Cue the song “Dueling Banjos” and get ready to paddle harder because a canoe from the film Deliverance has been found.
The last surviving wood-canvas canoe from Deliverance is discovered
In the Oscar-nominated 1972 film Deliverance, four friends—two of which are played by Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds—canoe down a fictional Georgia river before it’s dammed. The group faces a number of challenges, including some fierce whitewater that ends up splintering Voight’s wood-canvas canoe after he takes it backward down a rapid and gets hung up on a rock. Fun fact: the special effects crew sawed the canoe almost in half from gunwale to gunwale to make the damage more dramatic.
Warner Bros. had approximately a dozen identical Old Town 16’ Guides shipped to the filming location in Georgia, knowing they’d be destroying several in the iconic rapids sequence filmed in the Tallulah Gorge. The rest of the canoe scenes were filmed on the Chattooga River.
Two of the canoes wrecked in filming were cobbled together for inclusion in Burt Reynolds’ museum collection. The reconstructed canoe was missing both seats and a few feet in the middle and was later sold at auction. It was speculated that all the other canoes were either destroyed during filming or lost over time… until now.
Bill Dunlap, who was one of the founding members of the Georgia Canoeing Association in the mid-1960s, was loaned to the movie crew from his job at Georgia Power to coordinate water flow through the Tallulah Gorge. He also helped with location scouting. When production wrapped, Dunlap was offered the aluminum canoe Reynolds had paddled or an Old Town Guide that was never used in filming. He picked the Guide.
Dunlap had the canoe hanging from his living room rafters when Mark Holloway, who looked after the Dunlaps’ houses, took note of it. Dunlap gifted the canoe to Holloway, who is also an avid paddler, in August 2020. Old Town confirmed the serial number on Holloway’s canoe and sent him a copy of the build order showing delivery to Warner Bros. in Georgia in 1971.
While paddling, hiking or climbing in the area, you can see the distinctive geological formation now known as Deliverance Rock on the Chattooga River, or visit Wander North Georgia’s Clayton, Georgia store to see Holloway’s legendary 51-year-old piece of cinematic memorabilia in person. Just be careful not to catch Deliverance Syndrome—a term coined by locals to describe poorly prepared paddlers seeking to conquer the famous river. Nineteen people drowned on the Chattooga within three years of the film’s release.
Bill Dunlap, who originally acquired the canoe from the production, stands under the Deliverance canoe in Wander North Georgia’s store. | Feature photo: Courtesy Wander North Georgia