The Laid-back Blue Ridge Resort

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Taking full advantage if its 34-acre location just minutes from the roaring Class III-V Chattooga River, the new Chattooga River Resort and Campground, features nine rustic motel rooms and more than 40 campsites spread along the shady banks of Long Creek. It’s a great home base for exploring South Carolina’s Oconee County, deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Dubbed the Mountain Lakes Region for rather obvious reasons, Oconee County boasts four lakes for boating, fishing, and scuba diving. The most famous of these oases is Lake Jocassee, noted for its many waterfalls tucked away behind craggy coves. Although it is one of the area’s smallest lakes, at 7,500 acres, Jocassee is ideal for scuba diving thanks to its deep, clear water and numerous wrecks, including a former girls camp that was flooded in the 1950s and now beckons to experienced divers from under 250 feet of water.

More than 50 miles of hiking trails wind through the county past pristine forests, rivers, mountain streams, lakes, and waterfalls. From the Chattooga River Resort, it’s about 10 miles to Oconee State Park and the southern trailhead of the Foothills Trail. Adjacent to the Sumter National Forest, the Foothills Trail is one of the state’s most rugged backcountry hiking destinations, but the majestic views of the Blue Ridge Escarpment make it well worth the effort.

Multiple outfitters provide trips down the Chattooga, including Chattooga Adventures near the new resort. Tackle the river’s roaring Section IV rapids – immortalized, for better or worse, in the 1972 film ‘Deliverance‘ – which swell in the summer. White knuckling over Seven-Foot Falls, Jawbone, and Sock ’em Dog is a local rite of passage.

When the sun starts to set, head back to the resort, where the spacious post-and-beam lodge has a restaurant (pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and more) and a full-service bar. There’s also an expansive courtyard and terrace with fire pits and two stages that host live music throughout the year. Motel rooms start at $60 a night and the $10-a-night campsites provide access to electricity, water, and a heated bathhouse. It’s Southern simplicity at its sweetest.

More information: The Chattooga River Resort and Campground is an hour-and-a-half drive south of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

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