CHATTOOGA RIVER & TRIBUTARIES
A Note about River Etiquette:
The Chattooga River Wild and Scenic corridor and the Ellicott
Rock Wilderness Area are enjoyed by individuals of varied backgrounds
and interests. Always respect the activities of others. Consider
other's access to solitude and quiet, particularly the fishermen
and hikers. For example, it is customary to paddle on the opposite
side of the river when passing fishermen, leaving their fishing
water undisturbed. We all share this great space.
The West Fork of the Chattooga begins at the confluence of Big,
Holcomb and Overflow creeks and continues down stream to its entrance
into the Chattooga River, 7 miles in length. The Overflow Creek,
above Overflow Creek Rd. Bridge is comprised of large waterfalls.
Below Overflow Creek Rd. Bridge, the water is calm. Perfect for
an afternoon float trip in a canoe or inner-tube. The last four
miles are the only section of the West Fork, where paddling is
Section II runs from Hwy 28 Bridge to Earl's Ford, a stretch measuring
just under 8 miles in length. Paddling and tubing are permitted
on this section, and though it flows parallel to the road, developed
access is minimal. The Russell Bridge and parking lot is a river
access point, as well as Low Water Bridge (also known as Long
Bottom Ford). From that point on you, you must continue on to
Earl's Ford. There is one significant rapid in this section, a
class II, known as Big Shoals, scouting is recommended. It can
be portaged, when desired. Most of this section of the river is
a scenic float trip, hence the allowance of tubing. It is illegal to paddle above the Hwy 28 Bridge.
Section III runs from Earl's Ford to the Highway 76 Bridge, 14
miles. It has an excellent mix of rapids, mostly class II and
class III, however many of them require scouting for the Chattooga
novice. Some of those recommended for scouting include: Dick's
Creek (aka First Ledge) the line is about 20' off shore, river
right; Second Ledge, the line is about 10' off shore, river left;
and Painted Rock, the move is river left to river right. The Narrows
is also another foreboding space on the river. While it is difficult
to scout (it is canyon-like with steep, rock walls where the river
narrows) the general rule is to eddy hop and stay right at the
bottom. While the left bottom drop does not look dangerous, it
is. The largest rapid on Section III is also almost the last,
Bull Sluice, a mandatory scout. This class IV-V rapid, dependent
on water level, will be the greatest moment in a Section III trip,
if run. However, for those who have not yet developed the whitewater
skills to run it, it can easily be portaged on the right (west)
side. Just be aware of slippery rocks and snakes.
The last seven miles of the Chattooga River is where the best,
most exciting whitewater and scenery can be found in the Southeast.
Class III and IV's are common, with one class VI (Woodall Hole).
Bridge to Woodall
The first two miles of Section IV (Hwy. 76 Bridge to Woodall Shoals
Beach) are a collection of rapids closer together, as well as,
longer and larger than those located upstream. Most of the rapids
in this portion of Section IV are class III drops or technical
shoal-type areas. Among the rapids located in this stretch are
Surfing Rapid, Screaming Left Hand Turn, and Rock Jumble, all
located above the long calm spot known as Sutton's Hole. At the
end of this portion are Woodall Hole and Woodall Shoals. It is
important to make note that Woodall Hole is a class VI, Keeper
Hydraulic. This rapid combination should always be scouted, taking
out at the upper end of the rock formation forming Woodall Hole,
on river left. This is also the method of portage. The Hole may
be cheated on far river right when the water level is high enough.
The shoals extend for approximately 200' beyond the initial ledge
at Woodall Hole.
A few hundred feet down stream of Woodall is Seven Foot Falls,
the first, very large drop on this section of the river. Always
scout these rapids. Seven Foot is a very tall, complicated drop,
run sideways left to right. Beware of the left tongue in this
Stekoa Creek and Long
One mile down stream of Seven Foot, Stekoa Creek enters the river
on river right. Approximately 200' downstream of Stekoa, Long
Creek enters the Chattooga. Long Creek Falls is worth a pause
to see and is only approximately 50' from the river's edge, but
be cautious on the slippery rocks and do not climb onto the waterfall.
A variety of plant and animal species, some rare, make this location
their home and stepping on some plant-life can kill it.
and Raven Chute
Further down stream of Long Creek Falls are the rapids Deliverance
Rock and Raven Chute, both large rapids with undercut rock and
pot hole hazards. Deliverance Rock is the rapid with the bus-size
boulder at the bottom right and Raven Chute is easily identified
from the 200' tall rock formation (Raven Rock) encircling river
left, just down stream of the rapid.
Approximately one mile downstream of Raven Rock is the high water
takeout for Section IV, Camp Creek. This river right, small beach
and trail are the last chance for an exodus, before entering the
Five Falls, the major rapid section of Section IV.
The Five Falls are the crowning achievement of the 250 million
year old, geological processes of the Chattooga River. Five class
IV-V rapids; Entrance (First Ledge), Corkscrew, Crack In The Rock,
Jawbone and Sock-em Dog, in rapid succession, in a narrow, boulder-strewn
strip of whitewater emptying into a pool of water known as Dead
man's Pool. The gradient drop of the five falls averages almost
300' per mile, an extreme loss of elevation in whitewater terms.
It is an area of dangerous hydraulics and unseen underwater hazards,
some of which are almost certainly fatal. Never attempt to raft
or boat the Five Falls of the Chattooga River without a seasoned,
professional guide, and/or extensive class IV, or above, personal
whitewater experience. Even then, it is recommended you go for
your first trip with someone with Chattooga River experience and
only after extensive research on the river and area.
Dead Man's Pool flows into Shoulder Bone Rapid, containing hazards
of its own. Do not ease up your guard, just when you have managed
to successfully navigate the Five Falls. While this location is
a breath-taking sight and ride, it is equally as hazardous.
The Chattooga River flows into Lake Tugaloo, less than half a
mile below the Five Falls. Lake Tugaloo is an undeveloped, isolated
body of water surrounded by high, rocky ridgelines, created when
the lower Chattooga was flooded by the creation of a Hydraulic
Dam. Just under three miles from where the Chattooga River joins
Lake Tugaloo, is the take-out. Private boaters are required to
paddle the length of this. The commercial outfitters have motorboat
tows meeting their trips at the base of the Chattooga, reaching
the landing in approximately twenty minutes. However, generally
the motorboat operators are not permitted to provide private boaters
with a ride. The paddle across the lake for a private boater in
a kayak is approximately 40 minutes (with no breaks).