Chattooga

Chattooga: Descending into the Myth of Deliverance River

JOHN LANE
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nhkc
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  • Book Info
    Chattooga
    Book Description:

    Before the novel and the film Deliverance appeared in the early 1970s, any outsiders one met along the Chattooga River were likely serious canoeists or anglers. In later years, untold numbers and kinds of people have felt the draw of the river's torrents, which pour down the Appalachians along the Georgia-South Carolina border. Because of Deliverance the Chattooga looms enigmatically in our shared imagination, as iconic as Twain's Mississippi--or maybe Conrad's Congo. This is John Lane's search for the real Chattooga--for the truths that reside somewhere in the river's rapids, along its shores, or in its travelers' hearts. Lane balances the dark, indifferent mythical river of Deliverance against the Chattooga known to locals and to the outdoors enthusiasts who first mastered its treacherous vortices and hydraulics. Starting at its headwaters, Lane leads us down the river and through its complex history to its current status as a National Wild and Scenic River. Along the way he stops for talks with conservation activists, seventh-generation residents, locals who played parts in the movie, day visitors, and others. Lane weaves into each encounter an abundance of details drawn from his perceptive readings and viewings of Deliverance and his wide-ranging knowledge of the Chattooga watershed. At the end of his run, Lane leaves us still fully possessed by the Chattooga's mystery, yet better informed about its place in his world and ours.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4622-9
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. The Myth of the Chattooga A PERSONAL HISTORY
    (pp. 1-22)

    A river is a landscape shaped by powerful and dynamic natural systems, including the human imagination. There’s a reason that the flow of a river has been used as a metaphor for life and that of all the landscapes—mountains, oceans, deserts—rivers are what poets and writers return to in literature when describing the way human history cuts across time. The Chattooga River, forming a section of the border between South Carolina and Georgia, has been for me a landscape of discovery. The stories I’ve heard told about its history, danger, and beauty have shaped my own relationship to...

  6. Headwaters CASHIERS, NORTH CAROLINA
    (pp. 23-44)

    It’s early March when I drive to the headwaters of the Chattooga. As I climb into the mountains, the still-dormant rhododendron and laurel snarls encroach on the shoulders of narrow South Carolina Highway 107. I look to the left of my speeding truck, through the dark undergrowth, for creeks, the river’s advance guard, marching inch by inch back into the ridge. It has rained hard for a day or so, and as the highway swings around swells of native rock, the run-off peels into the Chattooga drainage, burbling through culverts and ping-ponging off stream pebbles weathered from the old Appalachian...

  7. Chasing Deliverance CLAYTON, GEORGIA
    (pp. 45-66)

    The banjo boy works down at the Clayton Huddle House. His name is Billy Redden, but I haven’t heard much else about him. He remains as mysterious and obscure to me today as he was the first time I saw Deliverance.

    Near the beginning of the movie when the two cars with canoes on top pull up to the pumps of the tumbled-down gas station, the banjo boy walks from the shadows, then sits silently on the porch swing, instrument in hand. Soon Drew, played by Ronny Cox, steps out of Lewis’s Scout carrying his Martin guitar, and the soft-drink...

  8. The Wilderness Upstream BURRELL’S FORD BRIDGE TO THE ELLICOTT ROCK WILDERNESS
    (pp. 67-86)

    Ian marshall’s wearing a black and green tie-dyed T-shirt with Henry David Thoreau’s head printed on the front. He’s drained a cup of coffee and is nursing a serious sugar buzz from eating three Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a confection he admits he’s not encountered in Altoona, Pennsylvania. A native Canadian and environmental studies professor, Ian’s in Spartanburg as a visiting scholar for a symposium on bridging the gap between the sciences and the humanities, a noble cause in the settled suburbs of university and college teaching. He’s promised us two days as facilitator, and I’ve promised him a hike before...

  9. Trail Mind RUSSELL BRIDGE TO LICK LOG CREEK
    (pp. 87-106)

    In mid-march I approach the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River corridor from the northeast on South Carolina Highway 28. I can think of no better way of spending a weekend than backpacking in the remote country above Russell Bridge. In Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Annie Dillard sits under a sycamore simply to “watch new water come down the creek.” I want more than that, but I’m not sure what. I know I want the next two days to offer up some silence, and some reintroduction to the Chattooga, which I haven’t seen in several weeks.

    I’m with Terry Ferguson, chairman...

  10. Easy Water SECTION II FROM LONG BOTTOM FORD TO EARL’S FORD
    (pp. 107-128)

    Closing in on noon it’s becoming obvious that Watts Hudgins’s friend Matt has stood us up. It’s the river runner’s nightmare: establish a long-distance shuttle—two cars from two separate cities—and the second car doesn’t show. We’ve done all we can to give Matt some extra time, unloaded the kayak and the canoe in a misting, early spring rain, discussed the possibilities for delay or abandonment—girlfriend problems, car trouble, an accident. Finally we’ve walked down to the Chattooga and filled Mike Tindall, a first-timer on white water, with a few frightening stories concerning how water, boats, and humans...

  11. Pilley’s Perfect River SECTION III FROM EARL’S FORD TO SANDY FORD
    (pp. 129-142)

    A group of us is paddling from Earl’s Ford to Sandy Ford with John Pilley, soon after his seventieth birthday. It’s mid-September, ninety degrees, and everyone in our group wants a cold front to push some tolerable air into the southeast. As we began our float, I dip my hands in the Chattooga’s current. The water is cool, holding the chill from the higher mountain thirty miles north.

    It hasn’t rained in weeks, so the river’s level is down to half a foot. The moss on the rocks, usually close to water level, is stranded high, dry and dead. Drought...

  12. The Narrows SECTION III FROM SANDY FORD TO FALL CREEK
    (pp. 143-154)

    The next spring I’m back on Section III with Pilley. After we set the shuttle, we’re surprised to see that it’s just us this time in the gravel parking lot at Sandy Ford, two veteran kayakers dressing out in the chilly Saturday morning air. Before we left Spartanburg I checked the gauge by phone and found the water’s up over two feet. The level is high and so we expected a good crowd to show up. Maybe everyone’s downstream on Section IV. It doesn’t matter. We’re just happy to have stolen a day on this busy April weekend to drive...

  13. Approaching the Bull SECTION III FROM FALL CREEK TO SECTION IV AT WOODALL SHOALS
    (pp. 155-178)

    I simply want to get back on the river, but it’s taken us longer to find the Fall Creek put-in than we expected. Driving in off Highway 76 we stopped at Bruce Hare’s Chattooga Whitewater Shop to ask directions. The shop sits on a hill and is a landmark—a place to stop and confirm a river level, buy a missing piece of equipment or a new boat, or, like us, ask directions. After directions, we somehow miss our turn anyway. I’m driving. I’m talking too much and not watching the road enough. Dykes Blackmon is my copilot. He’s a...

  14. The Business of White Water SECTION IV FROM HIGHWAY 76 TO LAKE TUGALOO
    (pp. 179-208)

    My students are sleepy and disoriented. It’s a chilly October morning in the South Carolina mountains, and there’s even a little mist over the wetland beside the Nantahala Outdoor Center outpost. The North Face fleeces used as pillows on the ride down are quickly pulled on. They all look around as if they’ve landed on Mars. We’ve been driving for several hours; and even though I’ve briefed them in class the day before as to where the Chattooga is located, to them, the trip must feel like a foray into how Horace Kephart described the Smoky Mountains over one hundred...

  15. BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE
    (pp. 209-210)