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Expect Many Portages on West Fork Tuck (NC)

Posted: 04/11/2013
by Kevin Colburn

Releases are set to begin this weekend on the West Fork of the Tuckasegee (NC), however the river still has significant numbers of log strainers.  Scouting runs have revealed 8-10 portages, and many more wood pieces that pose significant risk.  Given the unusual amount of wood currently in the river, paddlers are strongly cautioned about choosing to paddle the West Fork at this time.

High flushing flows and limited wood management will be needed to re-distribute the wood into a pattern that is more recreationally acceptable, and more natural.  Flushing flows are likely given the maintenance activities at the powerhouse that will prevent diversion of the water for the next 8-9 weeks.  Flushing flows may also be planned in the coming weeks to facilitate wood management.  

Duke Energy has done an outstanding job preparing for releases.  The put in trail is 0.7 miles and descends over 450 feet to the base of several large unrunnable waterfalls.  The trail is an impressive piece of craftsmanship made of rock and dead trees felled nearby.  New parking areas compliment the run on both ends.   The West Fork will be a great whitewater run soon, but it needs a bit more time.  There will be many opportunities to paddle the West Fork this spring and summer, and for many years to come. 

  • If you choose to paddle the West Fork over this coming weekend (4/13 – 4/14, 2013):
    • Check this post for updates.
    • Be prepared for a put in trail that rivals Tallulah in terms of physical exertion.  Stay on the trail, don’t get tempted to put on upstream of the base of high falls (the second big waterfall you will walk by) and don’t cause erosion on this new trail.
    • Anticipate at least 15-20 portages and many more severe wood hazards.
    • Respect private property at all times.  This run goes right by people’s houses deep in the gorge.  All scouting and portages should be done in the river channel / below the high water mark if at all possible.  ALL riparian land is private.
    • Please put in at the official high falls trailhead near the dam on Lake Glenville, and take out at the official takeout at the powerhouse.  Both are well marked.  Note that Cullowhee Forest Road / Bridge are both private and off limits for river access.   
    • Plan on ferrying across the river at the put in and hiking downstream for 200+ yards on an established trail on river right (the landowner graciously allows hiking) to skip the first couple steep rapids and significant wood hazards. 
    • Even though the whitewater is largely class III and IV, solid class V skills teamwork are required to traverse the wood hazards. 
    • Know that this river is remote, and rescue help from outside would take a long time.  There is a trail that leads up to Shoal Creek Road that parallels river right for approximately the first half mile.
    • Please be careful.   

Update 4/13 (after the first scheduled Saturday release): Thanks to flushing flows provided by Duke Energy, the number of mandatory portages has declined to 8-9 and there are still other pieces that pose significant risk. Please continue to respect the private property of land owners in the gorge.

Update 5/5: Recent heavy rains have cause many old dead hemlocks, killed by the Hemlock woolly adelgid (an invasive bug that feeds by sucking sap from hemlock and spruce trees) to fall into the river channel. Boaters should expect to encounter new logs and wood in the river channel.

Update 5/9: Due to heavy rains releases have been cancelled, click here for more information.