Wildwater History – Over A Half Century Of Adventure
Wildwater is the Southeast’s oldest rafting outfitter, having opened its doors in 1971 on the Chattooga River in Long Creek, South Carolina. From conception, Wildwater has been fueled by a passion for protecting the outdoors and making Guests and its Team feel like part of the family. In 2021, Wildwater celebrated its 50th anniversary, but due to COVID-19, was unable to celebrate. In honor of 50 years of providing Guests with exceptional experiences on the water and in the trees, here is the story of how Wildwater came to be.
Back to the Beginning
In 1970, Jim and Jeanette Greiner, Wildwater’s founders, read the book “Deliverance”. Shortly after that he read an article about the Chattooga River while getting a haircut at the barber’s shop. Jim and Jeanette were traveling from a Recreation Conference and decided to do some exploring. With details from the book Deliverance, and having learned that the Chattooga River was the main setting for the movie version of Deliverance, and that filming was underway, Jim was keen on exploring rivers along the route between Atlanta, GA and their home in Virginia. At the GA/SC border they stopped at the Highway 76 Bridge over the Chattooga River and encountered the film crew. After confirming that they were filming Deliverance, Jim told Jeanette that it was “now or never”!
Once home in Virginia, Jim got the ball rolling. He first decided to take a canoe trip on the Chattooga that was offered through American Whitewater and Clemson University. After that canoe trip Jim absolutely fell in love with the beauty and whitewater of the river. The next step was to put together a team to explore the possibility of starting a commercial rafting company on the Chattooga. Jim invited rafting friends, Jon Dragan, founder of Wildwater Unlimited, WV, Lance Martin, founder of Wilderness Voyageurs, PA as well as his cousin Gamble Bowers, co-founder of TransMontane Outfitters in West Virginia, to raft the Chattooga River with him. After an exciting exploratory day on the river, Jim asked his paddling companions what they thought of the Chattooga and his idea to open a rafting company; the answer was “If you do not do it, we will”. So in 1971, Jim started Wildwater Ltd. Outdoor Adventures. That first summer, Wildwater carried 400 Guests rafting on the Chattooga at a price of $14.50 per person! The rest is history!
(This post was first written in 2015 and is was most recently updated in July 2020.)
Check out the photos of how things have changed over the past 48 seasons!