Chattooga - Chattooga Cliffs - Grimshawes Bridge to Bull Pen Bridge

Chattooga, North Carolina, US


Chattooga Cliffs - Grimshawes Bridge to Bull Pen Bridge (AKA Section 00)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (varies with level)
Avg. Gradient 78 fpm
Max Gradient 174 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02176930 350 - 1200 cfs III-V 00h26m 360 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



Legal access to portions of the Headwaters began in December 2012

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..  Green Creek Trail or Bull Pen Bridge are 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

Approximately 2 miles downstream of the Green Creek put-in, a river-wide logjam formed around two large boulders that created three narrow channels. The log jam appears to be from old floods and appears to function as a strainer for most floating debris coming down upper reaches.

A small ledge defines the beginning of the whitewater immediately downstream of the logjam that continues approximately 1.2 miles down to Bull Pen Bridge. The upper 2/3-mile has the most difficult rapids. The river enters a narrow canyon defined by steep rocky cliffs overhung above by dense vegetation. The rapids are close together, constricted and easy to approach and scout at this flow. The rapids are generally Class IV or V-, with one difficult sieve that may be boatable at higher flows.  Strainers and sieves are common on this reach and a portage or two can be expected.  After "the Sieve" the river mellows to Class III-IV the last mile to the bridge.  The run required 2.5 hours for a 4 mile trip. (adapted from FS Expert Panel Report)

This run is about the unique river features and closed in feel of the river.  It is a lot of work for the few rapids and would be visited to experience an almost primordial sense of the river.  The entry hike of almost two miles is long but easier than many other runs such as the Toxaway, Horsepasture or Ravens.

The upper two miles of the Wild and Scenic corridor runs through private property. The property owner does not allow the Forest Service access for management or study and denies access to the river. The river corridor in this section is not protected with conservation easements and has no protection against development.

Emergency Locations

Bull Pen Bridge N35°00.938' W83°07.589'


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: 2014-01-15 21:52:46


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Green CreekN/APutin Photo
0.0Parking AreaN/AAccess Photo
0.3First FallsIVPhoto
0.5Log Jamb (Impaction)N/APhoto
0.6Separation FallsIV+Photo
0.9Potholes Left, Logs RightIV+Photo
0.9Beauty and BeastIV+Photo
1.1Whoa Nellie! (aka Sieve Rapid)5.1Photo
1.2Crease BoofIV+Photo
1.3Sunbathers DropIII+
1.8Wakeup LedgeIV
2.0Bull Pen Rapid5.0Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Green Creek (Class N/A)

Green Creek Trail

Green Creek Trail
Photo taken 01/16/13

You reach the put in after a 1 mile up and down hill hike to the confluence of Green Creek and the Chattooga.  Start on Chattooga trail and hike 3/4 mile.  When you see a piece of large cable on the right side of the trail go 100 yards further and look for Green Creek trail to left going downhill beside a small water seep/stream. (Green trail on map)  If you get the wooden handrail you went too far.

Parking Area (Class N/A)

Green Creek Trailhead

Green Creek Trailhead
Photo taken 01/16/13 @ 0 cfs

Trail leaves out of back right and permit box is 100 yds down the trail on left.

First Falls (Class IV, Mile 0.3)

Cool Pool Below

Cool Pool Below
Photo by Shane Benedict taken 01/19/13 @ 750 cfs

Slide drop between two holes

Log Jamb (Impaction) (Class N/A, Mile 0.5)

Follow Logs to Left

Follow Logs to Left
Photo of Boater Trial by Todd Corey В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 1.5 (Burrells)

Two large boulders catch all the logs headed down the river. A must portage. The best route is to the left. Be careful of shifting logs. These trees are big enough to break a leg or worse if they move and they are stacked like pickup sticks.

Separation Falls (Class IV+, Mile 0.6)


Photo of Milt Aiken by Brian Jacobson © 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

Narrow turbulent drop into a pothole lined gorge, long runout and setting safety not possible for entire drop.

Potholes Left, Logs Right (Class IV+, Mile 0.9)

Down the Middle

Down the Middle
Photo by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

Easy line with a lot of hazard. The obvious line is left but this leads into a pothole that feeds a pinch point. The actual line is farther right beside the large rock. The line was right beside a partially submerged log on our trip.

