Chattooga: Descending Into the Myth of Deliverance River, by John Lane (review)

Chattooga, by John Lane (University of Georgia Press, 2004)

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Chattooga: Descending Into the Myth of Deliverance River, by John Lane (review)

by Timothy Silver
Southern Cultures, Vol. 11, No. 4: Winter 2005

University of Georgia Press, 2004

The Chattooga River rises high in the mountains of southwestern North Carolina and churns its way south through some of the most rugged country in the southern Appalachians. Before it empties into Lake Tugaloo along the Georgia-South Carolina border, the Chattooga provides rafters and kayakers with some of the best and most challenging whitewater in eastern America. However, since 1972, the river has also occupied a prominent place in the collective psyche of those who venture into the southern backcountry. That year, the Chattooga (with the fictional name Cahulawassee) became the setting for director John Boorman’s film adaptation of James Dickey’s classic novel Deliverance. The movie’s disturbing portrayal of mountain people and all-too-realistic depiction of male rape forced a generation of citified outdoor enthusiasts to think again about the perils of the southern wilderness. As I and a host of others who came of age in the early 1970s can attest, after seeing Deliverance, a night spent camping in the southern woods was never the same.