rain didn’t arrive that Friday until dark-a.m., so we knew we were
taking a chance at not having enough water to go creeking. The
original plan was to go to Fires Creek in far Western North Carolina,
but when we arrived Steve Smyth’s tree root gauge didn’t look
high enough. It was running, but Steve assured us it would not be a
instead, Brian Swafford, Steve and I headed over to the Upper
Tallulah River to paddle the Class 2-3 section that starts at the
confluence of the Coleman River and ends at a bridge, probably on Cat
Gap Road where there is a tiny pulloff next to someone’s driveway
adjoining USFS property. The level was definitely good, and after
winding our way into National Forest property a ways we were able to
scout most of the Class 2-3 stuff roadside.
actually decided to launch a bit upstream of the junction with the
Coleman River confluence because it is no more difficult and gives
you a bit of time to warm up before you hit the lone Class 3 on the
run. We started off well, but it was a bit continuous and there was
some wood. I was a little nervous as usual because it was a new run
dodged rocks and found the tongues through some easy stuff until we
suddenly came up on the Class 3. It’s a gorgeous little rapid.
Nearly all the water in the river channels over to river left and
goes over two separate drops that drop maybe 4 to 6 feet over 25 feet
of distance. The river left bank is a shear rock wall and river right
harbors two dump-truck sized boulders separated by a dynamic eddy.
The second drop is split by a big nasty rock that was just slightly
submerged, with a pretty good hole on the other side.
had scouted the drop from the road on the drive up, and had decided
to take the line down the left side, right next to the rock wall,
avoiding a small wave hole on the first drop and charging hard left
to slide past the submerged boulder in the second drop. Steve went
first and styled it. Brian peeled out next because I didn’t quite
have my mojo up at first and he did fine.
finally peeled out high and paddled into the rapid. There are a
couple of dynamic eddy lines that form toilet-bowl like whirlpools. I
hit one with the stern of my H3 and had to turn a power stroke into a
brace to keep from flipping. Fortunately this wasn’t much of a
problem. I easily paddled into the left line to avoid the bad-looking
rock in the middle of the second drop.
were all stoked and smiling at the bottom of the drop. If the banks
hadn’t been so steep, we might’ve walked back up and run it a
second time. Next time I’m there, I’m going to catch the large
dynamic eddy between the two gigantic boulders on the right and go to
the right of the rock in the bottom drop. It’s a picturesque
pool-and-drop, boulders-andbedrock drop and is a lot of fun to run.
the Class 3, we continued on downstream to hit a few more technical
Class 2 and 2+ type rapids. There is one drop that is a river-wide
stopper hole . . . and I do mean riverwide. The hole goes from one
bank to the other and I don’t think you’d escape if you didn’t
paddle hard and keep your boat pointed straight downstream. If you
remember what the hole at the Quarry Rapid on the Nanty used to be
like before Hurricane Ivan, then this hole is similar in size but was
probably more retentive and could not be escaped either right or
left. Paddle hard downstream! I boofed the hole and Brian and Steve
punched it, but everybody had some speed up.
a few more easy drops we came up on the last decent rapid. It’s a
messy Class 2+ ledge that doesn’t have a clean line through it.
Almost all of the current drives into a rock shelf on river right at
the bottom, too. Somebody got turned sideways and windowshaded in
there and got a cold swim. He said something about hitting rocks
while trying to set up for his roll. Good thing he was wearing his
bibs instead of the usual board shorts or it would’ve been a cold
this, the river moves out of the Forest Service property and turns
into a long Class 1 and 1+ paddle. We were disappointed with the
abundance of houses, cow pastures, and rusted cars in the riverbed.
What had started off as a good forested run in the National Forest
ended up with miles of flatwater through back yards.
we headed back to the put-in to retrieve Steve’s truck, we decided
to drive upstream and see what we could see. We quickly determined
that we should’ve launched another quarter of a mile upstream at
the takeout for the Upper Gnarly section and probably should’ve
take out just below the Class 2+ ledge where the swimming occurred.
This probably only makes for a mile or mile and a half of Class 2-3,
but maybe you could run it twice.
note: The Upper Gnarly section of the Tallulah is incredible. I
couldn’t believe there were so many hairboaters up there running it
and nobody even died. It is a true Class 5, boulder-choked stretch of
giant undercut rocks, log jams and sinister sieves. I don’t think
I’ll ever be running that.
From “The Eddy Line”, February 2007.