50 Years of Running the Chattooga

Since 1972 NOC has been connecting guests with nature and outdoor adventure in the upstate of South Carolina. As one of the two first rivers to call the Nantahala Outdoor Center home, the Chattooga National Wild & Scenic River holds a special place in our hearts.

Today, we run two very distinct whitewater rafting sections on the Chattooga. Section III is known as “Mild & Scenic,” with numerous swimming holes, Class II-III rapids, and a Class IV grand finale at the famous Bull Sluice rapid. Section III is perfect for families and children eight and up.

Further downstream, our second trip offering, Section IV, is where the pace quickens. The action begins with Seven Foot Falls and culminates with the infamous Five Falls, where five adrenaline-pumping Class IV rapids follow quickly. All our Chattooga River trips are beautiful full-day trips and feature a scenic lunch along a beautiful stretch of river or at the base of Long Creek Falls.

The Chattooga River is one of the most unforgettable whitewater rafting experiences in the Southeast. Southern Living calls rafting the Chattooga “The #1 Thing Every Southerner Ought to Do!” and we agree! Over the years, we have guided thousands of guests down the river to create a memorable experience and connection to nature.

Strong Connections

crew of deliverance
The cast and crew of Deliverance. Photo credit FB Forgotten Rabun page.

Our first commercial whitewater rafting trips down the Chattooga were led by NOC co-founder Payson Kennedy in the early 1970s. Payson was once a canoeing stunt double on the Chattooga while filming the movie, Deliverance. Our connection to the film and the river is strong. References to the movie are scattered throughout our outpost and inserted into many of our guides’ corny river jokes; we are thankful the film spurred a sharp increase in boating and better management and protection of the Chattooga. 

Wild and Scenic

jimmy carter in canoe
Photo credit Blue Ridge Outdoors

One of the most fascinating things about the Chattooga River is its free-flowing, undammed waters. After the passage of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, a committed group of local boaters and conservationists pushed to get the Chattooga River on the list of protected rivers. Even the Governor of Georgia, a plain-spoken man named Jimmy Carter, lent his support. In return for their efforts, in 1974, the Chattooga became the first river east of the Mississippi designated Wild and Scenic.


Advocates For Our Rivers and Outdoor Spaces

From our first year to our 50th, we are excited to be a pioneer and advocate for our rivers and outdoor recreation spaces. Our foundation on the Chattooga and in the Southeast has allowed us to expand to over 120 adventure itineraries and multiple outposts and retail locations across four southeastern states.

By Betsy Bevis and Kristin Kastelic for NOC.com


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