Slicing through the Appalachian wilderness along the Georgia-South Carolina border, the Chattooga River rates among the nation’s top 10 white-water river adventures, attracting some 100,000 visitors a year for rafting, canoeing, kayaking, tubing, swimming, fishing, and riverside hiking. The Wild and Scenic-designated river was seen in the movie Deliverance, based on the book by Georgia poet and novelist James Dickey. Ever since the movie was released, authorities have been pulling bodies out of the river—not toothless mountaineers but overconfident river-runners who underestimate the white water’s power.

The largest town in the area, the down-home mountain community of Clayton (pop. 2,047) is a popular base for excursions into the wild forest and Chattooga River areas. US-441 has grown into an exurban morass of Walmart sprawl, but Main Street is a three-block length of wooden and brick storefronts on a sunny rise just west of the highway.