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Raft Near Chattooga River

What Does Being a Wild and Scenic River Mean for the Chattooga River?

If you’ve been planning to go rafting in the Chattooga River, you’ve probably seen many people describe it as wild and scenic. However, what does a wild and scenic river mean for rafting?

Outdoor enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies have a special place in their hearts for the Chattooga River, a pristine and fascinating natural wonder. Its wild beauty and raw landscape make for an unforgettable outdoor experience that’s hard to match. 

But the Chattooga River is more than just a popular destination for unwinding. As a designated Wild and Scenic River, it holds a unique position.

In this blog, we will uncover why and how the Chattooga came to be considered a Wild and Scenic River, and what that means for the nature enthusiasts who visit it every year. 

1.  Classification of Rivers in the U.S.

 Rafting at Chattooga River

Now before we understand the detailed bits about the “wild and scenic” Chattooga River, we’ve got to understand how the government sizes up the river.  It is pretty easy.

All of it comes down to three categories:

  1. Recreational River Area: If a river is easily accessible by road or rail, abuts shoreline development, and has been diverted or stopped by humans, this is a Recreational River Area. It can also be the section of a longer river with multiple classifications.
  2. Scenic River Area: Rivers that are not impounded and mostly undeveloped, though accessible in part by roads.
  3. Wild River Area: If a river is only accessed by trail and also free of built-up, impounding features, this is a river or section of which is classed as a Wild River Area.

Despite these designations, it’s important to know that only 0.33 percent of our nation’s rivers are actually protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system.

2.  The Meaning and Implications of the Designation

 Chattooga River with beautiful Scenery

Now, you might be wondering, “Why does a river need categorization?”. Well, it all comes down to protecting this natural beauty. Whatever the class, every river in the system is protected in some form or the other.

This protection is provided on different levels – first, voluntarily by local citizens and landowners. Next by city, state, and federal governments. Where applicable, tribal governments are also involved. 

The protection does affect new plans for dams and river development by withholding federal backing for their construction. Specifically, if they threaten water quality, free-flowing water or outstanding natural resources.

This designation doesn’t act as a barrier to development, recreation, agriculture, or residential development. Instead, it encourages responsible management that doesn’t compromise the river’s free-flowing nature.

3. The Extent of the Wild and Scenic River System

 Southeastern Board Near Chattooga River

As of December 2014, the Wild and Scenic River system gives Federal protection to 208 rivers, totalling 12,709 miles in length across 39 states, including Puerto Rico. Compare this to our country’s 75,000 dams, which have affected over 600,000 miles (17 per cent) of the nation’s river systems.

4. The Chattooga River’s Unique Status

 People Nearby Chattooga River

This unique river’s status as Georgia’s only Wild and Scenic River was established in 1974, indicating its importance to the state’s river systems. Beginning in North Carolina, it courses into Georgia unimpeded for 50 miles.

But it makes up just 7/100ths of 1 percent of the rivers in the state. Its status is more than just a designation; it’s a pledge to keep the Chattooga in perfect shape and protect it for future generations.

5. The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act: A Deeper Dive

WIld And Scenic Sign at Chattooga River

The framework of protection has been established by the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This law’s single goal is to preserve the river’s free-flowing characteristics while serving a number of different national conservation goals.

Seeking to protect our country’s natural heritage, the act recognizes that these rivers have much more significance than just being aesthetically pleasing.

The section reads thus: 

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the United States that certain selected rivers of the Nation which, with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural or other similar values, shall be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.

The Congress declares that the established national policy of dams and other construction at appropriate sections of the rivers of the United States needs to be complemented by a policy that would preserve other selected rivers or sections thereof in their free-flowing condition to protect the water quality of such rivers and to fulfill other vital national conservation purposes. (Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, October 2, 1968)”

Final Word

The designation of Wild and Scenic Rivers benefits both current and future generations by finding a balance between development and conservation. It enables us to stay in touch with the natural world, to enjoy its pristine beauty, and to keep exploring the inner depth of rivers like the Chattooga.

The Chattooga River is more than a river; it’s evidence of our commitment to protecting the untamed beauty and natural wonders that characterize our country’s natural heritage. Book an adventure today with Southeastern Expeditions to explore the Chattooga experience

Chattooga River : Section III

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river rafting at chattooga river
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