Toxaway River

In the early days of the GCA regular trips were held on sections of several rivers which are now inundated. Among these are parts of the Coosawattee, Savannah, Oconee, Dog, Yahoola and Toxaway. Though Class V+ upstream sections of the Toxaway River in North Carolina are still runnable to expert decked boaters, the once popular “Narrows” section of the river in South Carolina beginning near the North Carolina border is now covered by Lake Jocassee, which was filled in 1973.

Claude Terry led a GCA trip on October 12, 1968, on this “four-hour,” lower section of the Toxaway and wrote it up in the November 1968 issue of The Eddy Line, which was sent out to GCA’s 66 family members. On the trip were an illustrious group of GCA founders and early leaders: co-founder Bill Crawford, Clyde Woolsey; and GCA founding members Roy and Roy Reid Adams, Payson and Aurelia Kennedy, and Claude Terry.

Bill Crawford was GCA’s first President in 1966 and 1967. He passed the gavel to Payson Kennedy in 1968, to Claude Terry in 1969, and to Clyde Woolsey in 1970 and 1971. In 1972, Deliverance stunt man Payson Kennedy and GCA co-founder Horace Holden, Sr., founded the Nantahala Outdoor Center. The following year the other two Deliverance stunt men, Claude Terry and Doug Woodward, a GCA member since 1969, founded Southeastern Expeditions. Roy Adams was the club’s newsletter editor in 1968 and 1969. Here is Claude Terry’s article:

“October 12 was a fine autumn day, perfect for a drive in the mountains. Seven of our stalwart members drove to the N. C. – S. C. border to run the Toxaway River before it goes under the backwaters of the dam. (One group had a slight delay due to the problems of Bill Crawford, whose car was “mislaid.”) The drive in to the river (on a very primitive road) was through an extensive forest, which was quite primeval. Despite the remoteness of the river, several groups of people were trout fishing at the put-in. The first series of rapids begins, almost immediately, with Devil’s Chute. There are four (depending on how one separates them) good class 3 or 4 rapids, all of which can be portaged readily. Some of our party had trouble with Devil’s Chute. They wound up sharing lunches. All part of the fun! The rest of the run is class 1 and 2, so most of the members could run the river if they portaged the first couple of rapids.

“The Toxaway has to be one of the cleanest streams in the country, with the bottom either sand or pebbles and visible in several feet of water. The gorge is pretty, with wildlife (beavers in particular) abundant and apparent. At the end, one rounds a bend, and there are the scalped mountains in preparation for the dam site. Enough to make a conservationist of anyone!”

The Toxaway was popular with several nearby children’s summer camps which pioneered running many whitewater streams in the Southeast: Camps High Rocks, Merrie Woode, Mondamin and Green Cove. The latter two were founded by Frank Bell, Sr., shown paddling “Satan’s Gut” in an accompanying picture provided by his grandson, Will Leverette. There are several more pictures of the Toxaway Narrows in Will’s very interesting book, A History of Whitewater Paddling in Western North Carolina (The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2008), which is available at most local paddling shops.

GCA co-founder Bill Crawford is currently the Business Manager for Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and also assists with their newsletter, water monitoring, canoe patrols, and annual Back to the River Race. From 1972 to 1992 he was co-owner and camp director of High Meadows Camp in Roswell. He wrote to me recently of his Toxaway trip: “I remember that October day in 1968. What a beautiful river! I also remember my little car, a blue Morris Minor. I had parked it at the head of my driveway, and during the night some teenagers turned my car over in the ditch, and all I saw was four wheels…. Frank Bell was known for being an outstanding camp director. Our early years on the rivers with Payson, Claude, Clyde, Horace and others were wonderful times.”

 

by Roger Nott, GCA Historian
From The Eddy Line, May 2010