By Robert Martin

Copyright © 2005, Robert Martin and Oregon Kayaking. No part of this page may be reproduced, linked, or copied without the express written permission of Robert Martin.

Prior to 1969, the Chattooga River area of North Georgia was an isolated close community that few people, outside relatives of the families who lived there, knew much about.

Then came the movie 'Deliverance' and the area changed forever. It became a wild, lawless place as thrill-seekers from all over the world rushed to this river to experience the excitement and beauty it offered. As long as your vehicle didn't pose a traffic hazard, you could camp anywhere you could set up a tent, free. This free camping and absence of law enforcement officials lasted much longer than it should have, and eventually the "outlaw days" came to an end. The Battle of Bull Sluice was one of the pivotal events that bought and end to the lawlessness and the free camping.

The battle was between the paddlers camping on the South Carolina side of the river and a group of heavily armed and severely intoxicated men on the Georgia side of the river. Although the paddlers were unarmed and disunited, Gary Gurkin, through his brave and decisive actions, rallied the paddlers to victory.

The party was going strong on the Georgia side of the river as the paddlers began to turn in for the night. The Georgians had a blazing bonfire and from the sounds of empty beer cans hitting the rocks they were just getting started.

The shooting started at around 10 p.m. with sporadic rifle and pistol fire.

By 11 p.m. the fire was so intense you could here the rounds clicking through the trees, ricocheting of the rocks and thumping into the dirt around the tents. All the paddlers were hunkered down hoping the barrage would let up when the Georgians ran out of ammo or started passing out. Then during one of the brief silences, when they were reloading, Gary heard the unmistakable sound of an empty whiskey bottle being smashed against rock. "That's it!" Gary raged. "This river is dangerous enough without having to worry about cutting your feet open on some Jack-Ass's whiskey bottle." With that Gary crawled out of his tent and into the night.

He started working his way down towards the river, using rocks and trees as cover. You see, Gary speaks Redneck and was quite sure that these guys were unaware that there were people in their line of fire and if he pointed this out to them they would stop.

When Gary reached the river within hailing distance of the enemy camp he yelled "Hey Ya'll?" The enemy camp went silent. "There must be a dozen campsites along this side of the river. Ya'll need to stop shooting over here!" The silence continued as the Georgians considered Gary's proposal.

Then Gary heard the unmistakable sound of six spent cartridges tinkling off the rocks. "They're reloading!" Gary told himself has he scrambled back to safety behind a boulder. As soon as he reached safety a fusillade erupted from the enemy camp. They were shooting into the treetops with everything they had. It was then that Gary went for reinforcements. He drove around for two hours in search of a pay phone.

He had to drive almost to Clayton before he found a phone. He called the Rabun County Sheriff's Dept. and told them his story. "We're bringing those guys in now." the deputy said. "Another camper called us an hour ago. He told me someone went down to ask them to stop and got shot at." "That would be me." Gary replied. "I don't think they were trying to hit me.." he added. The deputy said "Would you mind coming down to the county jail and identifying these guys?" Gary agreed and continued on to the Rabun County Jail where he met the Sheriff.

"These boys are from Atlanta" the Sheriff said. "We don't have any trouble with the local boys. They know better." He bought Gary to a jail cell that held the perpetrators. "These are the guys we picked up, do you recognize any of them?"

Gary looked in the cell and said: "What the hell happened to 'em?" The men were so badly beaten that even if Gary had gotten a good look at them he wouldn't have recognized them.

"Well, they resisted arrest.." the Sheriff replied.

Gary told the Sheriff that he was sorry but it was too dark and they were across the river from him. He quickly left the Rabun County Jail hoping to never return.

Thus the battle ended along with an era... but a legend was born.


1) The Battle actually took place at Sandy Ford but Bull Sluice has a better ring to it.

2) Gary Gurkin is a wilderness/whitewater canoeist who has trekked extensively throughout the US and Canada. It is said that you can still see his claw marks on the rocks in Right Crack. He also has a good sense of humor. His only comment after reading this story was, "That's the battle of B.S. alright."