“Clean your feet off before you get in the boat. You don’t want to sit in sand and mud.” Those were the words that we heard from Zack before the big adventure. Then our guide bent over and pulled a small silver ear ring out of that same sandy mud and asked if it was mine. I told him that it didn’t belong to any of us so he shrugged and put it in his own ear.
A friend of ours is big into white water rafting. We had never been so he recommended a company based out of Long Creek, South Carolina called Wildwater. He specifically mentioned Section 3 of the Chattooga River. Many of you have seen Section 3 of the Chattooga if you have ever seen the movie Deliverance. The movie was brought up many times on our trip, so much so in fact that a man in the next raft asked his river guide if watching the movie was a prerequisite for employment. This year marks the 40th anniversary for the movie, and a festival in Clayton, Georgia and Long Creek, South Carolina will celebrate the movie later this month.
I don’t remember our guide talking much about Deliverance. He was helping to train a lady that will be a guide for the company. It was fascinating to hear him explain the lessons that he learned in his six years as a guide on how to read the river. Zack was an interesting fellow. He would mix the science behind the river with his own ponderings of why flowers on the same species of plant would be different colors. He told us that he likes to play “hillbilly music” (his words) and followed that with his recent interest in Zen. Perhaps six years on the running waters had made his mind run deep.
The Wildwater crew set up lunch for us along the river. They made a table from the bottom of an upturned raft, and we had an instant sandwich buffet. While we were eating, the guides met to talk strategy. There were two Class 4 rapids on our run. The first, and probably the most famous, was called Bull Sluice. After the meeting when we were happy and well fed, Zack asked us if we would like to go first. I told him yes. I had been worried about our youngest son, but he was eager to ride the Bull. We were able to get out of the boat and hike over to the Bull. The trip leader talked about strategy and said that a “demo” boat would go down so we could see what we were in for. I was ready to see that. The drop was about eight feet with two big rocks on either side. While I waited on the demo boat, our guide waved us over. WE were the demo boat. Oh the joys of being over eager!
Zack told us that when he gave the cue, we would all need to get in the boat and hold on. We practiced this simple maneuver before we hit the fall. Once we had it down pat, we were ready to risk life and limb. As we approached the Bull, we heard the roar of the river and saw the white of the water. Zack gave the order and we all held on for dear life. Everyone, that is, except for our guide in training. The pictures tell the story clearly. Our boat was submerged in water at about the time the Bull flung the guide out of her saddle. We all survived, even the guide in training, and we were able to watch all of the other boats shoot the Sluice. It was then that I had a real appreciation for our guide. One of the guides flipped two different rafts sending all of the rafters into the drink.
We survived the second Class 4 with no problems. This was a great trip that I would enjoy doing again. The Chattooga River is feed entirely by rain, and we were surrounded by forests on both sides. Much of the trip was very relaxing and a great way to bond with the family in a natural setting.
Written by Bill Waller. Mr. Waller is a author and contributor local blog, Southwest Georgia Politics. He enjoys writing, traveling, and researching history. He currently resides in Albany, Georgia.