Long Creek, SC – May, 2016 The Chatooga River is in the very northwest corner of South Carolina. In fact, the river is the state line between SC and Georgia for a good ways. It is in the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains and is considered South Carolina’s high country. The hilly landscape was a welcome change after a couple months circling the relatively flat areas around our property which they call the lowcountry.
This river drops dramatically and has many class 3 and 4 falls. We really wanted to kayak it but decided to wait until our next visit as the water could be better if it was a little higher. We also agreed we would probably do it in rented kayaks. The reason we came to this conclusion is twofold. Their inflatable kayaks are perfect for these falls and they are lighter to carry. Most of the put ins and take outs on this river are a quarter mile walk. There is no way we are hauling our heavy plastic kayaks a quarter mile.
Instead we visited all the access points we could reach. The river is most accessible where Highway 76 goes over it. Here the quarter mile path to the river is paved. There is a short spur where you can view a beautiful class 4 falls called Bull Sluice.
If we do float section 3 someday this will be the only class 4 we will face and it is right before the takeout. Apparently you can port around it on the other side of the river if you are not up to it. That’s probably what I would do, although if their boats handle the class 3’s upriver as well as they claim maybe I’ll have enough confidence to tackle this one when the time comes.
Our favorite spot on the river was Woodall Shoals. It was an easy drive on back roads from our campground. The path down to the river was not paved and in fact was a little confusing until you learned your way around. But the reward for the short walk was outstanding. When you reach the bottom you have to scramble over these cool rocks to get to an awesome swimming spot just above them.
Or you could hang out on the left end of them in the shallows and watch the entertainment.
We enjoyed Woodall Shoals so much we went there to swim and watch people run the rapid every afternoon of our stay.
This area is known for its many, many waterfalls. There are road signs everywhere that say such and such falls this way or that. The only problem is they don’t tell you how far you might be driving to reach them or what kind of trail you might have to navigate to see them. After some research we discovered quite a few require a strenuous hike of several miles. We visited Issaqueenna Falls because we read you can easily see it from an overlook after a short walk. We discovered that foliage has grown up there and completely blocks the view of the falls. The best view we managed was this behind the falls view of is first drop.
Its frustrating knowing there is a gorgeous 100 foot fall right in front of you and you can’t see it. At the same park though is a very cool tunnel that was well worth the visit. I love the tree roots in this pic.
Stumphouse Tunnel is 1600 feet deep. It was dug pre civil war as a train tunnel. The mountain proved too hard and when the railroad ran out of money they gave up on the project. You can apparently walk in about halfway before a gate stops further progress. But if you want to do that bring your rubber boots.
An easy waterfall to visit is Chau Ram.
It is the centerpiece of a county park.
One morning we headed over the state line to Georgia to explore the Tallulah Gorge State Park. It is a beautiful place that is worth a visit if you are in the area. We made about a two mile hike that included over 600 stairs. Here is the path down and the bridge that crossed the gorge.
When you get there the views aren’t really that spectacular. Here is the view straight down from the bridge.
We enjoyed the walk but the best views are from the easily accessible viewpoints near the visitor center. Like this one of L’Eau d’Or, French for “water of gold.”
It wasn’t easy finding a campground in this area. We finally found one that wasn’t on any of our camping apps. The Chatooga River Resort and Campground has some hotel rooms, a large tent camping area, and 8 RV sites with water and electric but no dump station for $38 per night.
We got site 5 which is the only one that was available all 4 nights we were there. It was extremely unlevel and we ended up using all our leveling blocks, a 6×6 we keep in the truck, and some landscaping blocks someone left in the site and we still weren’t as level as we would have liked. We would go back as long as we could get site 6 or 8 next time.
The campground was a short drive from a winery and a distillery. The Chatooga Belle Farm had a neat store and was a popular lunch spot by the looks of the crowd. They charge $5 for wine tastings so I didn’t bother since their price for bottled wine was twice what I would have considered paying.
The farm’s distillery had their grand opening while we were there. I don’t know if they will always be that generous with their free samples or if it was just a grand opening thing. But they gave you about 5 shots at the bar and then had little shots of mixed drinks made with their moonshine as well.
Jim owns a still with one of his buddies so he enjoyed getting to look at their equipment and talk to them about their process. They had a big deck off the back and a bluegrass band was playing both Friday and Saturday afternoon.
We really loved this area and only saw a small fraction of what we wanted to. We added it to the growing list of places we hope to spend a month or possibly a whole season in some day.