Nantahala, North Carolina, US
1. Cascades: FS Road 327 to 1310 Bridge
||IV-V (for normal flows)
Chan (Hairboatr) runs Chinese Feet
Chan (Hairboatr) runs Chinese FeetPhoto of Chan Jones and Wayne Dickert by Susan Jones taken 12/08/04 @ ?500cfs?
The Nantahala Cascades are a classic Southern creek run, when they have water. Unlike many
dewatered streams, the Cascades do run occasionally due to Whiteoak Creek. The one exception to
this was during the AW Test Flow Study and the summer beforehand, when the power generator broke
and Duke Power was forced to release the bulk of water in the Lower Nantahala through the Cascades.
This resulted in several days of high excitement for local boaters, along with countless injuries,
several dislocations, a good number of thrashings, and a few great boaters getting hammered. When
the Cascades rage over 450 cfs and higher, be careful, for they turn into one long rapid.
At normal water levels, the Cascades are a great training ground for intermediate creekers looking
to move up a level. It is completely roadside (although steep at points) and since it is short,
repeat runs are the norm.
To get to the put-in
, follow the road past the put-in for the Lower Nantahala
. At the fifth bridge, the
river will cross under the road and you will see the Cascades to your right. This is the takeout,
so set shuttle at this bridge. Roadside pulloffs nearly parallel the road and river, so use them
for scouting if necessary. Drive up the road a little ways and you will see the standard put-in at
Horns of God, the closest drop of them all to the road. If you get to Whiteoak Creek
, you have gone too far.
Here is an article by Kevin Colburn
about the Cascades
Test Flow Study:
Boofing Into the Future: A Flow Study on the Cascades of the Nantahala.
In 1989 I opened the AW journal to a photo of a guy named Forest Calloway running a big stompy drop
on the Nantahala River. This article was titled ÂNantahalaÂs Upper Cascades, Not Where NOC Holds
Roll ClinicsÂ, and was my first introduction to creekÂin. I was thoroughly intrigued with the
Cascades and with creekÂin in general. Some girl named Risa wrote the article, ÂhmmÂ, I thought,
Âshe must be a rad boater.Â I was 13 then and now that rad girl is my boss and making sure that
river flows is a big part of my job. American Whitewater is currently helping to drive the process
of ensuring a balanced flow regime on all sections of North CarolinaÂs famous Nantahala River.
The regular flows on the Nantahala that we all know and love are the product of a hydro project
that diverts water around a 10 mile stretch of river that lies dry most of the year. This section
of river holds the class 4/5 Cascades and the class 3 Upper Nantahala and is virtually dry except
when White Oak Creek
Perhaps not for long though. Just after Gauley Fest 2001, American Whitewater worked with Duke
Power to pull off yet another controlled whitewater flow study in the Southeast. Surely this was
one of the most successful flow studies yet, largely due to the characters that showed up.
Local boater of NOC fame, Bunny Johns, was DukeÂs consultant and did a great job at arranging all
the logistics and working with AW in study design. John Wishon, whose family has lived in the Upper
Nantahala watershed for generations, was one of the folks representing Duke Power. The Lunch Video
Magazine crew was there to shoot the video that is a critical part of the study. They did a
wonderful job that will help us show what a great resource the Cascades and Upper Nantahala
The unofficial Western North Carolina Resource Agency Rafting Team were laughing and swimming their
way down the Upper Nantahala. Adventure Quest was there to learn about river conservation and to
paddle as part of the study. American Whitewater volunteers and regional boaters were there to
paddle and objectively describe their experiences for the study. The many boaters that showed up to
paddle that were not part of the study were incredibly respectful and waited to put on until after
the study groups had finished their runs. And most importantly, no one got hurt!
I slept in a gracious boaterÂs basement and awoke before dawn for the study. I arrived at the
powerhouse groggy and might have helped give an introduction speach. I was still asleep when I
noticed the ice coating my boat and slid into the steaming lake-warmed water. We ducked through the
vegetation and did cheesey boofs, not to be confused with cheesey poofs, off the first 6 footer. We
rounded the bend to the V crack, a seldom run 10-foot vertical U ledge. We all tried different
things with similar outcomes, meltdowns through light warm foam. Just after the slot we rounded the
bend and lined up on the true cascades below the confluence of White Oak Creek.
The Cascades drop wicked steep through a roadside canyon and were still shrouded in thick fog. In
groups of six we launched off the 12-foot boof at ÂThe Horns of God,Â flew down the slides and
off the 10 footer at ÂBig Kahuna,Â skipped over the hole at ÂJunkyard,Â and threaded our way
through ÂChinese Feet.Â
Another group of paddlers put on the Upper Nantahala and made their way down that stretch, through
the fog. Many of the paddlers from the cascades study continued down the Upper just for kicks. We
did four progressively higher runs and as the levels got higher the Upper got more fun and the
Cascades changed in character from precise creekÂin to a big water romp. The last flow was great
for the Upper but was juicy enough on the Cascades that we decided not to study it due to safety
considerations. Folks still flocked to it for fun runs though, and there was a great deal of
carnage. There was carnage on the Upper too, at least one of the rafts dump-trucked and dumped out
some Duke Power folks and members of the previously mentioned rafting team. Those guys have too
much fun with their jobs.
All this wonderful creekÂin over 2 days was interspersed with filling out surveys, having
discussion groups, and meeting with AQ and the various other groups there to talk about the process
of dam relicensing. By the end of the second day the focus groups nailed down the optimal and
minimum acceptable flows for both reaches. The data is still in the mill but the group felt that
250 and 350 cfs offered two unique and good flows for the cascades. The 175 cfs flow was runnable
but below optimal and the 500 cfs release was fun but would exclude a lot of boaters. The group
felt that 350 was a likely optimal flow for intermediate boaters to enjoy the Upper Nantahala, and
that people would paddle it at 250. The 175 release was too low and the 500 release was not
significantly better than 350.
American Whitewater would like to extend a big thanks to everyone involved with the study, and also
to all those that avoided paddling the cascades those days to ensure a positive outcome of the
study. We could not have pulled it off so well without you.
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Last Updated: 2015-08-04 17:51:58