This story is featured in the August 2012 issue of Canoe & Kayak Magazine which can be purchased here.

Words: Jeff Moag
Photo: Trey Cambern

Photo by Trey Cambern

Photo by Trey Cambern

When Deliverance was in production in the early summer of 1971, only a handful of canoeists were capable of running the whitewater James Dickey had described in the novel. That short list included Atlanta boaters Payson Kennedy, Doug Woodward and Claude Terry, who happened to be friends with Lewis King, the real-life model for the character that Burt Reynolds plays in the film.

The Chattooga River soon wrecked havoc on the Hollywood stunt men filming the canoeing scenes, allegedly prompting director John Boorman to shout, "For Christ's sake, find somebody who knows how to handle this river!" Kennedy, Woodward and Terry arrived soon after to paddle the more difficult sections and train the actors to handle the milder drops. Here Ned Beatty and Jon Voight run Raven Rock Rapid on the Chattooga. They leaned upstream and capsized at the bottom of the rapid, one of many such incidents left on the cutting room floor.

Deliverance opened in theatres 40 years ago this month, introducing a generation of adventure-seekers to the possibilities of river-running. The film helped spark a paddling boom, and canoeing—particularly in the Southeast—has never been the same. Case in point: In late May 2012, Nathan Zumwalt (bow) and Burton Greer made the first complete descent of the Green River Narrows in a tandem canoe. After plugging the hole in Powerslide, resurfacing upside down and nailing a quick combat roll, the duo got a clean pass in Class V Groove Tube. "It was a blast," Zumwalt said. "That is starkly vertical terrain for a tandem canoe."

Read more about the Green descent on p. 24, and watch for Doug Woodward's feature on the making of Deliverance in the 2013 volume, Canoe & Kayak's 40th Anniversary Year. #CK40