The Chauga River (chaw-ga) in Oconee County begins just south of Mountain Rest and continues for 31 miles, serving as a tributary for the Tugaloo River. It winds through both the Andrew Pickens Ranger District and the Sumter National Forest, making it a scenic and recreational destination.
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources designated the headwaters of the Chauga River as an “Outstanding Water Resource.” These headwaters are fed by rain and comprised of the Village and East Village creeks.
The Chauga River is known as a freestone river, characterized by steep gradients and rapid currents. Class IV rapids rush along the 9.8-mile section of the river near Cassidy Bridge, making it an ideal place for whitewater kayking. The river then ebbs and flows until merging with Ramsey Creek and pouring over a ten-foot waterfall at Chau-Ram County Park (named for the convergence of the Chauga River and Ramsey Creek waters). From there, the Chauga feeds the Tugaloo, which eventually comes to rest in the still waters of Lake Hartwell.
Reflections on the Chauga River
Photographer Mark VanDyke reflects on the Chauga River: “The Chauga River is a thirty-one mile long southern freestone river flowing from its source near Mountain Rest, through the Andrew Pickens Ranger District and Sumter National Forests as a tributary of the Tugaloo River, where it joins the Seneca River and forms Lake Hartwell. A freestone river is classified as one that has a primary source of rainfall, exhibits steep gradients accompanied by rapid and fast currents, and is typically in a canyon-like area. The headwaters of the Chauga are classified by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources as “Outstanding Water Resources”, and are known to locals as a rare and exciting stream for rainbow and brown trout, as well as red eye and other bass further down towards the lake. The South Carolina Sportsman reports that before the state record for the largest trout was logged at Lake Jocassee, the largest trout was a brown out of the waters of the Chauga River! At the narrows, the river cascades over a ten-foot waterfall and then squeezes into a narrow chute, falling some twenty-five to thirty feet in a couple hundred yards. With the water as high and mean as it was this morning, I didn’t test my luck and get too close; that was a ride I wasn’t looking to take!”