Enjoy a Peaceful Paddle on Lake Tugaloo

By:Marie McAden


An equal-opportunity thrill giver, the Chattooga River offers adventure seekers mild and wild options for whitewater fun in the Upstate.

Section III of the national wild and scenic river delivers a low dose of excitement perfect for families and the fainthearted. For those looking for a white-knuckle raft ride, there’s Section IV featuring the famed Five Falls, a fast-flowing series of rapids blasting through a narrow jumble of boulders.

Prefer a tamer water experience? Go downstream to Lake Tugaloo. Past the last of the Section IV rapids, the water turns tranquil and the narrow river widens to form a four-mile-long lake surrounded by Sumter and Chattahoochee National Forests.

A boat landing on Bull Sluice Road — the takeout for Section IV raft trips — provides access to the lake for boaters not paddling in from the Chattooga River. Even if you’re not going out on the water, it’s worth driving down the long gravel road to the boat ramp to enjoy the stunning view of the lake and the tree-covered mountains.

From the boat ramp, it’s just shy of three miles to the end of the river. Small waterfalls can be seen cascading down the mountainous terrain as you paddle up the length of the lake. The biggest one, fed by Devils Branch, is located in a cove on the right side of the narrowing reservoir about halfway to the Chattooga’s final ripples.

If you take the opposite course, paddling left from the ramp, you’ll come to the Tugaloo Dam and Tallulah Gorge.

Either direction, you’ll be treated to Mother Nature’s handiwork — a beautiful landscape of high, rocky ridgelines, woods and water protected and preserved for our enjoyment.

Bring your own boat or book a tour with Wildwater in nearby Long Creek. The rafting company offers guided kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding trips of Lake Tugaloo. Both excursions last about four hours and include a snack. Cost is $49.95.

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