The Untamed Chattooga River

Shoreline shot of spring on the Chattooga River

Born in springs and rivulets high on the south side of Whiteside Mountain, near Cashiers, NC, the Chattooga River flows some 50 miles south-southwest forming the border between Georgia and Oconee County, South Carolina, ending at Lake Tugaloo, dropping from 3,000 feet to 950 feet.

From there, water flows into the Tugaloo River, on into Lake Hartwell, joins with Lake Keowee and flows south to the ocean as the Savannah River.

Morning mist on the Chattooga River

The Chattooga has been designated a Wild and Scenic River since the early 1970’s when it was determined the Chattooga should be maintained in its natural state for the use and pleasure of current and future generations since there were so few beautiful, untouched rivers left, particularly in the Southeast. Under the management of the U.S. Forest Service, the area is strictly monitored and regulated to ensure its continuance as a place of natural beauty.

Shoot the Rapids - click play

There are numerous ways to enjoy that natural beauty - rafting, hiking, camping, fishing, mountain biking, and horseback riding,

Fly fisherman in riverand hunting to name a few.
The Highway 28 Bridge is the northern boundary for rafting and floating; above the bridge is reserved for fisherman—rainbow and brown trout, and redeye bass are plentiful—hikers, campers and hunters—in season. Below the bridge is a 26-mile stretch of some of the best whitewater rafting available in the east. Rafters choose their own level of adventure with class 2, 3, 4 or 5 rapids available. Groups can raft the Chattooga on their own, but they must check in with the National Forestry Service first.

Morning on the upper Chattooga River

Satellite view if the Chattooga
Click on map to take
an aerial tour of the

Detailed Rchiver Maps

Coupon for Oconee County prints
    View picture galleries of Oconee County

Man in water next to raft

Because portions of the Chattooga are truly dangerous andmany fatalities have occurred,
it’s important to know your own expertise level and behave wisely.

For more information on put-in points,click here:

Others may want to take advantage of the equipment and services provided by one of the three authorized outfitters on the Chattooga – all regulated by the National Forestry Service.

Wildwater Ltd. Rafting is
located just outside Long Creek and provides
great options for rafters of all experience levels.
The other companies are Southestern Expeditions,
Clayton, GA and Nantahala Outdoor Center,
headquartered in NC with a branch locations in
Oconee County.

Raft shooting the rapidsThe number of trips and number of people per trip is strictly regulated so you are unlikely to encounter any other groups when you are on the river. Just lots of wonderful scenery, some wildlife, perhaps and of course, great white water!

In the spring, the river is usually higher and faster—and colder. By mid summer, it has warmed up and settled down a bit, depending on rainfall. In the Fall, it may be lower and slower, but the beauty of fall color makes it a special time to visit.

This is truly one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, natural areas left in the country. How did it get this way?
Rocks on the Chattooga River
Geological forces over millions of years carved out the Chattooga River. The Blue Ridge Mountains where the Chattooga starts are considered old, or ancient, even by geological standards. The rock is mostly sandstones and shales that were laid down approximately 600-750 million years ago. The mountains, a result of continental collision, are over 350 million years old and were probably higher than the Rockies when they were first formed. The erosion power of water and weather at work over millennia wore away the jagged peaks and carved deep narrow valleys in the terrain.

Geologists believe the Chattooga may have made one direction change during its life. Originally, it probably flowed southwesterly into the Chattahoochee riverbed and on to the Gulf of Mexico, but at some point, the Savannah River eroded its northern headland until it intersected the Chattooga and diverted it to the Atlantic.

Today the forces of nature are still at work changing and shaping the Chattooga. Many of the rocks in the riverbed probably fell from the ridge through erosion and those rocks do not necessarily remain where they fall. In times of great downpours, high water and fast currents, rocks can become dislodged and move downstream taking other rocks and debris with them. While not something one sees every day, it does remind us of the changing nature of, well, nature!

The Chattooga is bordered by three national forests: Sumter on the SC side , Nantahala in NC and Chattahoochee in Georgia.