40 years later, we can thank ‘Deliverance’ for helping launch South’s outdoor industry


The movie Deliverance forever installed the toothless redneck and “squeal like a pig” in the public consciousness. But it also helped inspire a businessman to open a rafting business on the Chattooga River. Here’s the well-written press release from loyal reader Kathi:

In 1972, four fictional Atlanta businessmen got more they bargained for when they headed out in search of adventure in the Appalachian mountains in the now-classic film Deliverance. The film promoted some less-than-flattering stereotypes of mountain people, but also inadvertently helped launch the South’s outdoor adventure industry, now thriving due in part to Jim Greiner, who started the region’s first river rafting business, Wildwater, after seeing the film’s crew on the Chattooga, on the South Carolina/Georgia border, in 1971.

At the time, river rafting was done exclusively in the West. The Appalachian wilderness was still mostly inaccessible¾leading to insolation depicted in Deliverance. Together with his wife Jeanette, Greiner, then a camp and recreation manager, took advantage of the interest he envisioned the movie would inspire to start a rafting operation on the Chattooga, bringing world-class adventure experiences to the Southeast.

The squeals heard coming from the backwoods are now likely to be expressions of delight from folks ziplining through the forest canopy or shooting the rapids on the rivers. Forty-one years later, Wildwater has expanded to four outdoor adventure centers: the Nantahala in Western North Carolina; the Pigeon on the Tennessee/North Carolina border, about 45 minutes from Asheville; the Ocoee in Tennessee; and the original Chattooga location. In addition to rafting, Wildwater adventure centers offer canoeing, kayaking, ropes courses, Jeep® exploration tours, and yurt camping. In 2009, Wildwater, now operated by Greiner’s children, Jeff and Becky, with Becky’s husband Jack Wise serving as CEO, introduced commercial ziplining to the Southeast, adding canopy tours to their four river-based adventure centers. The company launched the South’s first urban zipline in 2010, near downtown Asheville, making Wildwater one of the largest guided outdoor adventure companies in the U.S.

According to a 2009 Outdoor Foundation report, 46 percent of Southerners participate in outdoor activities each year, and most youth are introduced to outdoor adventures through their families. Outdoor adventure is one of the biggest tourism draws in Southern Appalachia, and Wildwater has created day-trip as well as overnight adventures that were once only offered in other regions of the country.

“This area offers unparalleled beauty and the chance to truly experience the wilderness,” says Wise, whose daughter Cricket is being groomed as the next generation to run the family business. “We give folks a chance to enjoy that in a way that’s fun, challenging, and accessible to all ages.”  Wildwater not only provides all equipment necessary to raft, paddle, or zip high over the area’s rugged scenery, but also to appreciate it from cabins or yurts equipped with beds, electricity, and many other comforts of home. It’s a far cry from the gritty Appalachia depicted in Deliverance 40 years ago thanks to the Greiner family’s continual innovation and commitment to showing visitors the best the region has to offer.

For more information about Wildwater or to make reservations, visit www.wildwater.info or call (877) 247-5535.

Image link for Deliverance photo.