Haw, North Carolina, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III (for normal flows)|
|HAW RIVER NEAR BYNUM, NC|
|usgs-02096960||1001 - 12000 cfs||II-III||06h38m||252 cfs (too low)|
Logistics: From Highway 64 MP 387 (the river right side of bridge across the Haw River) turn south on Foxfire Terrace. Take an immediate left on River Access Road and follow it 0.3 miles to the boat landing downstream of the highway bridge. To reach the take-out head back out to Foxfire Terrace and continue south 0.5 miles and turn left on Dee Ferrell Road. Follow this 0.7 miles and turn left on Hanks Chapel Road. Take this 1.0 mile and then turn left on a gravel road which takes you 0.8 miles to the US Army Corps of Engineers Robeson Creek access on Jordan Reservoir. Paddlers have reported vehicle break ins at the public access sites.
This section of the Haw is the most popular run in the Raleigh/Durham area of the Piedmont, where a geological phenomenon called the "fall line" has created rapids in a dozen or so local creeks and rivers. It's a short class II/III run with some good playspots that paddlers know as the Lower Haw. The run is enjoyed by those who want to get their evening whitewater fix after work and is a great place to meet local paddlers on weekday evenings after a good storm.
Most of the action takes place in the first half mile or so downstream of the Highway 64 bridge. You have a lot of river to work with but most of the action is to river right. At lower flows the width becomes a problem as the flow spreads out among numerous rocky channels. At higher flows this short little run is a surfers paradise. There are a couple really nice waves that can provide hours of enjoyment.
The first fun wave is within 200 yards of the put-in in at Lunch Stop rapid which is along river right. As you continue downstream and move back towards the center of the channel you'll find yourself in Ocean Boulevard. Continuing on, the most significant drop on the run provides some of the best action. Head back over to river right for Gabriel's Bend, a class III, which is recognized by a large rock outcrop on river right. Hop in and show your stuff or grab an eddy and enjoy the show. You can see the flatwater of the reservoir downstream but you still have one last little bit of whitewater with options to the right, center, or left depending on flows. The center route through The Maze is always an option and at higher flows you can also check out Moose Jaw Falls on the right. A final option to the far left is Harold's Tombstone. Once the rapids end, you're on the reservoir. It's only about a 5-10 minute paddle down to the Robeson Creek access ramp.
At higher water this section gets considerably more difficult with huge standing waves and it effectively becomes one continuous section of whitewater. Inexperienced paddlers have been known to get into trouble on this section. At high flows the river is running through the trees and numerous islands create a network of passageways with plenty of strainer hazards. Rescue can be challenging although you will likely be able to collect up gear once you hit the reservoir.
Sadly, the last half of this run was lost with the construction of Jordan Reservoir in the 1980's. Some of the older guidebooks (see Nealy's) describe the rapids including one of the best ender spots in the country (remember this was the 80's) that has since been buried under water and silt from the reservoir.
with contributions from: John Fisher, Robert Martin, Tom O'Keefe, and Jim Wei
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.4||Three Foot Falls||II|
|0.5||Rapid above Gabriel's||II+|
|1.3||Robeson Creek Canoe Access||N/A|
The standard put-in is on river right just downstream of the US 64 bridge. When the river is running the parking lot will be full of boaters.
Standard entry is to slide down the roots on the bank into the river below some trees.
Easier put-in is to walk down to the side creek just below the parking lot. You can put-in easier here and then paddle down a few yards to the river.
Lunchstop is the first significant rapid after the put-in. The river right channel swings left around rocks that jut out from the bank. The river drops over a few small ledges that make good playspots for sidesurifng and front surfing when the flow is up over 2,000 cfs.
Rocks then jut out from the left side bank on the right channel and the river swings around them. At the bottom of this small drop is a long, flat wave that is good for surfing above about 1,500 cfs.
Below this is a rock that is out of the water at levels below about 2,500 cfs. Above 2,500 cfs the downstream side of this rock forms a great wave hole. You can do lots of playing here. Front surf, spin, sidesurf, enders, limited only by your ability and the water level. Best level here is around 5,000 cfs, IMO.
Big pool below here and a giant eddy that you can use to get back to the flat wave. This allows you to ride the 2nd half of the rapid until you get tired. Save some energy for the rest of the run!
Above 6,000 cfs or so Lunchstop pushes Class III levels as the different parts all blur together.
After Lunchstop, find a break in the trees and ferry over to the river left channel. You will find lots of waves here. At lower levels these are too small to get much play on. With more water, the waves get bigger and provide lots of small spots to surf, spin, etc., etc.
At levels above about 1,500 cfs, keep an eye on the island in the middle of the river. At the end of this island you have a decision. Either keep boogying down the waves of Ocean Boulevard or ferry over to an eddy at the bottom of the island and attain up to the river right channel to run Three Foot Falls.
Calling this a waterfall is a bit of a stretch but this is a river in the Triangle.
Three Foot Falls is on far river right and provides a drop of about three feet into a pool. At lower levels there is only one channel. At medium levels there is a left channel and a right slot. At higher levels these merge into a single channel.
