Whitewater Rafting in Georgia / South Carolina

for Chris' Birthday

For her 35th birthday, Chris and I traveled from our (then) home in Orlando, Florida to Helen, Georgia. Her mission to do something new and exciting each birthday, led us to fulfill her desire to experience whitewater rafting. To do this, we had made reservations with Southeastern Expeditions to float the Chattooga River. According to our research, the Chattooga was rated in the top 10 for whitewater rafting, and May was the ideal time to go, as winter snows melted, swelling the rivers.

We spent the night before and the night after our adventure in Helen, Georgia. Helen is a beautiful little vacation town with a strong Swiss feel to it. We got fortunate, in that our arrival coincided with a hot air balloon festival and race. An awesomely beautiful and quiet town, filled with very nice people. Also, near Helen was the Anna Ruby Falls. A gorgeous waterfall and well worth the hike to see it. 

On the day of our rafting trip, the sky was overcast and threatened to rain. On hot days, you can make the trip in your swim clothes. At the end of May, with the air still cool, and the water very cold, everyone in our group chose the free wet suits Southeastern provided. After meeting and getting suited up at the main office, we were driven by bus to the starting point. As we got off the bus, guides who had been standing beside their rafts, approached and welcomed us. There would be 4 to each boat, and we were teamed up with another couple from Orlando. Our guide was Greg.... or as we came to name him, Crazy Greg. We didn't know at the time, but would soon learn on our own, that Greg liked to do things "different".

We set off where the river was very gentle, and Greg put us thru some practice runs. The most important thing to learn, was more for the safety of those around you, than for yourself. We were taught to keep both hands on the paddle, with the hand facing the inside of the boat, always covering the end. Since there were two photographers accompanying the group in kayak's, constantly taking pictures of the groups going thru the falls, we were warned that evidence would exist if we violated this rule. (In reality, many in the group broke this rule, and all it meant was a good ribbing during the slide show at the end of the day) 

On our first fall, a little thing, we learned why Greg had earned his reputation. While our raft floated around in circles, watching others take on the fall, one by one, we were informed that while the others practiced the art of going thru their first fall facing forward, we would go thru sideways. Nice! Nothing like knowing this is not only going to be your first, but an extreme first at that.

As the ride progressed the falls became larger and more extreme, and while the others seemed to stick to the old face first down the falls mentality, not our Greg. We went thru sideways, backwards, and occasionally, frontwards, just like the others. The beauty surrounding this river was breathtaking in areas. At one spot, the boats all stopped and we hiked a few hundred yards to a hidden waterfall, that could have been a tourist attraction in its own right, if it was not so remotely located. Interestingly enough, it was called the Long Falls.  

After lunch and some more rafting, we approached the final set. The last waterfall, the granddaddy of them all, was the coup de grace. It was in a rather dangerous spot in the river, where a class 3 fell into a pool of swirling water, then over a class 4 fall. This was tricky and you could tell the guides took this section a lot more serious than the rest. This section of river had taken its fair share of inexperienced floaters, and even cost the movie crew filming the classic 'Deliverance', a boat full of expensive equipment.

Each boat went thru the class 4 one at a time, and was then tied to the shore, until all of the boats were in the pool. Then each went over the class 5 fall, a 10 foot tall straight down drop. A lot of coaching was going on in the boats around us and all were warned about the big rock that was in the middle of the fall. Some guides advised their crews they would stir left of the rock, while others were going right. Greg? Not Greg. He told us we were going for the extreme rush. Straight over the rock!!

While many boats had dumped people in prior falls of the day, this one was the dunker of them all. it was also the fall where guides had a secret bet going on. Apparently the first two guides to get dunked, would be responsible for cleaning up after lunch on the next day. We noticed that Greg had cleaned up after our lunch earlier, and he admitted, he didn't do so well with the rock the day before. Oh goodie.

Well, this is the photo of Greg hanging on, with Chris and I in front of him, and the other members of our crew, submerged. And while others who had taken the less risky approach, still ended up dumping members, or entire boat loads, our crew never left the boat.

After mastering the last fall, the rafts pulled up to a beautiful spot, where everyone was allowed to swim and dive off a huge boulder. A bus ride back, a slide show where the photographers displayed their work and gave each of us an opportunity to buy any prints we wanted, a warm shower, and the day was done.

Chris and I both highly recommend whitewater rafting to anyone seeking a rush and except for our future skydiving adventure, the most excitement we had experienced to date.

Chris and David

For a much better written experience, visit Whitewater Rafting on Georgia's Chattooga River