Beauty and Beast (Class IV+, Mile 0.9)

Heart of Run

Heart of Run
Photo of Ken Holmes by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

Long approach into last alleyway. Initial approach relatively easy but a must catch eddy before a fast chute feeding into a strainer with a thin line on the left.

Beast (Class IV+, Mile 1.0)

Drop above Allyway

Drop above Allyway
Photo of Shayne Day by Todd Corey В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

Sieve with thin line on left. Easy portage on bedrock around left side.  Often holds wood, no eddy above.  Scout from above Beauty.

Alleyway (Class N/A, Mile 1.0)

Watch for Portage Below

Watch for Portage Below
Photo of Shayne Day by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

Tight alleyway that ends in sieve rapid. No vegetation grows by the river due to stripping during large floods.  Portage Sieve Rapid on the right over the large rock being carefull of the surrounding undercuts and siphons.

Whoa Nellie! (aka Sieve Rapid) (Class 5.1, Mile 1.1)

Whoa Nellie!

Whoa Nellie!
Photo by Russ Langley taken 01/13/14 @ 1500 cfs

This drop is not runnable at low water and is very difficult to portage at high water. At low water the entire river goes under the rocks on river right. At high water a large hole forms at the bottom.  First run on 1/11/14 by Russ Langley at 1500 cfs.

See the video here:


Crease Boof (Class IV+, Mile 1.2)

Below Whoa Nellie!

Below Whoa Nellie!
Photo of Ken Holmes by Todd Corey В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

Angled ledge with potholes and undercut rock on right side but clear line down left.  A log is wedged in the veil parallel to the drop.  Whoa Nellie! can be seen in the background at an unrunable low level.

Sunbathers Drop (Class III+, Mile 1.3)

Down the middle, watch for hidden wood

Wakeup Ledge (Class IV, Mile 1.8)

Blind ledge with line on left

Bull Pen Rapid (Class 5.0, Mile 2.0)

Bull Pen Rapid

Bull Pen Rapid
Photo of Shayne Day by Brian Jacobson В© 2007 taken 01/06/07 @ 350 cfs

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 20 2015 (1343 days ago)
gary debacherDetails
In 1993, I waded or swam all 25 public miles of the Headwaters, accumulating about 750 pictures of
the river at ELF, or extremely low flow. First, Section 00, Chattooga Cliffs. This is the most
complete set of pictures from my wading and swimming expedition in 1993. The pictures are "blogged"
on a UK website. Sometimes the pictures load slowly from Flickr.... Go open a beer and be patient.
Of course the river was at extremely low flow,, but that has its own attraction. I will post links to Sections 0 and 1 in the comments for those
October 16 2014 (1559 days ago)
gary debacherDetails
I'm having editing problems with my post. I can't get the link separated from the text. But if you
mark the link successfully, it will get you there. To avoid my text and
just see the pictures, my Flickr album.
November 30 2008 (3705 days ago)
Brian and Maria JacobsonDetails
Comments promoting exclusive use by any user group for their benefit will be removed by the
July 17 2005 (4937 days ago)
Jerry JascombDetails
We looked at Section I level early in July when Overflow was 2.6 and Chattooga about 6 ft. A ranger
drove up to warn us that boating above Hwy 28 was illegal, and that he drove around on rain/high
water days looking to bust boaters doing such. Said the fine for 1st offense would be $150 ($75 for
boating above Hwy 28 + $75 for not filling out a permit - huh?, like we would fill out a permit to
boat illegally?) He wrote down all our tag numbers. His name is Dave Heddon. Word to the wise - the
boating ban is being energetically policed around here.
May 17 2005 (4998 days ago)
Brent SteadmanDetails
Hiked the full length of OO April 4, 2005. The Chattooga guage at US76 was at 2.7 and I was told
Overflow was at .85. The river looked to have sufficient flow in all areas. Overall, the stretch
looks Class 4/4+ with one particular rapid a class 5 with a massive sieve at the entrance. Check
out the pictures.

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Associated News


Associated Projects

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