things in life take two (or more than one) tries (or attempts) before
you can really decide if you like them. Examples from my experience
are eating oysters, opera and helicopter skiing. There are some
notable exceptions, with sex being my personal favorite.

latest case for me was the Cheoah River. The first recreational flow
was on September 17 and you can read details of this run in my report
of September 19, 2005. The announced water release was 1000 cfs which
should have produced class IV/IV+ rapids. A mandatory bus shuttle was
set up from the Robbinsville High School to avoid traffic and parking
problems. All this was being coordinated by the US Forest Service
(government), TAPOCO Power (regulated corporation) and American
Whitewater (volunteers). Well, with such a snafu ripe environment,
Murphy’s Law kicked into overtime. Remember, Murphy said if things
CAN go wrong, they WILL go wrong. In this situation, Murphy
was an optimist

500 paddlers from as far away as Oregon, Idaho and Michigan showed
up. Only one school bus was available for the hour long shuttle, so
John and I were the last two squeezed into the third shuttle at
eleven a.m. Our friends arrived late and didn’t get on the river
until mid afternoon.Then the guy turning the wheel to open the flood
gates must have miscalculated and poured 2000 cfs into the tiny
streambed. He must have realized it was too much and cut back to
about 1500 cfs later that morning. This water volume transformed the
Cheoah into an honest class V torrent of blind drops and huge holes.
Imagine the swollen current rushing (or roaring) down a very narrow
channel, often dropping at over 100 feet per mile. The Cheoah has
been dry for 75 years, so it was clogged with brush and (there were)
almost no calm spots or eddies to rest or scout.

of us had ever been on this river and would have liked to stop and
scout or even portage some rapids. But the steep banks, thick scrub,
poison ivy, current velocity and lack of eddies forced us to run
rapids blind. Twice I chose the wrong line and had violent learning
experiences. Fortunately, I was able to roll back up both times with
only minor scratches and bruises. Half our group swam and only four
of six completed the run. Peter lost both his boat and paddle.
Bryant’s canoe was wrapped around a tree and they couldn’t retrieve
it until the next day.

to say, I had doubts about returning to the Cheoah for the next
release on October 1. Didn’t think I could stand another learning
experience. I fired off a few nasty emails about possible sabotage on
the water level. Most of the paddlers (admittedly all experts)
replied that they loved the high water and to stop bitching. Hey,
there are no guarantees in paddling. Any time you get on a river, you
take your chances. But Kevin Colburn, Access Director at American
Whitewater, did seem to understand my point and said he would
communicate with the power company. Knowing some of the places to
avoid and safe lines, and hoping that TAPACO could get their act
together and provide the actual amount of water they promised,
convinced me to try again. Actually, my paddling buddies said if I
wimped out, they would replace me with one of those young, hotshot
lady boaters.It may be just a matter of time before I am supplanted
anyway, but I figured we at least knew many places to avoid and some
of the lines, so I found myself returning to the Cheoah for a do

time all six of us drove up Friday so we could get an early start.
John had some friends camping near the take-out who were not
paddling, so we did our own shuttle.This first section has few
rapids, so we entered the river at Joann’s Store about a mile or so
down from the official putin. Of course, this gave little warm up,
and we immediately entered some of the most technical white water in
the most narrow part of the river. Fortunately, TAPOCOPower got the
water release close to the amount promised at about 1150 cfs. This
gave us very technical class IV/IV+, which we all agreed was not as
pushy and intense as the higher volumes.

we soon found out the river became less forgiving of mistakes, as
more rocks were exposed.Within the first mile, Doug broached on a
rock amidst some bush. When he pulled into an eddy with me, his hand
was bleeding freely from an open flap on his knuckle. He wisely
decided to take off and said he would take my camcorder to video us
at Bear Creek Falls, AKA The Big Gun. The first big drop is a river
wide ledge which is best (actually safest) to run far right over a
five or six foot drop through a big hole. Each boater ahead of me
disappeared off the ledge. I held my breath until I saw a paddle held
upright to signal all clear for next.The next serious section was
called Take-out Rapid, where Bryant’s canoe fell into the hole
sideways and he had to swim out. We herded his boat into calm water
on the right side. Bryant stood under his canoe, lifted it out of the
water to drain and tossed it upright.

