Descending into the Myth of Deliverance River

John Lane

Big water and big questions churn up the river made famous by James Dickey's Deliverance


"Having previously explored the river, Lane returns to journey the entire length of it, describing its natural beauty and danger as well as pausing to view it through the prism of Dickey’s book. . . . Lane artfully applies his poetic sensibility to the river itself. . . . Lane’s own writing and observations are good enough to stand outside of Dickey’s considerable shadow."
Publishers Weekly

"Lane’s book is a personal narrative that skillfully navigates the contemporary cultural and ecological history of its subject. . . . A writer who would obviously rather paddle first and theorize later, Lane prefers to let the river speak for itself."
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Before the novel and the film Deliverance appeared in the early 1970s, any outsiders one met along the Chattooga River were likely serious canoeists or anglers. In later years, untold numbers and kinds of people have felt the draw of the river’s torrents, which pour down the Appalachians along the Georgia-South Carolina border. Because of Deliverance the Chattooga looms enigmatically in our shared imagination, as iconic as Twain’s Mississippi—or maybe Conrad’s Congo.

This is John Lane’s search for the real Chattooga—for the truths that reside somewhere in the river’s rapids, along its shores, or in its travelers’ hearts. Lane balances the dark, indifferent mythical river of Deliverance against the Chattooga known to locals and to the outdoors enthusiasts who first mastered its treacherous vortices and hydraulics. Starting at its headwaters, Lane leads us down the river and through its complex history to its current status as a National Wild and Scenic River. Along the way he stops for talks with conservation activists, seventh-generation residents, locals who played parts in the movie, day visitors, and others. Lane weaves into each encounter an abundance of details drawn from his perceptive readings and viewings of Deliverance and his wide-ranging knowledge of the Chattooga watershed. At the end of his run, Lane leaves us still fully possessed by the Chattooga’s mystery, yet better informed about its place in his world and ours.

Page count: 224 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 9

Read more about the Chattooga River at the New Georgia Encyclopedia.


List price: $24.95

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John Lane’s writing has been published in Orion, American Whitewater, Southern Review, Terra Nova, and Fourth Genre. His books include Waist Deep in Black Water, The Woods Stretched for Miles, and Chattooga (all published by Georgia), several volumes of poetry, and Weed Time, a gathering of his essays. Lane is an associate professor of English at Wofford College.