With the drama the film Deliverance captured, it's a wonder anyone signed up for a river adventure in North Georgia after the summer of 1972.
But they did — and they still do.
For decades, people have suited up for a trip downstream. Many were led by Payson Kennedy on the Chattooga River.
Now in his 70s and on the water weekly, Kennedy was a double in Deliverance.
Grainy photographs from the set show Kennedy, who was Ned Beatty's double; his river buddies; and stars like Jon Voight getting camera ready for the film adapted from James Dickey's bestseller about wilderness and survival.
"They started making the film without us. It wasn't until they had some mishaps on the river and lost a camera and such, that I think the stuntmen from Hollywood said, 'Hey, you need to get some people in here who really know the river and know what they're doing paddling,' " Kennedy said.
Sometimes he was on the rapids, sometimes helping the actors stay safe.
"Our job was to be downstream with safety ropes so we could pull the paddlers to shore before they went over the waterfall," he said. "There really was a 65-foot drop."
Once a hobby, the Chattooga River became a career when the Georgia Tech librarian and programmer left academia to create an outdoor adventure company around the time the film opened on July 30, 1972. From June 22 to 24, Clayton, Ga., and Long Creek, S.C., will play host to the inaugural Chattooga River Festival to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Deliverance.
Now Kennedy's Nantahala Outdoor Center near Bryson City, N.C., is a $15-million-a-year business.
"In the early years, growth was rapid and spontaneous, word of mouth," he said.
Georgia's movie-making industry has also taken off, in part because of Ed Spivia. He was on the set of Deliverance— which mostly was shot in the Tallulah Gorge southeast of Clayton, Ga., and on the Chattooga River — learning the industry and was Georgia's first film commissioner.
Spivia worked with then-Gov. Jimmy Carter to bring Hollywood here.
"He realized the problems he was having getting big business to consider Georgia," Spivia said. "He wanted us to get rid of the little red school house and dusty, sandy road image that Georgia had."
Today his Lake Lanier home is a museum to moviemaking. He has albums with newspaper clippings and lining the walls, photos of celebrities —John Wayne, Paul Newman, Ray Charles.
"There are a lot of people who would have liked to have my job, he said. "Including me."
But for Kennedy, "I have the padding bug rather than the filmmaking bug."
Deliverance was the only film he ever worked on.
And, what a defining film it was. The controversial thriller in which the 57-mile Chattooga River doubles as the book's Cahulawassee River still evokes intense emotion today.
"People were mixed about the content of the film," Kennedy said. "I guess that's my one complaint about the movie. They depicted mountain people of North Georgia in a very unfavorable light."