Raft the Chattooga River
Nantahala Outdoor Center
DISTANCE: 200 miles, 3½ hours
ADVENTURE LEVEL: 7 (Rafting down waterfalls? You must be crazy.)
If the Chattooga is famous for anything, it’s for setting the scene for the movie Deliverance. You still can’t raft this river, which forms the border between Georgia and South Carolina, without hearing a banjo-music joke, but the stellar white water will make you forget Burt Reynolds. So will the scenery.
The Chattooga was the first Southern river to be designated “wild and scenic” by Congress, and you can see why: there are no roads, no developments, not even power lines within your view as you paddle south through a pristine gorge. “It’s like you’re back in time,” says veteran raft guide Linc Stallings.
And then there’s the white water. An eight-mile stretch dubbed “Section IV” sends you over one heart-pounding ledge after another. The highlight comes at Five Falls—a handful of class IV+ waterfalls packed into a quarter mile of river that demands guts and teamwork from everyone in the boat. There’s a good chance you’re going to swim at some point on the Chattooga, but that’s half the fun. —G. A.
REST UP: Clayton has plenty of inexpensive lodging options, but for something with character, book a cabin or room at the Beechwood Inn, a B&B with a gourmet breakfast, a 3,000-bottle wine cellar, and daily wine tastings.
REFUEL: The Universal Joint Clayton is the hangout of choice for guides and the guided alike. Snag a spot on the massive patio and work your way through the extensive beer menu and a plate of brisket tacos.
CHICKEN? Opt for the Chattooga’s milder Section III, which has all of the wild scenery the river is famous for with easier class II and III white water. Adventure Level: 4 (This isn’t The River Wild. You’ve got this.)