Chattahoochee Raft Race

Chattahoochee Raft Race

Participants of the Chattahoochee Raft Race have a blast on the river, 1971.

Larry Patrick never imagined the Ramblin’ Raft Race would grow to such mammoth proportions. As a student at Georgia Tech, he thought it would be fun to stage a competition on the ’Hooch. WQXI radio agreed to help promote the “First Annual Great Chattahoochee River Raft Race.” On July 26, 1969, Patrick and his crew won the thirty-four-mile inaugural event in about thirty hours.

For the second event, the Coca-Cola Company offered free soda at the finish and a raft load of Cokes for the winner of each race class: battleships, tugboats, and rubber rafts. Spectators lined the Powers Ferry Road Bridge to watch 1,066 rafts compete. That year, the race course measured ten miles from Morgan Falls Dam to Paces Ferry Road.

Rafters compete in battleship, tugboat, commercial raft, and bikini classes, 1971.

Afterward, the event grew exponentially. By 1979, the race included more than 70,000 participants and 400,000 spectators. In response, the newly established Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area recruited twenty-five park rangers from around the Southeast for duty. The next year, however, marked the last event due in part to the unwillingness of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to sign a water use permit. In fact, the raft race’s popularity resulted in its own demise — a sad end to Patrick’s success.

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