Hatchet and Helton creeks were one continuous class I-II rapid from the Hatchet Creek Road stream ford, until the confluence with the Nottely, whose flow was less than 1/2 the size of Helton Creek at the confluence. Thereafter the gradient lessened and continued to decrease all the way to Hwy. 180. However, the lively action continued on the Nottely, which had several nice class II shoals. The water quality was excellent and the day in the high 60’s and very beautiful. The riparian environment began very beautifully in the national forest but became increasingly developed from just before the Nottely confluence to the take-out. The last third of the run was mostly through back yards but was still pleasantly shaded and attractive.
We had to dodge several downed trees and pull over about 4 or 5, but all were easily crossed. I paddled my flat-bottomed 16′ Buffalo canoe, which is like a Blue Hole OCA, draws very little water, slips side to side very well, and is easy to exit and re-enter. It was the perfect canoe for this type of stream.
It had rained 2 inches, mostly between 10:30 p.m. and midnight the night before. The Nottely gauge had risen from 266 to 3080 cfs. (8.05) by 1:15 a.m. and was at 987 (4.17) at 9 a.m. We had 727 cfs. (3.63) when we put in at 3 p.m. This was just adequate but a little scapey a few places on Hatchet Creek but was fine after Helton entered after two tenths of a mile and almost doubled the flow. At this level you could always miss the rocks on Helton Creek but had to work at it, making a continuous slalom course for almost a mile and a half.
We found only a few play spots, and none were very challenging. However, dodging rocks in the swift current and finding the correct route was a lot of fun. There was very little flat water in the first half of the run, and even thereafter rapids were always in view. Thus our pace was lively, and we were on the water only about 2 hours. I bicycled the beautiful 5 mile shuttle, mostly on Richard Russell Scenic Highway.
Paddlers were Chuck Wilburn, Liph Johnson and myself. We all enjoyed the run.