Chattooga River Anniversary

Famed River Marks 50 Years
June 25, 2024

“Rivers run through our history and folklore, and link us as a people. . . . We are a nation rich in rivers.”

So said Charles Kuralt in 1995 . . . and he understated their inextricable ties to our history. From the establishment of Jamestown hard on the banks of the James River, to the explorations of Lewis and Clark on the Missouri and Columbia, to the checkered history of commerce on the Mississippi, to the Civil War battles along Bull Run and Antietam Creek, rivers are on the tips of our tongues. Perhaps equally as importance are their contributions to our culture – the Suwanee, the Wabash, the Potomac. But there’s another river that maybe isn’t as easily called to mind that has contributed a great deal to our culture, This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Chattooga River in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina as a wild and scenic river.

Whether you like it or not, you can’t deny that the movie Deliverance has left its mark on our pop culture. Ostensibly set on the Cahulawassee River, the movie was actually filmed on the Chattooga River—appropriate, as the Chattooga was a likely inspiration for the river in the book of the same name by James Dickey. Although the movie is more than 50-years-old, the cultural references to it are universal.

BTW, the Cahulawassee River is fictional.

How did the Chattooga become a wild and scenic river? While many people worked to protect it, perhaps one person is more responsible for its designation than any other.

President Jimmy Carter has been called “The Wild President” due to his connection with nature and his efforts to protect it. He was also an accomplished canoeist and took many trips on the Chattooga in an open canoe. In fact, he’s credited with the first tandem canoe descent of Bull Sluice Rapid on the river in 1974. His love of the river led him to push for its protection while Governor of Georgia, and in 1974, he got his wish—the Chattooga River was designated into the National Wild & Scenic Rivers System.

Happy “Birthday,” Chattooga!


News Cover Photo: Middle Gorge of the Chattooga River, Credit to Alan Cressler                  Photo This Page: Governor Jilly Carter and Claude Terry Running Bull Sluice Rapids