Difficulty IV-V
Length 2 Miles
Flow Range 350 - 1200 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 58 minutes ago 105 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 12/27/2019 1:00 pm

River Description

The upper two miles of the Wild and Scenic corridor below Whiteside Cove Road runs through private property. The property owner has blocked the river with cattle gates, fencing, and razor-wire.  The Forest Service prohibits paddling on public lands immediately upstream and downstream of the private property. Paddlers have to hike in to the river on the Chattooga River Trail from the small parking lot on Whiteside Cove Road, turning left down an unmarked Green Creek Trail to reach the river. The entry hike of almost two miles is long but easier than many other runs such as the Toxaway, Horsepasture or Ravens. Be sure to fill out a permit at the trailhead.


Approximately 2 miles downstream of the Green Creek put-in, a river-wide log jam exists 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 low or moderate flows. 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 has required 2.5 hours for a 4-mile trip.


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.


Here are the ridiculous Forest Service rules:
  • Paddling is allowed only below Green Creek (not above)
  • Paddling is allowed between December 1 and April 30, on days when flows have hit 350 cfs or higher.
  • No strainer removal (this is reasonable). 

These severe restrictions are the only of their kind in the entire Unites States, and are intended to benefit hostile landowners and anglers who pursue heavily stocked non-native trout. 

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

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

Rapid Descriptions

Green Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 0

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 Mile - 0

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

First Falls

Class - IV Mile - 0.25

Slide drop between two holes

Log Jamb (Impaction)

Class - N/A Mile - 0.54

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 - 0.59

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 - 0.86

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 - 0.92

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 right.


Class - IV+ Mile - 0.95

Sieve with thin line on left that is blocked with wood (Jan 2019).  There is also a twisty slot move against the right wall.  Easy portage on bedrock around left side.  Often holds wood, no eddy above.  Scout from above Beauty.


Class - N/A Mile - 1

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

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 - 1.15

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 - 1.25
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Down the middle, watch for hidden wood

Wakeup Ledge

Class - IV Mile - 1.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Blind ledge with line on left

Bull Pen Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 2


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gary debacher
5 years ago

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. http://tinyurl.com/o4r8grg I will post links to Sections 0 and 1 in the comments for those sections.

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gary debacher
5 years ago

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. http://tinyurl.com/o4r8grg To avoid my text and just see the pictures, my Flickr album. http://tinyurl.com/qe7uqul

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Jerry Jascomb
14 years ago

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.

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Brent Steadman
15 years ago

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.

Gage Descriptions

The gage at Burrell's Ford bridge is approximately six miles downstream of the takeout.  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 around 1.5 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 upstream staff gage below the bridge (date, time, level) on the SC side using the "Add a Comment" button at the bottom of this page.

Directions Description

Start at Bull Pen Bridge. Continue west on Bull Pen Road (County Road S-1102) 2.7 miles to Garnet Hill Lane (County Road NC-1606) turn right (may change to Whiteside Cove Rd), and go north 2.5 miles. A small Forest Service  parking area marked Whiteside Cemetery will be on the right that holds several cars.  Follow the trail to the confluence with Green Creek. Bull Pen Road is approximately 16.1 miles north of the intersection of Hwy 107 and Hwy 28 in Mountain Rest, SC .


Boaters will access this put-in/takeout off the old County Line Road located at the Jackson/Macon county line. Take Horse Cove Road east out of Highlands, NC for approximately 4.5 miles and keep left on Whiteside Cove Road at the fork in the road. The old road bed down county line is located 0.8 miles at the Jackson/Macon county line on the right. Only roadside parking is available in this area. The registration box is approximately 0.25 miles down this trail.


No Accident Reports



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A Close Look at Cheoah River Fatalities

Charlie Walbridge

The recent death of Chris Clark at Python Rapid on North Carolina's Cheoah River is the third at this site in the last six years. In each case, the person who died was an expert paddler and their paddling partners did not see exactly what happened. Let's take a close look at the Cheoah below Bear Creek Falls and develop strategies for future runs. The river here is very fast and continuous. After a fast lead-in (Chaos), the river drops over Bear Creek Falls, a 12' drop. Below, most of the flow pushes toward the river right channel (Python). Ferrying over to the easier river left channel (the West Prong) requires careful boat control. Python itself contains several nasty holes and sieves, with a bad hole blocked by a boulder at the bottom. There is a good route through it, but paddlers need to plan their route carefully. Scouting is a good idea for first timers, although catching eddies and getting out is not  going to be easy. Groups need to stay together.. The rapid is tough enough that you can't watch your buddy all the time, but you can be ready to help if needed. Click through for links to the accident reports, photos, and comments from expert Cheoah River paddlers. (Photo above by Boyd Ruppelt)

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Forest Service Supports Chattooga Trails (NC/SC/GA)

Kevin Colburn

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.

