miles to the Burrell’s Ford Bridge.
on Chattooga @Rock Gorge - Burrell's Ford to Lick Log Creek
Portaging Wood on Section 1
Approach to Harvey Wallbanger
Rock Gorge Takout
(RM) Boating Ban Sticker
(RM) No Boating Above Hwy 28
Maytag Low Water
Harvey Wallbanger Low Water
Big Bend Falls
Chattooga Section 1 Big Bend
Rock in the Hole In the Wall
Scouting Big Bend
One of the Drops in the Rock Gorge
Drop above Big Bend Falls
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Claude Terry, paddler, outfitter, and conservationist, died on November 20th, 2019. He was 83. A microbiologist by training, Terry began paddling in the mid-1960's while a professor at Emory University. He took to whitewater readily, and it became an important focus of his life. In 1969 he met veteran paddler Doug Woodward, and in 1971 the two became the technical advisers for the movie “Deliverance.” Afterwards, Terry and Woodward purchased the rafts Warner Brothers used in filming and bought 19 acres near the river. This became Southeastern Expeditions, one of the Southeast’s first whitewater outposts on the Chattooga. In 1974, Terry took then-Gov. Jimmy Carter on three trips on the Chatooga River, totaling 57 miles. This inspired Carter to get the Chattooga included in the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and influenced later decisions protecting rivers across the U.S.“Terry adopted me as one of his students,” Carter told Outside Online in a 2017 interview. “it opened my eyes to the relationship between a human being and a wild river that I never had contemplated before that. When I got to be president I vetoed 16 different dam projects all over the United States.” Terry eventually quit his Emory University job and started full time career in environmental advocacy, including founding American Rivers, a principal U.S. conservation group. For the next 30 years he specialized in environmental projects involving rivers and wetlands and later, when he became a board-certified toxicologist, he developed an expertise in hazardous waste cleanups. He was an active paddler until sidelined by Parkinson's Disease. A passionate teacher and advocate, he is sorely missed by all who knew him. Click through for an excellent obituary and a photo of Terry taking Governor Carter over Bull Sluice!
The Forest Service released their decision yesterday to formalize roughly 1.5 miles of existing undesignated trails and build less than 1000 feet of new trails to improve access to the Upper Chattooga River for all visitors. This step is well within their normal range of management actions and begins the process of bringing the trail system in the river corridor up to modern standards.
Last week the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case over the Forest Service’s 2012 decision to implement restrictions on paddling the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. Conservation-oriented paddlers, Georgia Forest Watch, and the Rust Family had asked the court to overturn various portions of a lower court decision that favored the Forest Service. These requests were denied, and the lower court ruling was upheld by the Fourth Circuit.
The Forest Service is seeking comments on their Environmental Assessment and proposal to upgrade and designate the trails and access areas that paddlers and others use to access the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. Comments are due by midnight, November 7, 2014. Your comments can help encourage high quality and sustainable hiking and paddling opportunities, and help clarify that no permit should be requied to paddle the Chattooga River upstream of Green Creek.
Yesterday a hearing was held in US District Court in South Carolina regarding the Forest Service's illegal bans and severe limits on paddling 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River. The Judge ruled in favor of conservation-oriented paddlers and charted a schedule to resolve the case early next year.
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 article will help you jump through all the hoops and enjoy the river!
A decision made earlier this month by the Washington Office of the US Forest Service officially ends the agency’s consideration of recreational management on the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. The decision marks the final Agency green light allowing the public to paddle a 15-mile portion of the Upper Chattooga River this winter for the first time in 36 years!
In the midst of the controversial paddling ban and capacity consideration on the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River, the Forest Service is proposing to jointly develop a “farmstead” on the banks of the disputed section of river with a private non-profit partner organization. This proposed new use of the Wild and Scenic River Corridor, in a reach heavily stocked with non-native trout and deemed to have zero capacity to support floating, is raising eyebrows and drawing comments from many Chattooga River stakeholders.
It has been a big week for the management of the Chattooga River. The USFS released plans to allow paddling on a portion of the river beginning as early as this weekend if a laundry list of conditions are met. Conservation-oriented paddlers appealed the new decision that unlawfully limits paddling, and anti-paddling groups may request a stay in the coming days that if granted would prevent paddling. The mismanagement of the Chattooga is also likely to go to trial by year end.
Two federal court decisions issued in recent days favor conservation-oriented paddlers and their efforts to require fair, legal, and protective management of the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. AW believes that the recent decisions by the court respect the interests of everyone involved. The decisions also represent another step towards restoration of paddlers’ long tradition of floating the Chattooga River.