At any rate, line up your boat roughly parallel to the current and get a little more speed than the current and enjoy! One of the few good spots on the river to practice Boofing.
At lower levels you can sidesurf the main channel or try to get enders. At medium levels the smaller slot is good for the same. At high water you can still play in the curtain but beware as it gets really sticky. At flood this drop becomes a monster hole!
Don't have a name for this one but it is fun. At the end of Ocean Boulevard and Three Foot Falls is a fun rapid.
Rocks split the river right channel in two. Both sides are fun but the right has more play spots. After sliding into the right side of the rocks, run a small ledge and then catch an eddy behind a large rock. From here you can move back into the ledge to practice side surfing and spins. You can play here at almost any level but it starts to get retentive around 3,000 cfs.
Once you finish, peel out and run the rest of the drop, which is a ledge formed by small boulders. There is a large eddy below here to pick up the pieces and rest before Gabriel's Bend.
This entire rapids starts to push Class III around 6,000 cfs as some of the eddies disappear and it becomes continuous.
Gabriel's Bend is the signature rapid on the Lower Haw. It has a little bit of everything at the right level to make everyone happy.
After a pool below the previous rapid, a bluff rises above the river right bank. Approach this rapid on the far right. You will notice that the river disappears around a bend and you cannot see the entire rapid from the top. What you can see is a rock in the middle of the channel. Aim for the eddy just below this rock. If you catch this eddy, you can then look behind you to see the rest of the rapid below. From this eddy (or if you miss it), ferry river left into another eddy. From the river left eddy you have endless choices to make.
If the rapid looks intimidating, skirt the meat of it on the left, catching eddies as you go down.
If you are looking for a challenge, ferry over to the micro eddy on river right.
From this small eddy you can catch a sweet, steep upper wave at medium levels and up. You can also line up to boof the big rock below at levels over about 2,500 cfs. This is another good place to practice your boof technique. At levels over about 6,000 cfs you want to make sure you boof the ledge because the hole below it gets sticky.
Below this you will see the bottom wave at Gabriel's bend. This wave is frequently in use. Either wait for an opening or move over to river right to allow those playing to keep their ride going!
After all of this, move over to the left and catch the big eddy. Either take a rest or get in line to play the wave.
Above about 3,500 cfs Gabriel's Bend pushes Class III+ as catching eddies becomes harder and the waves and holes get bigger. Above 9,000 cfs it pushes Class IV as some of the eddies disappear and a couple of the holes get nasty.
Moosejaw Falls is a slanting, bumpy drop of 5 to 6 feet on river right. Below about 2,500 cfs it is really bumpy and the piton potential outweighs the fun factor - try the Maze instead. Above 3,000 cfs or so it starts to smooth out a bit and becomes more fun. There are several routes through here. The more standard line is in the center of the drop. Line up with a bit of right angle and bang on down. With a little more water, on far river right you can try the "creek line" which is a bit more technical, requiring some turning in a tighter slot between rocks. At higher water this rapid becomes a lot of fun as the water channeled through Moosejaw creates big reactionary waves in the pool below, effectively making this a Class III+. At really high water Moosejaw Falls becomes scary with a monster hole at the bottom.
To the left of Moosejaw Falls and a bit further downstream is "The Slot". At lower water, even further to the left is "The Maze". On far river left is "Harold's Tombstone"
The Slot is left of Moose Jaw Falls and right of The Maze.
This is a bumpy slot dropping 5 or 6 feet into the pool below Moose Jaw Falls. Really bumpy below 3,000 cfs. Even above that, keep your bow up to prevent smashing into the rock that creates a roostertail about halfway through the rapid. With more water it gets smoother and is quite a bit of fun. At flood it merges into Moose Jaw Falls and becomes a scary mess.
The Maze is to the left of Moose Jaw Falls and The Slot and to the right of Harold's Tombstone in the center of the river. This is the only good option at low flows (below 2,000 cfs).
The Maze is several hundred yards of threading through a boulder garden that doesn't have an obvious exit from the entrance. Best done the first time by following someone familiar with the route. At low flows it can be hard to find a route through. At flood it washes out and becomes moving flatwater.
This rapid is on far river left below Gabriel's Bend. It is scrapy below about 2,000 cfs.
This channel is rarely run because it joins back with the river below the takeout, requiring a paddle back upstream. That's a shame because this channel has an intimate, almost Nantahala kind of feel. The beginning of this channel has the namesake Tombstone rock. After that the river runs through a series of Class II rapids until you hit the dreaded lake that has buried many legendary rapids. During the recent drought, there were a couple of extra rapids in this channel, one with a nice surfing wave (before I could roll, much less surf!). If you go down this channel, stay to the right after you hit the lake. Once it merges into a single channel, take a right and paddle back up about 0.2 mile to the takeout.
After Moose Jaw Falls / The Slot / The Maze, there are several more Class I rapids. Just how many depends on the lake level. After you hit the lake, look for the takeout on river right just past where a creek enters.
Do everyone a favor and pick up a piece or tow of trash along the way.
Hike up the bank to the car and if time and energy allows, run shuttle and do it again!