pulled out on river right above the class IV approach to Bear Creek
Falls. I wanted to scout at this level before deciding whether to
run. At this water level ,the far left ledge was dry but the vertical
drop looked more like twelve feet. Several kayaks still ran the
single drop on center left, but water seemed very shallow at the
bottom.The most popular route was the far right chute which had two
holes, one midway and other at bottom. Several boats were flipped in
one or both and it looked like a lot of bodies were bouncing off

said he was inspired and wanted to run the Big Gun. I had just about
convinced myself to try it when I noticed a blonde lady waving to the
ranger from her car across the street. I swore I saw a mummy sitting
in the passenger seat, so I followed the ranger for a better look.The
mummy turned out to be a shirtless guy with almost his entire head
wrapped in gauze. The left side of his face was completely soaked
with blood, which was dripping off his chin onto his chest and lap.
It seems he had flipped at the Big Gun, smashed his head on a rock
and swam. They wanted the ranger to radio downstream to see if anyone
had retrieved his kayak. I walked back to Doug and told him I would
portage this rapid. Bryant’s open boat got swamped in the entrance
rapid.  He missed the right side chute and was swept between two
guard rocks over the double drop. The run out current flipped his
canoe but he rolled and paddled behind a rock to bail. The bank
vultures clapped and roared in approval.

came through with a clear line and John ran the double drop on
purpose, looking good. I set up the video to take Peter and Doug, and
waited and waited. A few empty kayaks washed over the falls but I
didn’t see any swimmers.A paddler came running down the road yelling
for a rope, so I ran upstream to help. I saw Peter standing in waist
deep water behind a rock about ten yards offshore. The current was
too swift for him to get to shore.  Doug was sitting in his
kayak below, helpless and blowing his whistle in frustration. At that
moment, Nolan Whitesell and Sudi Lenhart were driving up from the
take-out and stopped to ask me how my day was going. I yelled for
them to pull over and get a rope.

Peter finally staggered up the bank, he looked pretty beat up, with
bloodshot eyes and head bruises. Doug signaled he still wanted to run
the falls. Peter went looking for his boat, while I videoed Doug make
a clean redeeming route off the right side. He immediately took out
to help Peter find his boat and said they would meet us at the

wanted to continue, but didn’t see any of our group and knew I
couldn’t paddle alone. Then Robby Hansen and some other hot paddlers
pulled up and said I could hook up with them. We started down the far
left channel to avoid a river wide hole, but had to cut back right to
avoid a roadblock of rocks. A half mile down, I ferried behind some
brush and was delighted to see the rest of my group. They were
chasing Peter’s kayak, when Bryant’s canoe was pinned at the rock
jumble.When Ricky saw Bryant swimming and the nose of his canoe
sticking straight up between some rocks, he didn’t know what to do.
They eventually got Bryant reunited with his boat, put Peter’s kayak
on the bank, and then hung out until I came. What great friends to
wait almost thirty minutes for me.

last two rapids were the most technical, but we followed Brandon and
Mike and all did well. We stopped below to watch a kayak pin on the
rocks we had just missed. The boat flipped as it washed off. We saw
several roll attempts, then the head of a swimmer. She swam to the
bank and climbed out while her group chased her boat. At the
take-out, many groups arrived either towing empty boats or carrying
lost paddles. We all agreed that while the water level was less
intense than before, the river was more punishing of mistakes this
time. More rocks to hit and pin on. A lower water release would
probably be too bony and dangerous. I liked 1000 cfs and did well.
But truth be told, I’d probably like to try it again at the pushy1500
cfs level, now that I know the lines. Of course, I’ll deny I ever
said that.

Hank Klausman October 8, 2005.