Fires
Creek, North Carolina, Advanced Early Spring Creek Run
Appropriate
for: Advanced
Months
Runnable: October-June or after rain
Difficulty:
Class III+
AWA
Numeric Points: 27
Gradient:
100 feet per mile average, ~200 on the upper section, 400 way up near
the top
Runnable
level: Min: 2′ (~400cfs ) on Nantahala River gauge near R’bow
springs, Max: Think seriously if it’s much over 3′
Hazards:
Very technical, long class III+ rapids, pinning potential, undercuts,
deadfalls, and strainers.
Distance:
3 to 7 miles depending on flow
Distance
from Atlanta: about three hours
Scenery:
Amazing
Scouting:
Possible from bank or eddies
Gauge:
Nantahala river gauge near Rainbow Springs


Hopefully, this will make
the April
Eddy Line and
y’all can think about doing Fires Creek during spring rainy season.
Hopefully, there will be a spring rainy season. We were lucky,
because a couple of years ago Will checked-out Leatherwood Falls near
Hayesville and saw that it emptied into what appeared to be an
interesting steep creek. So, when it rained late this February, he
suggested trying it. It’s amazing that even though Fires Creek serves
a large watershed, runs alongside a road, and is popular with
fishermen, horseback riders, and the locals, no one we knew had even
heard of it. If you’re the sort of paddler who does Little River in
the Smokies, Big Snowbird near Joyce Kilmer, or western creeks like
the Logan Fork, you need to give Fires Creek a try. If you’re like
Clay Noble and the Hawk and have taken-up paddling high performance
catarafts
like the Stinger, you’ll
find
it “interesting”.


Fires
Creek is a narrow, technical, steep creek that parallels a forest
service road, which allows easy road-scouting and extraction. There
are no individual spectacular drops like Baby Falls, the Snake
Trilogy, or the Upper Nanty’s Cascades, but this puppy offers between
3 to 7 miles of virtually constant hard class III creekin’ with only
a few calm spots. We had to portage 4 deadfall/strainers, including
one that had been intentionally cut to block the creek. None of these
offered particular problems because we were able to catch eddies and
portage, but you need to stay alert. There are also numerous areas
with undercut drops. Again, they offered no particular problems.

There
are a variety of ways to get to Fires Creek from Atlanta. Basically,
y’all need to get to Hayesville, east of Murphy (or west of Franklin)
on Hwy 64. Clay went up I-575 through Ellijay, stayed on 76 eastbound
through Blue Ridge, Blairsville, and Young Harris, then took Hwy 69
north to Hayesville. I went north on I-85 and took 985 to 441 to
Clayton (i.e., the route to Section IV). In Clayton (at the Dairy
Queen) I took 76 west through Hiawassee to Hwy 69, where I turned
north to Hayesville. Anyone who wanted a more scenic trip could take
Hwy 400 to Dahlonega and continue on 19 north to Blairsville, where
they’d take 76 east through Young Harris to 69 then north to
Hayesville. Once in Hayesville it’s easiest to follow Hwy 64 west for
3.5 miles (beginning at the Hayesville Hardees) to Fires Creek Rd. Go
right on Fires Creek Rd and follow it a ways until you come to a sign
indicating Fires Creek recreation area. This will be a road to the
left and if you go
too far you’ll cross the creek in 25 yards or so. This is a good
place to check levels.


There
is no gauge on Fires Creek, so when contemplating the trip check the
Nantahala River near Rainbow Springs gauge. It’s on an adjoining
watershed, thus is only approximate. If Fires Creek looks high enough
at the bridge, it is, and if it looks too high…… In any event, go
left on the signed road for about 2 miles to the picnic area.
Leatherwood falls will be very obvious. This is the take-out (it also
has a one-holer). It ain’t worth it to take out much lower. You have
your choice of put-ins and the road closely parallels the creek. The
first is about 3 miles upstream. There is an obvious turnout that
leads down to the road. It’s the second turnout, not the first. If
things are honkin’, keep on going until the creek looks too small to
run. Don’t bother going much more than 6 or 7 miles above the falls,
because it will keep getting smaller.


Submitted by Bill Reeves.