boaters on Chattooga Section IV have seen spectacular Stekoa creek as
it plummets several hundred feet into the main river above Stekoa
Shoals Rapid. A few may have even wondered if the creek, which is
one of the largest streams in the Chattooga drainage, is runnable.
If they ever saw Stekoa Falls, a half mile before entering Clayton,
it is unlikely they would put in for fear of similar drops in the
steep-walled gorges below. Even serious hair boaters cringe when
they first see Stekoa falls.
was leery of Stekoa Creek, but a paddling friend had run it several
years back and remarked that it was a good run. He said there were
two 25 foot waterfalls that we might portage. One of the drops had
seriously damaged his friend’s back when he ran it. I figured if I
had a small group of boaters, Stekoa could be a viable alternate
put-in for Section IV. So after a good hard spring rain, three of us
went out to try the alternate Chattooga put-in. The three boaters
represented each boat type. Clint Rinehart was in his kayak, Ricky
Bowman paddled an open canoe, and Will Reeves (that’s me) was in a
fifty feet below the put-in was our first big drop. Long and
technical the first waterfall probably dropped twenty feet, so we
figured it must be one of the two drops we were to look out for. No
one had problems with the drop and we continued down stream.
a short flat paddle we found ourselves above a truly large and
incredibly scary waterfall. Portaging this “spinal compression
waiting to happen” was no problem.
white water became much more intense below the falls, and we went
about a half mile before finding the next horizon line. Now I
thought we had already seen the twenty-footers, and I was right. The
waterfall we were scouting was closer to twenty METERS high and had
little if any margin for error. Ricky and Clint portaged on the
right and I carried down on the left. The left was definitely the
way to go on all the portages. I had reached the bottom, eaten some
lunch, finished my water, and hiked around the base of the falls by
the time the others were half way down.
we continued on we came across yet another horizon line. By now we
were getting really tired of these waterfalls that just kept coming
again and again. After a brief debate we concluded not to just
paddle up to the edge and see what was below, but to actually scout
this drop. It was roughly thirty five feet high and littered with
dangerous rocks in the middle of the river.
picked a left side line which worked OK but hurt pretty bad at the
bottom as I skipped across some shallow rocks. The right side line
taken by Ricky and Clint was much safer and enjoyable.
more flat water, the creek picked up again and plunged several
hundred feet to the Chattooga below. With only one really sick
rapid, the last mile was very enjoyable.
took only three hours to run without any prior scouting and put us
right above Stekoa Shoals rapid on the Chattooga. From here we had a
delightful run of five falls at around 2.4′.
those into creek runs, Stekoa isn’t terribly difficult, assuming you
walk the really big drops. With only three portages (all on the
left) it takes only a few hours to run and you get to finish up on
Section IV. I wouldn’t run Stekoa any higher than I would run Sec
IV, not for fear of five falls but because it would be a good cut off
for a safe Stekoa run.
put-in for Stekoa is on Wolf Creek Road, which is off US 76 on the
way to the bridge. The water quality was similar to the Cartecay and
the shuttle could be shorter if you took out at Camp creek and
skipped five falls.
From The Eddy Line, July 1996