On May 10, 1974, Congress designated the Chattooga River a National Wild and Scenic River, the first east of the Mississippi. A protected corridor was created on both sides of the river.
The Chattooga River begins as springs and rivulets near Cashiers in the North Carolina mountains. It flows a narrow, twisting, mostly southwestwardly route before joining the Tallulah River in Lake Tugaloo. For most of its forty miles, the Chattooga forms the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. It drops almost a half-mile as the land transitions from the Appalachians to the upper Piedmont. The Chattooga watershed includes approximately 278 square miles.
Native Americans favored hunting grounds near the Chattooga, and at least three Indian trails crossed the river. A small Cherokee settlement called Chattooga town was located near the modern S.C. Highway 28 bridge. The naturalists William Bartram and André Michaux described the flora and fauna of the area in the late eighteenth century. A few scattered white settlements appeared after 1830. By the early 1900s the Chattooga River was used to float logs stripped from the surrounding lands to mills downstream. The 1911 Weeks Law, which authorized the Forest Service to acquire land to form the Nantahala, Sumter, and Chattahoochee National Forests, helped protect the Chattooga’s path through the three forests.
Through this protection, the Chattooga has remained one of the few free-flowing streams in the Southeast and has retained its primitive character. On May 10, 1974, Congress designated the Chattooga River a National Wild and Scenic River, the first east of the Mississippi. A protected corridor was created on both sides of the river. Sixty-eight percent of the Chattooga is classified as “wild” and five percent as “scenic.” Twenty-seven percent of the river is classified for recreation. Outdoor enthusiasts flock to the Chattooga for its trout fishing, primitive camping, hiking, and floating. It is considered one of the best white-water rivers in the southern Appalachians, with challenging Class III to Class V rapids along the lower section. The river provided the location for the film Deliverance. There are five major access points along the river, but some concerns have arisen that increasing recreational use of the river will destroy its wild and scenic character.
Clay, Butch. The Chattooga River Sourcebook: A Comprehensive Guide to the River and Its Natural History. Birmingham, Ala.: Chattooga River Publishing, 1995.