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Court Finds 2012 Chattooga Decision Legal

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Comment Opportunity on Upper Chattooga Access

Kevin Colburn

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.  

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Chattooga Court Hearing Marks Progress for Paddlers

Kevin Colburn

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.  

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Upper Chattooga Rules Shared - Paddling to Start Soon!

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 article will help you jump through all the hoops and enjoy the river!

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Chattooga USFS Consideration Done – River to Partially Open This Winter

Kevin Colburn

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!

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Chattooga River Update - Some Boating Possibly Allowed Soon

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Court Sides with Paddlers on Several Chattooga Issues

Kevin Colburn

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.

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Conservation-Oriented Paddlers File Comments On Upper Chattooga

Kevin Colburn

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.

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Call for Chattooga River Comments

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Paddlers Secure Chattooga Conservation Outcomes, But Remain Severely Limited

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Paddlers Succeed in Chattooga Hearing - Case Moves Ahead!

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Paddlers Get Their Day In Court on Chattooga

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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USFS Withdraws Chattooga Decisions and Analyses

Kevin Colburn

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.

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USFS Decides No Upper Chattooga Boating This Winter

Kevin Colburn

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.

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A Portion of the Chattooga Headwaters Open To Limited Boating Starting Dec 2009

Mark Singleton

After considerable delay, US Forest Service officials announced a final decision on managing recreation uses on the upper Chattooga River and released the Environmental Assessment.

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USFS Offers Brief Chattooga Update

Kevin Colburn

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."

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AW Seeks to End Chattooga Delays (NC/SC/GA)

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Yet Another Chattooga Delay, Again...

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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Nationwide Chattooga Comments Needed

Kevin Colburn

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.

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USFS Chattooga River Proposal Released

Kevin Colburn

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. 

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USFS Announces More Chattooga Delays (Again)

Kevin Colburn

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.

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Surprise: More Chattooga Delays

Kevin Colburn

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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More Chattooga Delays - Another Season Lost

Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater has received news that the US Forest Service has failed to meet yet another deadline in their development of a new recreation management plan on in the upper 21 miles of the Chattooga River corridor (NC/SC/GA).  The USFS now expects to release their analysis of the issue and a proposed action sometime in mid February of 2008.  This release will be followed by a month long comment period, which will then be followed at some point by a decision - at least a year late.   The result of these constant delays is that citizens will be deprived of yet another paddling season on this federally managed river.
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Chattooga Meeting Poses New Challenges

Kevin Colburn

The September 29th Chattooga River (NC/SC/GA) meeting was confusing and frustrating for many participants.  The USFS presented a disorganized list of 9 new or revised alternatives, and a new decision to ban paddling on one stretch of the river in all alternatives without any analysis.  The bright spot of the recent developments is that among the new alternatives is one similar to the alternative proposed by AW and supported in written comments from hundreds of paddlers.   We would like to thank all the paddlers speaking and writing on behalf of responsible river management for the Chattooga. 
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Chattooga Meeting this Saturday, 9/29

Kevin Colburn

The next US Forest Service workshop relating to the management of the Chattooga River will be held Saturday, September 29th.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the development of alternatives for the USFS to analyze in the coming month. 

Kevin Colburn


James Moloney


Brian and Maria Jacobson


Seth O'Shields


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213091 06/26/19 Kevin Colburn updated description
1214073 12/27/19 James Moloney updated stats
1201536 08/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1212431 05/19/19 Brian and Maria Jacobson updated image position
1212516 05/30/19 Brian and Maria Jacobson updated image position
1203003 01/15/14 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1212726 06/04/19 Brian and Maria Jacobson updated description
1201543 08/26/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1192890 07/15/08 Kevin Colburn n/a
1196204 10/13/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196239 10/15/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196244 10/15/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196246 10/16/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson Restore Reach Profile
1196247 10/16/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson Add adjacent reaches
1201794 02/03/13 Seth O'Shields
1195913 08/31/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson Delete duplicate rapids
1195980 09/09/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196248 10/16/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196454 11/11/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196452 11/11/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196453 11/11/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196456 11/11/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196482 11/14/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1196506 11/15/09 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201063 02/23/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson "Final" Decision
1201064 02/23/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201067 02/23/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1202017 04/29/13 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201068 02/23/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201072 02/23/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201076 02/23/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201081 02/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201094 03/01/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201152 03/28/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201537 08/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201539 08/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201538 08/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201540 08/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201541 08/24/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201597 10/01/12 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201762 01/16/13 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1201783 01/28/13 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1202996 01/13/14 Brian and Maria Jacobson
1212222 05/08/19 Brian and Maria Jacobson updated image position
1210970 01/26/19 Brian and Maria Jacobson updated description
1212727 06/04/19 Brian and Maria Jacobson updated description