The first trail I plan on talking about is the most easily accessed part of the Chattooga river, yet an impressive feature as well. There are two trails that will get you to this mighty rapid. Bull Sluice can be considered a class IV+ rapid, although different water levels and different lines change the game. During the summertime, this is a fun swimming spot, but maybe not so much on the weekends because it can get overcrowded! You will definitely get to see some action if you stay long enough to see the rafting companies come through. There are also countless of private boaters that come through, and every now and then you get a random group of people who don’t realize where they are and are surprised by what they are about to float over.
The parking lot for this hike is on the South Carolina side of the river. You might notice a little parking lot on the downstream side of the street, but there is a much bigger parking lot slightly hidden on the other side. If you are looking, you will see a forest service sign saying Highway 76 Chattooga river access. When you pull around the parking lot, you will notice a cement area with restrooms, a little information area, trash cans, and a boulder with the words “WILD AND SCENIC CHATTOOGA RIVER MAY 10, 1974.” From there, an asphalt path leads down the backside of it. Follow the asphalt trail, when you get to a sharp turn in the trail you will see a path on your right. That dirt path will lead you to Bull Sluice. If you follow the main trail all the way down, you will end up at a nice sandy beach a little upstream of the bridge. A good family spot to hang out and play in the shallow waters.
If you are into more of a hike and adventure, try parking on the backside of the parking lot (closest to the highway) and locate the stairs heading towards the highway. You will cross the bridge and start down a dirt trail. You are now on the Chattooga River Trail. In a couple hundred yards you will come to a fork in the trail. Take the lower right fork. You are now on your way to Bull Sluice! Enjoy the adventure and look out for wildlife! It’s always exciting to see something you don’t usually 🙂 Something you rarely hear people talk about on this trail is there is a creek you will have to cross. This would be Pole Creek. Expect to get wet, but you might get lucky 😉 Before hiking this side, think about water level and temperature of water. Low water summers are the best time to cross because you can hop bank to rock to bank, or it’s warm enough out you won’t mind getting your feet wet.
My advice is do not swim above the rapid, it is just too dangerous, but swim in the pool and across currents all you would like. Swimming with a PFD is fun, not to mention not a bad idea. Make sure you see other people swimming and that the water is not too high for a safe swim. Please be wise when making the decision. Have fun!
P.S. I would like to add the proper pronunciation of Bull Sluice- [boo l] [sloos] 🙂 …credz to dictionary.com. If you pronounce sluice any other way, you will probably be talked about once you leave 😉 fair warning. but don’t worry, it happens a lot. 😉
To check the water gauge, you can find the water level here on the USGS website. Make sure you are checking the bridge gauge, it will tell you water level in cubic feet per second (CFS) as well as feet and inches. NOTE: The online gauge above reads differently than the paddler’s gauge on the US 76 Bridge. Most paddlers refer to the bridge gauge. The online gauge reads about .15 higher than the bridge gauge at 2 feet, about .25 higher below two feet and the same at about 2.8 feet.