It was one of those hot days that have been so characteristic of this summer. Brad Roberts and I couldn’t find anything other than the Ocoee to run, so we went on a hiking trip in the Lake Jocassee watershed. After hiking the Foothills trail along the Whitewater river in sweltering heat, a huge rain storm broke out and drenched us.
Brad wanted to see Drift Falls (aka Bust-Your-Butt Falls) on the Horse Pasture river. We checked it out, and leaving the Horse Pasture, we drove through Rosman. The West Fork of the French Broad passes next to the road; it was really up and maybe even flooding. A local outfitter helped us run shuttle, and we set off to run the West Fork with only two hours of daylight left.
The first rapid is reputed to bow-pin boaters in the top drop. Brad watched me run it first, a nice clean run of the first slide/ledge. I started to slide left, but had no fear of the next drop — it had only a small hole and my speed was enough to punch through it. The hole was, however, backed-up by a six foot deep pot-hole. The boat shot straight down and slammed to a hard stop on a chest-level rock.
The next thing I knew I was flying through the air toward a nearby eddy. My thoughts centered around the thigh-straps, which didn’t seem attached anymore. The boat surfaced behind me and I rescued it. Brad had an awesome line of the first ledge and landed far right on the bottom ledge, missing the pot-hole.
We waited awhile as I jury-rigged my thigh straps. Off again and running against the darkening sky, we blitzed the rest of the run. The extra six inches in the C-1 allowed me to boat-scout the remaining rapids with Brad close behind. The sun went down as we loaded our boats onto Brad’s car and headed home.
Two weeks later, on the 29th of July, I had dialed into the TVA BBS and noticed Highlands NC had 7 inches of rain in two days. The Chattooga surged to almost 4′ overnight, but had dropped to 1.98′ in the morning. I made some calls at 8:00 and found that a few people hadn’t already left for the Ocoee. Four boaters were up for a Cullasaja run and we met up in Clayton around 11:00. The trip included Will Reeves C-1, Chad Young K-1 Kayak, Ricky Bowman OC-1 Canoe, and Jim Moran OC-1 Canoe.
The middle Cullasaja is similar to the Tellico, with more technical rock gardens. The trip was a good one, with lots of fun rapids. The river has three steep stretches. The first one starts at the put-inand goes for about a mile. It includes two waterfalls and a big class V pothole-infested twenty foot drop/slide.
Everyone did fine on the ledges and rock gardens. Jim had never been on a creek before and continuously mentioned how much he liked not seeing crowds. The first waterfall had a bad hole and we all watched each other closely. It was the second drop that created problems.
Jim hit the drop with a lot of speed and a good angle; his landing looked good until a submerged rock brought his Viper to a complete stop. Jim then endered back into the drop, but not hard enough to get stuck in the hole. Chad, Ricky, and Jim all walked the pothole slide, Chad refers to it as “Pot-hole City”.
The second steep stretch has fewer rapids. It resembles the Watauga in nature, with steep boulder-choked rapids. The second steep stretch ends after only a quarter mile or so of good stuff, which is immediately followed by one last step. Everyone took out at the beginning of the last step because the river drops some 260′ in one drop at the end of the gorge.
We all hiked down into the lower Cullasaja to check out the bad stuff before heading home. The hike resulted in more injuries than the river had, with several cuts, poison ivy, and twisted ankles.
by Will Reeves
-From the Eddy Line, December 1995