Yesterday, national and regional conservation-oriented paddling organizations submitted comments on the US Forest Service’s 489-page Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding recreation on the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. Also joining the comments were three individuals that enjoyed paddling the river prior to the controversial 1976 paddling ban.
The Forest Service recently published a 500-page manifesto aimed at continuing the 35 year old ban on paddling the upper Chattooga. If you care about being able to enjoy rivers flowing through public lands, we ask that you submit a comment regarding the upper Chattooga River, and to call your political representative before the August 30, 2011 deadline.
Earlier today the US Forest Service released a Draft Environmental Assessment that proposes to continue denying the American public the simple right to float in canoes and kayaks down the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River for most or all of the year depending on the section of river. While successful in advancing some of the paddling community’s conservation goals, paddlers remain singled out for inequitable and harsh limits based solely on the Agency’s unfounded belief that user conflicts would occur if boating were allowed.
The US Forest Service has announced yet another 45 day comment period regarding paddling on the Upper Chattooga River (NC/SC/GA) and we encourage paddlers to read the USFS scoping letter and offer any comments you may have. Also, as a special holiday treat we are pleased to bring you some rare footage of paddling the Chattooga headwaters prior to the 1976 paddling ban.
On December 2, 2010 United States District Judge J. Michelle Childs issued a decision regarding the mis-management of the Wild and Scenic upper Chattooga River. The decision confirms that conservation-oriented paddlers have a ripe and valid case against the US Forest Service, and the case will now proceed to trial.
Yesterday, conservation-oriented paddlers presented their case against the US Forest Service regarding the agency's illegal paddling ban on 21 miles of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River in a federal district court hearing. The judge heard roughly four hours of arguments and testimony, and stated that she would issue a decision at a later date.
Yesterday the US Forest Service “voluntarily withdrew” their decisions and analysis regarding their illegal ban on paddling the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River. The decisions and analysis were under intense scrutiny in the administrative appeals process, and are currently being challenged in Federal Court. The step is just the most recent in 14 years of avoidance tactics employed by local decision-makers in the agency, and will create massive additional burdens for public participants in the process.
Earlier this week the US Forest Service cancelled their plans to allow a paltry six days of paddling on one small section of the upper Chattooga River (NC/SC/GA) this winter. As it has been for 33 years, the entire Upper Chattooga River now remains banned to all canoeing and kayaking, while all other existing uses have no limits. Conservation-oriented paddlers have challenged the overarching agency decision to ban paddling on the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River in court and in the administrative appeals process over the past two weeks.
Joel Holtrop, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, recently provided American Whitewater with a brief update on the status of the long-overdue management plan for the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River, located in NC, SC, and GA. Mr. Holtrop offered that at this time the USFS is expecting to issue a final decision by the end of summer. Mr. Holtrop also stated that "Most recently, we have been conducting an extensive legal review to ensure that we have addressed all relevant concerns."
American Whitewater and our attorneys have been in contact with US Forest Service officials at the local, regional, and National level asking for prompt resolution of the mismanagement of the Chattooga, which has now been delayed over 2 years. The USFS has not set a new deadline for releasing their long overdue decision, nor shared a reason for the delays.
The Sumter National Forest announced today that the final decision on recreation uses on the upper Wild and Scenic Chattooga River is under internal review and will not be released this month as planned. The decision is now scheduled to be released "next year." It has been over 3.5 years since the highest office of the Forest Service ruled that the Upper Chattooga boating ban violates the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
AW has finished our initial review of the Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding recreation on the ChattoogaRiver and we will be filing detailed comments on the EA prior to the August 1st deadline [extended to August 18th]. We encourage paddlers nationwide concerned with river management and protection to submit comments. The proposed management action on the Chattooga is a damaging and politically motivated precedent that would impact rivers, managers, and recreationists across the country.
Today the United States Forest Service released their new proposal for management of the upper Chattooga River, and an environmental assessment of their alternatives. There will be a 30 day public comment period. The USFS proposes to essentially maintain their ban on boating while allowing other uses unlimited access - again without any basis whatsoever.
The USFS has announced another 6-month delay in deciding on a new plan for managing recreation on the Wild and Scenic upper ChattoogaRiver. The announcement came in a certified letter to AW, in response to a letter AW sent the Chief of the USFS requesting an update and swift equitable resolution of this protracted issue.
The Sumter National Forest told AW today to expect even more delays in the release of their Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding recreational use in the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River corridor. Now a full year late, and fraught with problems, it is unclear when the EA will be released.
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