A low-angle cascade about 12 feet high and 100 feet long fills fan-shaped pool with a sand and mud bottom. Deepest place will be about six feet at the confluence of small, intermittent stream entering from the southeast. The rock cascade doesn’t seem steep enough for a slide. Standard woodland setting: Dense canopy, lots of shade with some live rock visible in a 10 to 15 foot outcrop on river left, or the southern bank. The canyon runs east to west and gets some good sun. In sum, it’s visually pretty nice.
Along the trail you’ll find a significant rock ledge, one that’s undercut by 10 feet or more. Likely more than 100 generations have bivouacked under this ledge and built a fire to warm themselves. Contemporaries left their own artifacts, some 40-oz. beer cans. When I visited, somebody had tried to be considerate and filled a trash bag, but neglected to pack out. Raccoons seemed pleased with the oversight. Garbage was spread all over the place. Which leads to an important point, this part of the Broad River is frequently used for recreation. There will be at least one-half dozen people on a summer weekend.
Nothing to take your breath away and probably not worth a special trip, but if you’re interested in the Broad River Trail, then Judy Hole merits a stop.
Moccasin Creek State Park draws lots of visitors to Hemlock Falls. It’s a gorgeous place, a fall 10 feet high spills onto a shoal 15 feet wide, then the bedrock just disappears into a hole 30 feet on the major axis and 25 feet on the minor — nice oval shape, and an even contour sloping to a bottom seven feet deep. It’s dramatic, but lacks the impound to create deep water. The bedrock bottom is probably lots deeper, but sand can fill it up. The fall faces west and combined with a good opening in the canopy, the water should get excellent afternoon light. If seasonal rains push the sand out, this can be a nice visit, though far from private.
Happily, the creek’s high gradient creates other potential spots, including one about one-half mile below Hemlock Falls and one mile from the upper parking lot. This pool has great architecture. A broad opening in the otherwise dense forest canopy matches the size and shape of the pool itself. Both are 25 to 35 feet on the long side. Consistent angles give the pool lots of symmetry, rare in a place with as little vertical element as this. Only a couple of good places to sit at water level, but plenty of room back in the trees.
he trail is extremely well maintained, even though hurricanes and winter storms in the past several years have produced lots of blow down, here and in much of North Georgia. Be advised that this is a small watershed, fewer than 10 square miles. Consequently, it can go from snoring to roaring quickly.
This is the finish line, the last rapid before the Chattooga enters Lake Tugaloo. Five drops — four of them Class 5 — are stacked one on top of the other, marking the climax of what’s arguably the most famous whitewater in the Southeast. Good swimming holes, too. Just be sure to visit when the water’s down.
The first place is at the end of the descending trail, a nice sand bar with plenty of room, great sunlight all day long and a good rock drop into a fine deep pool. High mica content in the sand makes it sparkle on a sunny day. And it gets better one-quarter mile upriver.
An eddy pool at the bottom of Shoulder Bone, the only Class 3 rapid of the Five Falls, makes a big hole with a really large shoal on river left the provides lots of lounging. A large, flat rock shaped like a trapezoid is fallen into a minor rapid above it and an anvil shaped rock divides the river in two 80 yards above that. The overhead is open and sunny, leaving the visitor with the impression, “this is how summer is supposed to look.”
The trail to the swimming hole requires lots of picking your way upstream along the riverbed, some of it on rocks that require three points of contact. One drawback, there’s likely to be more than a few paddlers eddying out in the pool, so privacy will be less than you’d expect in such a remote place.
Wedged between a shoulder and a shoal, Bull Sluice is a slice of the Chattooga River served up among several comfortable rocks and topped with sunshine. Rock in the river just above US 76 is bedded facing upstream. That helps catch the river and funnel it into one primary chute with a rock shoulder on river right named Big Georgia that serves as a modest launch with about six feet of vertical. The deep part of the pool is long, about 35 feet, but narrow. Leapers must aim for a sweet spot between a submerged point of rock and the shoal.
Be Advised: water will be moving. As soon as you surface, you need to start swimming to shore. Fatalities have occurred when people enter at unsuitably high levels.
Sunning rocks number about five, most are on the far side. The most accessible place to stretch out trailside is Decapitation Rock, immediately at the bottom of some slippery rock you have to descend to reach the river. Plan on a steady flow of visitors. The trail extends upriver from a large parking area on the South Carolina side. It’s about five minutes along and well signed.
Contrast that can kill you. Sutton Hole is a deep, slow place in the river where generations of children learned to swim. A short distance below is Woodall Shoals, an undercut slide that’s the only Class 6 drop on the river. It’s 300 yards between the gentle swimming hole above and the body trapping hydraulic below — not like you’ll lose your footing and land directly in the killer rapid. However, such a dangerous feature merits warning.
