Chattooga River Access / USFS policy

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Chattooga River Access / USFS policy

Post by wfinley » Fri Sep 07, 2007 11:33 am

Thought some of you might be interested in an email that AWW sent out recently (quoted below).

The Saluda River Chapter of Trout Unlimited has their views on the proposed boating ban posted here:

No Boats in Wilderness?

One could summarize many recent scoping comments regarding the Chattooga River as follows: Anti-Wilderness ATV Advocates Seize Control of Rivers, Threatening Lives of Innocent Children! The stunning thing is that they are talking about us, the community of folks who simply like to paddle down rivers of all shapes and sizes with our friends and families. If they weren’t serious – and the US Forest Service wasn’t taking them seriously – this would be hilarious!

The South Carolina Council of Trout Unlimited had this to say:

“Small boat kayaking is an adventure sport, and by its very nature is at odds with the outstanding and remarkable values currently protected in the upper Chattooga.”

“[Allowing paddling on the Ellicott Rock section of the Chattooga] may in fact violate the principles of the Wilderness Act.”

The “Friends of the Upper Chattooga” which includes the Chattooga Conservancy, private landowners, and several chapters of Trout Unlimited went even further:

“Like the pervasive motorized vehicles, the easier access resulting from kayaking again threatens the pursuits of backcountry enthusiast and the wilderness itself. Creek boating is considered an intrusive activity for the backcountry angler, wildlife viewer or hiker; Encounters would result in a diminished wilderness experience for these other visitors. Like mountain biking on land trails, it is time the USFS acknowledges and correctly classifies the differences between creekers and other river users.”

“The U.S. Forest Service has an opportunity to insure that the last protected stream in southern Appalachia does not join the pervasive monoculture of kayaking that has been methodically seizing control of every creek.”

Several recent comments claimed that allowing boating will lead to allowing All Terrain Vehicles, like the person who wrote this: “If you let boaters on the River above Hwy. 28 then the next step will be the ATV companies will sue to get ATV's on hiking trails.” Other people have stressed the risks to children that boating poses. Check this one out: “If boating is permitted I could certainly envision many of the swimmers being involved in accidents where the kayakers drop into a pool full of children with inner-tubes.” Still others claim we trash rivers: "Boaters…could take large loads on their boats to potentially spread trash and human impact to areas far removed from the current public access points."

No matter where you live, if you love getting out in the backcountry in your canoe, kayak, or raft on any river, these recent comments made to the US Forest Service should make you cringe. Of course it is all absurd: paddling is one of the core uses protected by the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, ATV’s are inconsistent with those acts, paddlers don't litter, and the likelihood of a paddler boofing onto a swimmer is too small to fathom. Regardless, the US Forest Service seems to be believing these people.

The USFS Scoping Document released several weeks ago proposes 5 alternatives that ban boating on part of the Chattooga River, and only one that allows it on the entire river. Rather than rely on the million-dollar-plus study they commissioned, and national policy, they have so far listened only to the comments of folks like those quoted above. For 31 years they have banned boating on 21 miles of Wild and Scenic River – for no reason whatsoever - and they seem poised to do it again.

If you believe in the right to float down a river, you should write the Forest Service and tell them so. Let them know that their alternatives for banning boating have no basis – and that they must allow boating on the Chattooga River.

The USFS has asked the following questions and you should respond:

1. Should there be new standards limiting trailheads, trails and/or campsites? Yes, the current management has lead to unacceptable impacts. In addition, the USFS should monitor use by all users through a self-registration permitting system.
2. Should there be new standards limiting group sizes, encounters between user groups and/or access? Every river corridor has a certain capacity. If/when the USFS can demonstrate that the upper Chattooga's capacity is met, all users' access (not just boaters) should be limited consistent with sustainability of the resource.
3. Should there be new boating opportunities on the Chattooga River? This question is erroneous in and of itself: First, boating is not a new opportunity – it is an old one with a rich history prior to the USFS ban. In fact, the USFS was not even able to determine why boating was prohibited in the first place, much less any reasonable justification for doing so. Should the Forest Service RESTORE boating access on the upper Chattooga? Absolutely! Boating should be allowed on the Upper Chattooga River to the same extent that hiking, angling, swimming and other wilderness compliant activities are is allowed.
4. Should there be new standards limiting group sizes, encounters between user groups and/or access if new boating opportunities are allowed? Restoration of boating access has nothing to do with this underlying question. This question is no different than #2 above, and the answer is no different either. Every river corridor has a certain capacity. If/when the USFS can demonstrate that the upper Chattooga's capacity is met, all users' access (not just boaters) should be limited consistent with sustainability of the resource.

Write the USFS today, and let them know that you cherish and respect your right to paddle through Wilderness Areas and on Wild and Scenic Rivers. To see what some other paddlers had to say, check out these letters:

Rob Maxwell's letter ... mments.doc

Milt Aiken's Letter ... mments.doc

Send your comments to the USFS project manager, John Cleeves, by SEPTEMBER 13th:

Via email:

Or via traditional mail:
Francis Marion &
Sumter National Forests
4931 Broad River Road
Columbia, SC 29212-3530

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