Chattooga River

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South Carolina, USA

Chattooga River Rafting Guidebook

Section IV of the Chattooga River has over 7.5 miles of pool drop rapids. Enjoy relaxing through scenic class II read and run rapids before navigating a steep section of class V drops in an Appalachian gorge.

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Rafting the Chattooga River? Our Chattooga guide has you covered: 49 waypoints | Live, Offline Location | 18 photos

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The Nantahala Outdoor Center was founded in 1972 and today runs 120 land and river-based itineraries spanning ten distinct locations across four Southeastern states. The NOC is your best bet for rafting Section IV of the Chattooga River. Learn more about NOC.

About this guide

This guidebook outlines Section IV of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River, a Southeastern classic.


Chattooga Section IV should only be run by experienced boaters. If it’s your first time down the river be sure to scout and take things slow. Wood is always moving and can be present in any part of the river. The Chattooga’s river bed contains many sieves and undercut rocks. They are present in almost every rapid. When in doubt, stay away from rocks that the current is pushing into. It is strongly recommended to go with someone that knows the river and to paddle with other competent paddlers.


A permit is required for all boaters. There are self-service stations at all river access points. There are no fees but be sure to completely fill out the form and keep a copy on your person for the duration of your trip down the Chattooga. Forest Service rangers patrol the river and will ask to see your permit.

Chattooga River Section IV – Class V

This guidebook outlines the 8-mile-long Section IV of the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.

Mile 0 – Put In Parking Lot:

River left. A large parking lot that will get busy with hikers, paddlers, and tourists. There are pit toilets, trash cans, information boards, and a permit station.

Mile 0 – Launch Beach:

River left. A large sandy beach makes for a great put in. If the river is over 3ft, try your hand at the surf wave visible upstream on river right

Mile 0.08 – Highway 76 Bridge:

One of the few bridges spanning the river. It is the last one river runners will pass under on section IV.

Mile 0.09 – Visual River Gauge:

River left. Use this gauge to get the actual level of the river. The online gauge reads 0.2ft higher on average than this visual gauge before syncing with this one around 2ft. Most river runners get an idea of what the river is doing by using the online gauge, and then checking this one as they float by.

Mile 0.42 – Surfers Rapid:

Class II. Great surf wave at the bottom. Run this rapid down the right at all river levels.

Mile 0.5 – Fluffy Bunny:

Class II. Read and run.

Mile 0.6 – Screaming Left Turn:

Class III. This rapid can be run from the top on the right or left, but you’ll want to enter the main drop on river right, dodging “pyramid rock” and moving back to the middle after dropping in. Higher water levels over 2.5ft allow a fun splashy ride down the left side of this rapid.

Mile 0.68 – Squeeze Play:

Class III. Read and run. Go down the middle or take the channel on the right. This one gets very sticky as the water level drops.

Mile 0.79 – Reedy Branch Creek:

Reedy Branch enters the Chattooga with a small waterfall on river left.

Mile 0.9 – The Bump:

Class II. There is ledge hole in the middle. Choose your own adventure, right, left, or straight down the middle. There is a good surf wave just downstream at levels over 1.6ft

Mile 0.99 – S-Turn:

Class II. Enter on the left and move with the current around rocks, catching eddies if you like. Around 2.5ft a large hole develops at the bottom left. It only gets bigger as the water gets higher.

Mile 1.15 – The Maze:

Class I. The Maze can be tricky to navigate in a raft. Read and run your way through.

Mile 1.21 – Rock Jumble:

Class III. Appears as a significant horizon line from above but has a relatively smooth line left of center. Stay away from the large boulder on the left.

Mile 1.3 – Gum Drops:

Class I. The last rapid before the river mellows out for a quarter mile. Take note of the round rocks the rapid is named after.

Mile 1.38 – Suttons Hole:

A beautiful stretch of calm, slow-moving water.

Mile 2 – Woodall Shoals:

Class VI. It is not advised to run the top ledge hole at any river level. Scout from the river left on the large rock outcropping. Sneak the top hole by running all the way right from the top and then proceed to pick your way through the class III runout.

Mile 2.1 – Woodall Shoals River Access:

River left. A quarter mile hike from the bottom of the rapid will take you to a parking lot. This parking lot has a pit toilet, information station, permit station, and a few camp spots spread around. There is no trash collection here.

