Chattooga Wild and Scenic River
The Chattooga River begins in mountainous North Carolina as small rivulets, nourished by springs and abundant rainfall, high on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains—the start of a 50-mile journey that ends at Lake Tugaloo between South Carolina and Georgia, dropping almost ½ mile in elevation.
The Chattooga was designated a wild and scenic river in 1974. It is one of the longest and most spectacular free-flowing mountain rivers in the Southeast. Over a distance of 50 miles, the river descends an average of 49 feet per mile from its headwaters in North Carolina to the state line between South Carolina and Georgia. The Chattooga offers some of the best whitewater boating and trout fishing in the region.
Many people lack the equipment or skill needed to run the Chattooga River safely. Expert and novice paddlers alike visit the Chattooga from around the world, and the river does not discriminate between them. The Chattooga has claimed many lives since the Forest Service began keeping records in 1970. Most have been paddlers -some of them expert paddlers. But the river has taken a toll on swimmers as well.
Three companies are commercially licensed to operate on the Lower Segment of the Chattooga River by the Forest Service (Sections III and IV). These companies also provide instructional clinics in whitewater canoeing and kayaking.
Water Gauge Web Links:
Please check the following link to the Chattahoochee Oconee Forest for area closures to Chattooga put-ins: www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/conf/alerts-notice,
Printable river safety and regulations guide.
Surrounding Area: The river is also known for its excellent trout fishing opportunities. One can also hike along the river on the Chattooga Trail. Horseback riding is allowed on the nearby Rocky Gap/Willis Knob Horse Trail. Because of the vast area covered by the Chattooga River, a number of different attractions are easily accessible. In South Carolina, the small apple orchard communities of Long Creek and Mountain Rest are nearby. In Georgia, Clayton is only 15 minutes away.
At a Glance
|Current Conditions:||Boating season is December to April on the Upper Chattooga Wild and Scenic River corridor. Paddling is only allowed on this highly technical section of the river on days after flows reach 350 cfs or greater at the USGS Burrells Ford Gauge and only during daylight hours.|
|Permit Info:||All visitors to the national forests in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia wishing to float the upper or lower segments of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River must carry a self-registration permit at all times. Visitors can pick up a permit (free) at put-ins along the upper and lower river. Please place the top copy in the registration box at the put-in location and keep the yellow copy with you in a dry pack. Detailed rules and regulations are posted on information boards at each location, and are also printed on your self-registration permit. View a sample permit here.|
|Restrictions:||Tubing is allowed between Earls Ford and Highway 28 with a valid permit (self-register at put-in information boards). It is prohibited below Earls Ford and north of Highway 28. A valid South Carolina fishing license is required to fish on the national forests. Detailed rules and regulations are posted on information boards.|
|Information Center:||Andrew Pickens Ranger District
112 Andrew Pickens Circle
Mountain Rest, SC 29664
Phone: (864) 638-9568
Fax: (864) 638-2659
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon
and 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
General InformationGeneral Notes:
Visit our Managing Recreation Uses on the Upper Segment of the Chattooga River page for background information and the Chattooga River Boating Access Environmental Assessment.
Upper Segment of the River
North Carolina - Green Creek
Boaters will park at the Chattooga River Trail Head. Walk approximately 0.25 miles down the Chattooga River Trail and register at the information board. The information board shows a good route to the river.
North Carolina - Norton Mill Creek
Boaters will access this put-in/takeout off the old County Line Road located at the Jackson/Macon county line. Take Horse Cove Road east out of Highlands, NC for approximately 4.5 miles and keep left on Whiteside Cove Road at the fork in the road. The old road bed down county line is located 0.8 miles at the Jackson/Macon county line on the right. Only roadside parking is available in this area. The registration box is approximately 0.25 miles down this trail.
North Carolina - Bullpen Bridge
Boaters will park on the Bullpen Road west of the bridge. The registration board will be down the Chattooga Trail to the left.
Georgia - Burrells Ford Bridge
Boaters can pick up a permit at the parking area at Burrells Ford Bridge on the Georgia side located along Burrells Ford Road. Visitors can access this road from Highway 28 from Warwoman Road in Clayton, GA or from Walhalla, SC.
South Carolina- Lick Log (take-out only)
Traveling North from Walhalla on Hwy 28, turn RIGHT onto Hwy 107. After 3.4 miles, turn LEFT onto Village Creek Rd. Travel another 1.7 miles and turn RIGHT onto gravel road Nicholson Ford. The first trailhead parking is 1.8 miles on your right. The second trailhead parking is another 0.4 miles staying right at the “PRIVATE ROAD” sign. Follow this to the end.
Once on the Foothills Hiking Trail, walk North and West toward the Chattooga River. Where the trail splits, turn left, walk down the hill and cross the footbridge over Lick Log Creek. The take-out will be downriver of Lick Log Falls at a small rapid. The total distance from the parking area is roughly one mile.
West Fork of the River
- Overflow Creek
- West Fork, GA
Lower Segment of the River
- Highway 28 Boat Launch
- Long Bottom Ford Campground
- Earls Ford
- Sandy Ford
- Fall Creek
- Thrifts Ferry
- Hwy. 76
- Woodall Shoals
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
River and Stream Fishing
The river is known for its excellent trout fishing opportunities.
Boating - Non-Motorized
|Class of rapids||Class 1 rapids to Class 4+ rapids|
|Type of Craft||Canoe, Kayaks, Rafts|
Alerts & Warnings
- Sumter National Forest Burn Alert: Wed., March 22
- Boat Ramp Reopened March 21: Buck Hall Recreation Area
- Francis Marion NF Burn Alerts: Tues., March 21
- Palmetto Trail Reopens: Halfway Creek, Francis Marion NF
- $5.7 Million Planned to Restore South Carolina Piedmont Streams, Water Quality
- Enoree OHV Trail Opening Delayed Until April 15, 2023
- Forest Service to Conduct Prescribed Burns to Improve Habitat, Reduce Wildfires
- America the Beautiful Passes not available at Enoree Ranger District Office
- Bucks Grave Road Reopens on Enoree Ranger District
- Enoree rifle ranges undergoing maintenance; please call before visiting
- Limited America the Beautiful pass availability at Columbia office
- Sedalia Campground temporarily closed beginning January 3, 2023
- Damaged bridges along the Enoree Passage of Palmetto Trail; exercise caution
- Please be aware of open well hazards on Sumter National Forest
- New digital payment options and online reservations at Enoree recreation sites