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Descending into the Myth of Deliverance River

John Lane

Publication Year: 2013

Before the novel and the film Deliverance appeared in the early 1970s, any outsiders one met along the Chattooga River were likely serious canoeists or anglers. In later years, untold numbers and kinds of people have felt the draw of the river’s torrents, which pour down the Appalachians along the Georgia-South Carolina border. Because of Deliverance the Chattooga looms enigmatically in our shared imagination, as iconic as Twain’s Mississippi--or maybe Conrad’s Congo.

This is John Lane’s search for the real Chattooga--for the truths that reside somewhere in the river’s rapids, along its shores, or in its travelers’ hearts. Lane balances the dark, indifferent mythical river of Deliverance against the Chattooga known to locals and to the outdoors enthusiasts who first mastered its treacherous vortices and hydraulics. Starting at its headwaters, Lane leads us down the river and through its complex history to its current status as a National Wild and Scenic River. Along the way he stops for talks with conservation activists, seventh-generation residents, locals who played parts in the movie, day visitors, and others. Lane weaves into each encounter an abundance of details drawn from his perceptive readings and viewings of Deliverance and his wide-ranging knowledge of the Chattooga watershed. At the end of his run, Lane leaves us still fully possessed by the Chattooga’s mystery, yet better informed about its place in his world and ours.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. 1-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-15

Many thanks to Bill Belleville, Ron Rash, Thorpe Moeckel, Don Greiner, Deno Trakas, Betsy Teter, and Beth Ely, who all read the manuscript at various stages and contributed...

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The Myth of the Chattooga

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pp. 1-22

A RIVER IS A landscape shaped by powerful and dynamic natural systems, including the human imagination. There's a reason that the flow of a river has been used as a metaphor for life and that of all the landscapes—mountains, oceans,....

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pp. 23-44

It's EARLY March when I drive to the headwaters of the Chattooga. As I climb into the mountains, the still-dormant rhododendron and laurel snarls encroach on the shoulders of narrow South Carolina Highway 107. I look to the left of my speeding truck, through the dark undergrowth, for creeks, the river's advance guard, marching inch by inch back...

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Chasing Deliverance

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pp. 45-66

The Banjo boy works down at the Clayton Huddle House. His name is Billy Redden, but I haven't heard much else about him. He remains as mysterious and obscure to me today as he was the first time I saw Deliverance. Near the beginning of the movie when the two cars with canoes on top pull up to the pumps of the

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The Wilderness Upstream

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pp. 67-86

Ian Marshall's wearing a black and green tie-dyed T-shirt with Henry David Thoreau's head printed on the front. He's drained a cup of coffee and is nursing a serious sugar buzz from eating three Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a confection he admits he's not encountered in Altoona, Pennsylvania. A native...

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Trail Mind

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pp. 87-106

I can think of no better way of spending a weekend than backpack-ing in the remote country above Russell Bridge. In Pilgrim at Tinkerwater come down the creek." I want more than that, but I'm not surewhat. I know I want the next two days to offer up some silence, andsome reintroduction to the Chattooga, which I haven't seen in sev-...

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Easy Water

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pp. 107-128

CLOSING IN ON NOON it's becoming obvious that Watts Hudgins's friend Matt has stood us up. It's the river runner's nightmare: establish a long-distance shuttle—two cars from two separate cities—and the second car doesn't show. We've done all we can to give Matt some extra time, unloaded...

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Pilley's Perfect River

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pp. 129-142

A GROUP OF US IS PADDLING from Earl's Ford to Sandy Ford with John Pilley, soon after his seventieth birthday. It's mid- September, ninety degrees, and everyone in our group wants a cold front to push some tolerable air into the southeast. As we began our float, I dip my hands in...

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The Narrows

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pp. 143-154

THE NEXT SPRING I'm back on Section III with Pilley. After we set the shuttle, we're surprised to see that it's just us this time in the gravel parking lot at Sandy Ford, two veteran kayakers dressing out in the chilly Saturday morning air. Before we left Spartanburg I checked the gauge by phone and found...

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Approaching the Bull

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pp. 155-178

I SIMPLY WANT to get back on the river, but it's taken us longer to find the Fall Creek put-in than we expected. Driving in off Highway 76 we stopped at Bruce Hare's Chattooga Whitewater Shop to ask directions. The shop sits on a hill and is a landmark—a place to stop and confirm a river level, buy a missing...

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The Business of White Water

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pp. 179-208

MY STUDENTS are sleepy and disoriented. It's a chilly October morning in the South Carolina mountains, and there's even a little mist over the wetland beside the Nantahala Outdoor Center outpost. The North Face fleeces used as pillows on the ride down are quickly pulled on. They all look...

Bibliographic Note

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pp. 209-210

E-ISBN-13: 9780820346229
E-ISBN-10: 0820346225
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820326115

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2013