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Backpacker Magazine – August 2000

River Floating: A Current Affair

Why huff and puff to get to an isolated campsite? Simply grab a paddle, then let the current carry you to a secluded riverside trailhead.

by: Larry Rice and Alan Kesselheim and Jeff Rennicke, BACKPACKER Midwest Editor and Buck Tilton, BACKPACKER Contributing Editor


Chattooga River, Georgia

The water: Made famous by that '70s canoe- combat film "Deliverance," the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River in Georgia's northeasternmost corner (Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest) is one of the classic whitewater runs in the United States. Intermediate boaters can canoe or kayak Sections II and III (20 miles total), a paddler's dream of ledges, drops, and rambunctious whitewater from GA 28 to Earl's Ford. Numerous good primitive camping spots dot the riverbanks. By joining an outfitted trip, you'll also have the option to raft the 7-mile "experts-only" Section IV down to US 76. Between cascading falls are quiet pools and sandbars where you can camp, swim, and fish for brown and rainbow trout and redeye (Coosa) bass.

The hikes: Right beside the river is one of the finest hikes in the Southeast-a 20-mile (one way) trip on the Bartram and Chattooga River Trails. The first 10 miles, from GA 28 south to Sandy Ford, are the two trails combined, and the last 10 miles, from Sandy Ford to US 76, are the Chattooga River Trail alone. No matter the name, between green wooded bluffs and sculptured rock formations, the trail skirts the river's ledges, drops, and rapids. Jump out of the boat at just about any spot and you can hook up with the trails within a quarter mile of the river. The remote and unspoiled Rock Gorge section, a bouldery, botanist's delight, teems with conifers and hardwoods, plus wildflowers and flowering shrubs such as violets, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Here you'll find wild turkeys, quail, raccoons, white-tailed deer, and even black bears.

Season: If you're not used to Southern summers (hot and humid, with the air often referred to as "thick"), opt for spring and fall.

Logistics: Take I-985 north to US 23. Exit at US 441, continue north 28 miles to US 76 (just south of Clayton, Georgia), and go east 9 miles to the Chattooga River. Parking is on the northwest side of the river at the Chattooga River Information Station. The Nantahala Outdoor Center Chattooga Outpost (800-232-7238; www.noc.com) offers guided raft, canoe, and kayak trips, as well as instruction.

Experience level: Suitable craft include rafts, whitewater canoes, and kayaks. Boaters should possess intermediate to advanced skills.

Guides: Chattooga Wild and Scenic River Map ($4.28) is available from the Chattahoochee National Forest. The Chattooga Wild And Scenic River, by Brian A. Boyd (Fern Creek Press, 706-782-5379; www.rabun.net/boyd; $9.95).

Contact: Chattahoochee National Forest, Tallulah Ranger District, (706) 782-3320; www.fs.fed.us/conf.

-Larry Rice




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