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The Chattooga River (also spelled Chatooga, Chatuga, and Chautaga) is the main tributary of the Tugaloo River. Its headwaters are southwest of Cashiers, North Carolina, and it stretches 57 miles to where it flows through Lake Tugaloo and Tugaloo Dam, then has its confluence with the Tugaloo River within Lake Yonah, held back by Yonah Dam. The Chattooga River begins in southern Jackson County, North Carolina, then flows southwestward between northwestern Oconee County, South Carolina and eastern Rabun County, Georgia. The "Chattooga" spelling was approved by the BGN in 1897.
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It begins at the base of the Whitesides Mountain in Northcarolina and flows southwest. Water levels vary with the amount of rainfall each season. Highest water levels--and most exciting rafting trips--are usually in spring and early summer. Later in the summer, and into the autumn--the trips usually are more relaxed and at a slower pace. The river was used as a setting for the fictional "Cahulawassee River" in the film Deliverance.
The Chattooga Rivewr, since 1974, has been designated a national Wild and Scenic River. On the section that is commercially rafted, a 0.25-.05- mille corridor on each back is national forest, to prohibit roads or any development. The river bisects the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, which straddles the three states, as well as goes through thre national forests: Sumter, Nantahala, and Chattahoochee. it is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in the Southeastern United States.
Few rivers meet the criteria to qualify as Wild and Scenic, which include outstanding scenery, geologic and cultural values, wildlife, and recreation potential. No motorized vehicles are permitted within the corridor along each of the banks. Also rich with history, in 2004 a 32-foot dugout canoe, built from a single log, was excavated from the river.