Mile 2.25 – Camp Town Races:

Class III. A fun stretch of class III read and run

Mile 2.4 – Bonzai Waves:

Class III. Aim for the biggest wave and enjoy the fun splashy ride.

Mile 2.48 – 7ft Falls:

Class IV. 7ft is a Chattooga staple. Eddy right or left after the last Bonzai wave and head down the bank if you want to scout. For a clean line, clip the right side of the wave hole in the entry and keep up your momentum. Try to stay in the current moving towards the “Boof Rock” in the middle of the river, staying away from the strong eddies immediately above the drop. Keep your nose pointed downstream and get a piece of the boof rock, landing in the slower moving water and away from the current moving hard into the rock wall on the left. If you turn over, just hold on and hit your roll. There are no major hazards and you have time to get upright before any other rapids.

Mile 2.55 – Son of 7ft:

Class II. Run this small drop on the right and float through one of the narrowest spots on the river.

Mile 2.62 – Tum Dincan:

Class II. Great surfing is available on multiple waves.

Mile 2.82 – Beaver Skull:

Class II. Start right of center and then move back to the wave mid-stream. Pick your way through the run out that becomes sticky at lower levels.

Mile 2.98 – Sketoa Creek:

One of the larger tributaries to the Chattooga enters the river on the right. If it’s rained in Clayton recently the creek water will be siltier than the river. Look upstream of the creek as you float by to see some beautiful cascades and waterfalls.

Mile 3.04 – Stekoa Creek Rapid:

Class III. A long and fun rapid. Challenging to not hit any rocks if you’re in a raft. At levels above 1.8ft go straight down the left side of the rapid. Kayakers and skilled rafters can pick their way through the middle line. Much of the river goes right over a steep slide. The right line takes you down it and into a swirling pool. Exit through the tight river left chute and pick your way through the rest of the rapid, staying left of the large white boulder in the middle of the river.

Mile 3.27 – Long Creek Falls:

Long Creek Falls is a beautiful spot on river left. The falls can be seen from the river. Take a short hike up to the base of the falls and enjoy the view. You might run into a few day hikers or commercial river trips eating lunch here.

Mile 3.29 – Wake Up:

Class III. Follow the right river bank through this splashy class III rapid.

Mile 3.38 – Deliverance Rapid:

Class III. This rapid is named after the movie filmed on the Chattooga in the early ’70s. It doesn’t matter where you enter this one, but you MUST get left of the large boulder named “Deliverance Rock” that blocks the right two thirds of the river. It is severely undercut and should be avoided at all costs. Once you’ve moved around Deliverance Rock, be ready to dodge a large hole if the river is over 3ft.

Mile 3.53 – Turtle Head Rock:

Keep an eye on the large sloping rock extending 15ft out of the water on river left. What does it look like?

Mile 3.7 – Raven’s Chute:

Class IV. Take a quick scout on river left. Enter the rapid on the left and let the water kick you hard to the right. Rachel’s rock is a hazard that is only present if you try to run the middle of the drop, which is not advised. It is easily seen from the river left scout. A far right line, boofing off the right bank opens at levels over 2ft. Rafters should scout this at any river level they are uncomfortable with. The line moves subtly as the water level rises.

Mile 3.77 – Raven’s Rock:

River left. Once you make it through Raven’s Chute, admire the large cliff in front of you. The river makes a hard turn to the west here.

Mile 3.87 – Tilt-a-Whirl:

Class III. Start center and move to the right with the majority of the current.

Mile 3.96 – Hell’s Half Mile:

Class II. Hell’s Half Mile starts after a river left beach. Try your best to dodge the rocks seemingly placed just in the right place to get you stuck for the next half mile. This stretch gets more difficult as the water level drops. Expect to get stuck multiple times in a raft starting at 1.3ft.

Mile 4.22 – Blind Drop:

Class II. A large horizon line means you are close to the end of Hell’s Half Mile. Run the drop on the right with some left angle.

Mile 4.79 – Camp Creek:

A small creek enters the Chattooga on river right.

Mile 4.89 – Last Supper:

Class III. Read and run this small class III rapid.

