By K.M. Collins
Wildwater’s Favorite River Protectors & Agencies
The opportunity to wrangle a raft and paddle a pristine, crystal clear, free flowing river through unbridled smokey mountain blue ridge wilderness isn’t something that happens without the heart and hands of many. Whitewater rafting in Georgia wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of many entities. Some of these bodies are government organizations and many are non-profits. What do they all have in common? A goal to preserve the Chattooga River and its prolific resources for generations to come. Here’s a small glimpse at some of the organizations and agencies that manage and protect the Chattooga River and, therefore, whitewater rafting in Georgia.
The Chattooga Conservancy’s mission is, “To protect, promote and restore the natural ecological integrity of the Chattooga River watershed ecosystems; to ensure the viability of native species in harmony with the need for a healthy human environment; and, to educate and empower communities to practice good stewardship on public and private lands.” Chattooga Conservancy’s current projects include Restore Chattooga Gorge, Chattooga Stewardship and the Foothills Landscape Initiative which includes significant portions of the Chattooga River watershed. The Chattooga Conservancy ushers the Chattooga Conservation Plan, Chattooga Currents an online newsletter and Chattooga Quarterly, a print publication.
National Wild and Scenic River System
In 1974, six years after the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act was first established, the Chattooga River became the first Wild and Scenic River west of the Mississippi and remains the only one commercially rafted. The Wild and Scenic designation is the highest form of protection for a river. Man made facilities are uncommon and the zone is described as forested, undeveloped and primitive. The designation applies to the river corridor and ¼ mile on either side of the river itself. Outside of the corridor, the Chattooga watershed largely falls within either the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, Chattahoochee National Forest, Nantahala National Forest or Sumter National Forest. The Chattooga River’s outstandingly remarkable values are listed as recreation, biology, scenery, geology and history.