Want to plan your own canoeing adventure down the Cahulawassee River? Before you start scouring any maps, we should probably point out that the Cahulawassee is actually a fictional waterway. Instead, the site used to film most river scenes was the Chattooga River in northeastern Georgia.
A 10-mile stretch of the river south of Earl’s Ford Road was used for many of the river shots. However, the site is just as hard to access as it appears in the film, so you’ll need to travel a fair way off the beaten track to get there. It’s also home to some extreme rapids — many canoeists and kayakers have died here since Deliverance was filmed — so the safest option is to stay out of the water.
The good news is that several other Deliverance locations are found nearby. The calm surroundings of Tallulah Gorge, which the three remaining friends reach after Drew’s death, is around 30 miles away. Lake Jocassee, which makes an appearance at the end of the film, is found across the border in South Carolina.
If you want to find out where some of the best scenes in Deliverance were filmed, check out our guide to some of the movie’s most iconic locations below.
Director John Boorman originally approached Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando for the role of Lewis, but both wanted too much money for the role.
The friends get their first taste of the rapids scene in Deliverance
Earl’s Fords Road
After navigating the backcountry roads and meeting a few of the locals, Lewis, Drew, Ed, and Bobby finally make it to the river. They’re excited to finally be getting their adventure started. “There it is. The real thing,” says Lewis, preparing to take to the water.
The men then hop into their canoes, Lewis and Bobby in one and Drew and Ed in the other, and set off down the river. Lewis is clearly an experienced canoeist, but the other three take a while to get the hang of it. But they figure out the basics quickly and are soon taking on a set of intimidating rapids. “This is some kind of all right, huh?” exclaims Ed.
As mentioned above, many of the best scenes in Deliverance were filmed on the Chattooga River, which makes up part of the border between Georgia and South Carolina. Though there are plenty of well-known sections of the river, the scenes in rapids from the film were shot at sites like Screaming Left Turn and one feature that has now come to be known as Deliverance Rock. You’ll find them on the section south of Earl’s Fords Road, but just remember that this river is definitely not for the faint-hearted.
Ed searches for Drew scene in Deliverance
Having survived their run-in with the violent river rapids, our crew of adventurers is a shambles. Lewis has a broken femur and Drew is missing, so Ed and Bobby take to the water to desperately search for their missing friend.
“Drew!” they yell, diving into the freezing water. There’s no sign of him at first, but then they notice his broken guitar flowing downstream and soon find the partially submerged canoe. It’s quite clear that they’re now in a truly dire situation.
This scene was shot in Tallulah Gorge in Georgia, around two miles west of Lake Tugalo. However, the script called for Ed to dive into raging waters to search for his friend, but the conditions in the gorge are actually quite calm because it is dammed further upstream. To get the shots they needed, the crew relied on the dam operators to open the dam for a short period and let the water flow downstream.
Ed climbs to the top of the gorge scene in Deliverance
After, Lewis claims Drew has been shot by the pursuing mountain man. If they’re going to survive, they’re going to have to find a way to stop their attacker from picking them off one by one from above.
“If he’s up there and he wants to kill us, he can kill us,” says a terrified Bobby, but Ed replies that they’ve still got one very big card up their sleeve: “He thinks we can’t get at him. And if we can, we can kill him.”
Bobby is hesitant and doesn’t believe the plan will work, but Ed’s mind is made up. After plotting his route, he sets out to scale the sheer wall of the gorge and confront their attacker. What follows is a tense and at times terrifying climb to the summit, which Voight eventually completes.
This scene was also shot in Tallulah Gorge in Georgia. Even better, Jon Voight did the climb himself without the use of any stunt double.
Bobby, Ed, and Lewis make it to safety scene in Deliverance
Against all odds, Bobby, Ed, and Lewis finally make it to safety. Having survived deadly rapids and attacks from frightening mountain men, they’re simply glad to be alive.
They’re also exhausted, and a seriously injured Lewis is in a bad way indeed. It falls on Ed to go and find help. “I’m going to get help, Lewis. You’ll be out of there in no time,” Ed says. He then trudges wearily up a hill beside a church, while Bobby stays with Lewis and the canoe.
If you want to visit this Deliverance film scene location, we’ve got some bad news for you: it’s now underwater. These shots were filmed at what is now Lake Jocassee in South Carolina, roughly 25 miles northeast of where most of the river scenes were shot. The lake was formed by flooding the Jocassee Valley in 1971.
Hospital scene in Deliverance
Rabun County Health Department
Finally back amongst civilization following their harrowing ordeal, the three surviving men have a lot of questions to answer from the local authorities. After all, they’ve killed two men and lost one of their own, so it’s not exactly the sort of situation that can easily be explained away.
But when Ed and Bobby make a late change to their concocted story, they realize that they need to make sure Lewis is on the same page. But Lewis is in hospital under police guard, so they race to his bedside to try to clue him in on their new story before he can talk to the police.
Luckily, Lewis has been feigning sleep and hasn’t yet spoken to the police. But with an officer in the room, the men need to be very careful about how they get their story straight. “What happened on that last stretch of rapids, buddy? I can’t remember a thing,” Lewis asks cleverly.
A clearly devastated Lewis says he should have saved his friend, but Ed is quick to stop him. “How could you, lying in the canoe with your leg broken,” he cuts in. Now that Lewis is up to speed, the police won’t be able to pick any holes in the three friends’ story.
The exterior shots of the hospital we see as the taxi (ever so slowly) makes its arrival were filmed in Clayton, roughly a 20-mile drive west of the Chattooga River. You’ll find the building, which is now the Rabun County Health Department, on S Main Street.
The river is dammed scene in Deliverance
After the shocking conclusion to their adventure, Ed is ready to return home — and the sheriff will be glad to see the back of him. “Don’t ever do anything like this again. Don’t come back up here,” he says.
But before returning home, Ed stops for one last look at the river, and spots a crew of men digging up and moving coffins from a cemetery before the river is dammed. It’s quite a disturbing scene, and it’s followed by the return of the sound of dueling banjos as we see shots of rising water.
These shots of a dam being created were also shot at Lake Jocassee in South Carolina. The Mount Carmel Baptist Church Cemetery is even found some 115 feet beneath the lake’s surface.
From its dueling banjos to the infamous rape scene, Deliverance is one of those films that sticks in your mind long after the final credits have finished rolling. Much more than just a tale of survival, it’s also an intriguing look at masculinity, mid-life crises, and male bonding. Reynolds in particular turns in a memorable performance, and Boorman guides the action with typical aplomb.
Of course, the actors aren’t the only stars of the show. The Chattooga River, Lake Tallulah Falls, and Lake Jocassee all provide an eye-catching backdrop to the drama unfolding on-screen. So if you’re planning your own backwoods adventure, there are plenty of spectacular Deliverance filming locations just waiting to be explored.