Big Creek - 2. NPS Campground to Confluence with Big Pigeon

Big Creek, North Carolina, US


2. NPS Campground to Confluence with Big Pigeon (Lower Big Creek)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 158 fpm
Max Gradient 165 fpm

(MN) Boof at Lower Big Creek

(MN) Boof at Lower Big Creek
Photo of Mike Nail by Ted Cookson taken 04/03/05 @ 2.5 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03512000 1200 - 2700 cfs III-IV 00h57m 1800 cfs (running)

River Description

This was my first introduction to creek boating "Smoky Mountain" style. The runs here are similar to being out West on the steep continuous runs there. The lower section of Big Creek offers a great step up in steep creeking for the paddler looking to expand their horizons.

This trip could be combined with some of the water above the campground for the adventurous boater. Be aware, the 1.5 mile section above the campground is more demanding than the lower section of Big Creek.

Paddled Big Creek on 5/9/03 at a level of 2.6ft on the old yellow bridge gauge, while the Oconoluftee was running about 2200cfs. It was definitely different from when I paddled it at 2.8 on the other gauge at the park. Things weren't as "BIG". Good run though, I was glad to get back out on some of that Smoky Mtn whitewater!

For more info check out Chris Bell's Asheville Area Boating Beta Page. See also Upper Big Creek for serious Class-V fun.

StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2008-11-30 22:29:09

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
June 22 2004 (5324 days ago)
theshy oneDetails
I don't care what they say the levels need to be. I was on it Thurs. 6-17. The gauge said the
oconoluftee was running 700-725 that day. Caught a big thunderhead on the way in from Asheville,
did a quick run on the Pigeon, and 2 hours later the Big was running BIG! They say it got up to 3
ft that day. A friend I talked into it lost her boat and paddle. Anyway, 2 days later (Sat, the
19th) I decided to scrape down to try and find the lost boat. The gauge said that the OC ran 400
cfs that day. I was surprised to find all the rapids between the campground footbridge and the Mt
Sterling Rd bridge to be quite clean and still fun, but the closer I got to the powerhouse, the
scrapier things got. Point is, I believe that this summer may have alot of late afternoon creek
runs after thunderstorms that are so brief (and local) that they may not even show up on the
gauges. If clouds are on thier way, head to big creek and hope for the best!
STRAINER ALERT - Not far below the Mt Sterling Rd bridge is a rapid where the river equally splits.
The left chute fans out over most of the riverbed, getting shallow and rocky, while the right chute
funnels to the right, getting deeper and ending in a small drop above a 5 ft slot between 2 large
boulders. THERE IS A TREE STUCK BETWEEN THESE 2 BOULDERS!! It may not be a problem at higher water
flows, but it was there the other day. And by the time you see it, you may not be able to catch an
eddy outta there. Downstream, at the islands, the left chute strainer has cleared enough to run, as
long as you stay left.
March 2 2004 (5436 days ago)
Stuart SmithDetails
shortly after you go under the cataloochee road bridge (first car bridge you come to), you should
be able to see the local store on river left. just past it, the creek is split by an island and
rejoins a little further downstream into a stretch of flatwater. the creek is split by another
island after the flatwater and both sides have a large creekwide strainer across them. the strainer
on river right seems to be there for a long stay; one on river left is slowly giving away to the

took a look at it today at 738cfs - at this level you could duck and get under them but at levels
you could actually run this comfortably, they're going to be a problem.