Mile 5.09 – The Five Falls:

The Five Falls is one of the most famous stretches of whitewater in the southeast. The river drops 90ft in a quarter mile. Scouting is strongly advised for each rapid. Have someone downstream that you trust with a rope and boat rescuing skills. The characteristics of each rapid changes drastically as water levels change. The biggest hazard in this stretch is the short distance between rapids. The amount of time to correct mistakes is shorter in here than anywhere else on the river. Take it slow. When in doubt, walk around and run it next time.

Mile 5.12 – Entrance:

Class III. Pull into the small eddy on river left to scout this rapid. You are able to walk as far down as you like from here. Most kayakers will choose to enter left of center and move all the way right, running the main drop close to the right bank. Rafts can do the same, picking their way around rocks and making sure to not get pulled too far left off their line. Be wary of the large boulder on the right side of the drop. The upstream side has a sieve called “The Gulch”. Take note of the large eddies on either side at the bottom.

Mile 5.19 – Corkscrew:

Class V. Scout Corkscrew from either or both sides of the river to get a good read on the rapid. Note what lies downstream. You have very limited time to recover at the bottom of Corkscrew. The current is swiftly moving towards the next rapid. Enter left of center moving left around the ledge in front of the large mid-stream boulder. Angle back to the right after passing the ledge to stay away from the wall at the bottom. Being too far right at the bottom has the potential for a rowdy surf.

Mile 5.25 – Crack In the Rock:

Class IV. All rafts must portage this rapid on river left. Crack In the Rock is the most dangerous rapid on the river. Something along the river bed changed in 2013 and “Right Crack” became unrunnable. Here most of the river plunges down into a nasty sieve that has claimed many boats over the past years. The rapid has four “cracks”. Eddy left behind the large boulder and pull your raft over the rocks. If hard boaters run crack, they run “middle crack”. Left and far right crack is seldom run and only by boaters that are more familiar with the river. Also note that the rapid catches wood regularly and changes. Many experienced boaters make this portage every time they run the Five Falls.

Mile 5.32 – Jawbone:

Class V. Jawbone is the longer and more technical rapid for rafts. Pull over on the left after Crack in the Rock and start the walk down to scout. Three main hazards are present in the rapid. The first is “decapitation rock”, sticking out in the current about halfway down. The second obvious hazard is “hydroelectric rock” in the bottom third. This rock is easy to spot as it has a large hole in which water can be seen pouring into and through to the back side of the boulder. Rafts have been known to pin sideways here. The third and final hazard is the large flat rock midstream at the beginning of the next rapid. It has been deadly in the past. Start your line far right at the top and charge hard in the eddy on river left. Catch the eddy or make a quick right turn to go down the slide as far downstream as possible. Too far to the right will put you into decap. Stay in the current, away from the left wall and away from hydroelectric rock. A large eddy on river left awaits you.

Mile 5.38 – Soc’em Dog:

Class IV. The final of the five falls is straightforward. Run the right side to the “launch pad”. If you’re the guide of a raft, you’ll want to hold on. If you’re in a hard boat, hit it straight and land flat. The hole at the bottom of the drop gets stickier and unforgiving the higher the level. Consider a portage if the river is over 2ft.

Mile 5.47 – Shoulder Bone:

Class III. Enter the center of the left channel and start working right after the drop. A large hole forms at levels above 2ft below the initial drop on the left.

Mile 5.54 – Ambush Rock:

River left. Ambush Rock makes a nice jump rock.

Mile 5.69 – Opossum Drop:

Class II. A fun read and run rapid. Good surfing in the wave at the bottom.

Mile 5.74 – Opossum Creek:

Opossum Creek enters the Chattooga on river left. If you’re up for a hike, park your boat and walk the 1/2 mile trail up the creek to a beautiful waterfall.

Mile 5.79 – Lake Rapid:

Class II. Read and run your way through the last rapid on the Chattooga river.

Mile 5.87 – Lake Tugaloo:

There are two miles of flatwater you have to paddle across to reach your car parked at the Tugaloo boat ramp. Enjoy scenic views of ridgelines and a couple of trickling waterfalls coming into the lake.

Mile 8.34 – Take Out:

River left. The Tugaloo Boat ramp has limited parking and must be shared with other boaters. Plan on getting there early on the weekend so as not to have to park far up on the hill. The parking area has pit toilets and a trash can. Please do not park in the “Bus Only” parking spot.