Sutton Hole, though, is gentle as a lamb. It’s located a little more than 500 feet above where the trail meets the river. Great southwest exposure and a nice point bar, but no vertical element. The little dippers pool is a couple of hundred feet above Sutton Hole. Gentle contours make it easy for entry and exit with little chance they might tip over and wash downstream.
And below the Class 6 rapid is another wide, slow hole. There is a huge expanse of sand which, depending on water levels, may be 100 feet long and 30 feet wide. Rock is broken into lots of slabs, heavily worn, piled up and creating a rapid that fills the pool. Great kid’s spot. Though you can tell this is not always the case. A noontime rainstorm in Highlands, NC can arrive six hours later in a big way. One guide tells of hearing a roar, watching a tree float past, become lodged in the river bottom just as the full force of the flood struck and stood the tree back upright again.
Awesome, awesome scenery. A dark wall of metamorphic rock rises almost 100 feet opposite a long sand bar that paddlers named Son of a Beach. Between the beach and facing wall is a deep, wide pool that’s just short of breath taking. At proper levels for swimming the hole will appear to have a riffle at the top before it broadens to 50 or 60 feet of deep water running for several hundred feet! Raven Rock is easily the best big-river swimming hole in the Southeast. All it lacks is a jumping rock. Too bad that big wall has no jump.
In 1999 a woman tried to ford fast moving water at the top of the hole. She went down and became trapped in a hydraulic and drowned. The body was not immediately recovered and the search became an public issue when family got permission to divert the river. Her body was finally recovered several months later. All of which points to the safety tips at the front of this book and the section on how to avoid foot entrapment.
Locals also complain about traffic on the gravel roads. Tim Welsh is a farrier who lives in a distinctive house trailer on Camp Creek Rd. “We got dogs, chickens, young’uns. I cussed some of them. Don’t do no good. They still fly through here.”
Welsh has made a few trips to the river himself. Asked for personal experiences, he doesn’t hesitate.
“I had plenty good pieces of ass down at the river,” Welsh said. “Before I was married and after.”
Beautiful point bar with so much sand, it would take every dump truck in Rabun County to carry it off. It’s a crescent shaped pool where the river curves due south below a long riffle. Water will get to about seven feet deep facing due east, opposite the point bar. There you will find some low rocks you can cannon ball off, but this place has little vertical description. The bar is probably 200 feet long, depending on water levels. Some sycamores have popped up in the bank along with interspersed boulders, but, like the bottom of the pool, it’s generally clear of obstructions.
It’s an easy hike, 15 minutes down. No bushwhacking to speak of, yet the only tracks I saw on the sand were from deer. Huge, wide open sky, water and sand. Excellent place for the family picnic, or to come down and overnight on the terrace up above. Almost an excellent swimming hole. Too bad it does not have a rock for jumping.
Also, there’s an OK beach at the bottom of Water Gauge Road. But no deep water. Downstream, around the corner is another good pocket of sand that’s accessible to deep water.
A pair of low falls with the perfect combination of openness and constriction. The top pool is so tight that it’s partially roofed, while the middle pool has broad sky with an ideal southern exposure and low-angle slabs so well adapted to lounging that the only thing missing is a sign saying, “Your Butt Here.”
At the top, the river has undercut the rock by about four feet, creating an overhang that forms most of the pool’s left side. Bummer is that it’s not right for jumping. Just below, at a second cascade, the river opens up into a pool close to 100 feet wide, although the deep part is only about one tenth of that. Happily, the sweet spot occurrs directly adjacent to sunning slabs and, taken together, it creates the choicest 800 square feet on the top of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River.
Great for privacy, too. The water is audible from the trail, but not visible. And since the spur trail is pretty indistinct, I would say the expectation of privacy is excellent. There’s an even more private place farther up. From the footbridge below the hole reviewed here, hike one mile to a creek crossing. Look for a steep use trail to the river, then locate a couple of massive boulders in the river. Work your way above these.
Very prone to flash floods. Thundershowers in Highlands and Cashiers can be extremely dangerous. Check weather before you go.
Somewhere there exists a nicer place to lie down on a summer afternoon, but I’ve never seen it.
The three noisy creeks that join to form a stem of the Chattooga are more notable for the dry parts than the wet ones. First, is an elevated picnic platform that’s round, flat, forested and completely surrounded with moving water. Dimension is 80 feet by 30 feet. Below, one of the tributary creeks tends to produce a pocket of sand, oriented due west, and sloping into the water so that your body will be angled in the optimal attitude toward the afternoon sun, while water mingles between your toes. What’s more, there’s a great camping spot at the bottom of the trail, but an appropriate distance from the water as to be compatible with low-impact ethics.
The swimming holes, however, only rate as good. Water moves fast and a there’s no impound to contain it. The best prospect is the fall of the end of Holcomb Creek. Note that the level shown in the photo is probably too high to swim safely. Also, note a wall of rock downstream the stretches for 40 linear feet creates a pool deep enough for a dip, but not a leap.