Wildwater: One Last Summer Break Splash!
With the clock ticking on the kids’ summer break, we suit up for one last hurrah — an adrenaline-soaked rip down the Chattooga River.
Nothing on earth demands your full attention like a raging river. The chaotic tumult of water around you, the swirling eddies that shred your sense of orientation, the jagged peaks of rock jutting here and there from the water, reminding you that nature doesn’t always play fair.
It’s a heck of a rush, and the perfect way to cap off a summer that has been like no other for the family.
We knew that a trip down the rapids was just the exclamation point this summer break needed, and after exhaustive research, we found ourselves guests of the oldest outfitter in the Southeast, Wildwater White Water Rafting & Zipline Canopy Tours. Launched by Jim and Jeanette Grenier, along with their four children, on the Chattooga River in June of 1971, the company has grown beyond the family boundaries on the Chattooga River to include the Ocoee, Nantahala and the Pigeon Rivers.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon just in time to climb aboard the last zipline session of the day. After gearing up and getting some pre-zip instructions from Brandy and Shelby, we took the practice zip to get the basics down then climbed toward our first experience. If there’s a bigger rush to be found on this river than hurling yourself down its rapids, it’s spitting in gravity’s face as you soar above the treetops.
For the new couple hours, we zipped from tree to tree through the beautiful forest and above a picturesque lake. My wife Frankie and our kids, Dodge and Sophia took to it like a fish to water. It was the first time in a long time that we had an opportunity to do something as a family and I have to say it was a great bonding experience. Our favorite? The tandem where we had a chance to zip side by side over a lake in an unofficial race to the end (so unofficial, I won’t even bother pointing out who won. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it).
We were joined that afternoon by another zipper, Zanyia who was celebrating her mother Daneille’s birthday. Having spent the day feeding our appetite for adventure, it was time to feed our appetite for dinner, so we headed over to a local favorite called Humble Pie. The owner, Trey Barnett, gave us the 10-cent tour of the pizza joint/coffee shop that featured hand crafted wooden chairs and paddles made right there in Long Creek, SC. He also gave us the scoop on a great place to watch the sunset in the mountains called Chattooga Belle Farm. It’s always open for visitors, disc golf and simply enjoying the view even when, as we found out, they’re technically closed, but in the spirit of Southern hospitality allows visitors to enjoy the views from their property. We picked a few pieces of fruit and went back the next day to pay and enjoy the store which featured local honey, jams and other neighborhood items.
We then checked into our lodge at Wildwater called Earls Ford. It was walking distance to Wildwater homebase and perfect accommodations for the night. After a long day, we resisted popping in the movie “Deliverance” in the VCR (a standard amenity in all lodging at Wildwater) and got a good night’s sleep. After a quick breakfast at the Gauge coffee shop, we were ready for the grand finale of our summer: White water rafting.
We arrived to find Adam “coach” Tonkyn briefing our fellow rafters before we were all bussed up the mountain and unloaded at the famous Chattooga River – as seen in the Burt Reynolds movie Deliverance. We had six rafts in our group, with a guide in each. Our guide was a wildman named Jake, who had grown up on these rivers with ice-cold mountain water in his blood.
While we felt completely safe in Jake’s care, I did wonder a few times about that look in his eyes – one that was always scanning the river for the path less followed and seemed ready to try anything. Along the way we stopped for lunch, swimming and a handful of chances to catch our breath. At one point we had the opportunity to beach the raft and jump from the rocks into a class-four rapid. I’ll tell you, when you hit that water you get an instant lesson in how powerful a river can be. Frankie and Dodge can testify to that as they were thrown from the raft during one of the rougher spots of the ride. I watched as Dodge somehow performed a split-second reboard back in the raft while I hauled Frankie back in. Sophia being the typical teenage girl refused to give in to the Chattooga’s continuous attempts to dislodge her.
As we completed the trip we hiked a brief trail up to find the bus waiting to take us back. Jake continued with the jokes and stories on the short ride back back to Wildwater headquarters.
In addition to whitewater rafting and zipline/canopy tours Wildwater offers kayak clinics, SUP and kayak lake tours, Raft & Rail© excursion, high ropes course, climbing walls, team-building and a variety of lodging facilities. Being the only adventure company with ziplines at every river location, Wildwater does not disappoint.
As promised, Wildwater offers a variety of lodging facilities at both their Nantahala and Chattooga locations. Wanting to stay within walking distance of your white water rafting trip or zipline canopy tour? Wildwater offers an assortment of house, cabin and yurt rentals perfect for your next visit. Located in the heart of Long Creek, SC, guests are invited to stay affordably and conveniently at a luxury house, a cozy treehouse, a fully furnished duplex cottage or a bunkhouse yurt all of which start pricing at $79.95. Alternately, adventurers are invited to take part in the simplicity of yurts near Bryson City, NC. Here, all are invited to join in on an immersive experience only yurts can provide for the starting price of $88.00.
More in Long Creek
Needing a short respite from the white rapids? Visit The Gauge Coffee House in Long Creek, SC for an energy boost of breakfast and caffeine or stop into local pizza joint Humble Pie, a quant restaurant with just as much pizza dough as there are good times. Chattooga Belle Farm, a 198 acre working farm, distillery and event location, is also located in Long Creek. At this venue, all are welcome to enjoy a number of activities including: fruit picking, playing a round of disc golf, stopping by for lunch or a glass of wine or renting out the event barn for any special occasions.
Wildwater is widely recognized as one of the finest whitewater rafting outfitters in the country. Since 1971, their attention to detail has made them a leader in the outdoor adventure industry. Providing high quality experiences on their trips is their number one priority. You may not recognize their state-of-the-art equipment or see their staff training programs, but you will recognize their commitment to quality, safety and service. They offer a quality guarantee, if you are not happy with your experience please let them know and they will make it right. To learn more about Wildwater or purchase one of their activity packages, visit them at wildwaterrafting.com.