Any time I visit the mountains North Georgia, I can’t help but recall the 1972 movie starring Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty. Deliverance was filmed on location in and around the Chattooga River (not to be confused for the Chattahoochee) and featured the now-famous “dueling banjos” and a scene of a tourist being anally raped by a hillbilly.
I can’t help but hear the banjos in my head anytime I visit the area.
This is not to suggest that North Georgia doesn’t have anything else for which it’s famous. It does, and many are really cool, like boiled peanuts (which have the texture of a bean, taste like fresh cow patties, but are for some reason insanely popular), extremely dangerous (or fun if you’re on a motorcycle or sports car) winding mountain roads guaranteed to make some back-seat travelers toss their cookies, stunning panoramic views of lakes, rivers, mountains and occasionally wildlife, zip-lining, paintball, hiking, camping, rock-climbing, Frisbee-golf and white-water rafting.
Throughout the years, a classification system has been developed which is referred to as “Water Class”. This system is designed to inform rafters of the degree of difficulty which will be experienced along a particular stretch of whitewater. The classification system ranges from Class I through Class VI (or 6). The lower end of the scale is Class I, which indicates the rafter will experience small rough areas that will essentially require no maneuvering and may be attempted by individuals with little to no whitewater skill. At the opposite end of the classification system is Class VI which indicates that the rafter will encounter sections of water that are so dangerous that they may not be traveled without real possibility of danger. This type of water will contain large waves, huge rocks and hazards which pose the danger of damaging a raft beyond repair. There is also the likelihood of personal injury or even death.
Clint and I arrived at the “outpost” around 2:00 p.m. after a 1 hr and 45 minute drive from my house in Alpharetta. The place was very busy, and there were dozens of people picking out their gear, then boarding school buses to take them to the launch site. When it was our turn to go, we picked out rigid, plastic paddles, life preservers (which smelled like a cat had peed on them last summer) and plastic helmets. The process of putting on our preservers was quite uncomfortable as they were ridiculously tight, but necessary in case you fall overboard and need to be pulled back in. I would equate it to the dresses women used to wear that required an army of assistants to get everything “buckled down”.
The Ocoee River is a dam-released river, so the conditions are usually always excellent and are not contingent as much on rainfall. The Ocoee River contains consistent class III & IV rapids with an occasional class V depending on water level. We were led down the river by our guide, Charles Myrick, Jr., the owner of Atlanta Outfitters. Charles was an excellent guide, extremely knowledgeable about the river and knew how to give us the best ride without one of us falling out of the raft and possibly being maimed by sharp rocks. He instructed us when to paddle, how many strokes to take and when we should lean forward or quickly get down in the boat to avoid falling out.
Don’t let the above class system of rivers or the twang of a banjo stop you from enjoying white-water rafting with your family and friends. Injuries are few and far between and very unlikely when you have an experienced guide like Charles Myrick, Jr. or the other experienced guides at Whitewater Express and the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
Just keep an eye out an ear open; Deliverance was only a movie. Right?