Difficulty III-IV
Length 2 Miles
Flow Range 1200 - 2700 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 2 days ago 1060 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/08/2019 5:15 pm

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.

Rapid Descriptions


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theshy one
15 years ago

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.

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Stuart Smith
16 years ago

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 water.

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.

Gage Descriptions

The readings above are for the Oconaluftee River, which is the next drainage to the south of Big Creek.

Lower Big Creek is almost certainly running when the Oconaluftee is between 1,200 and 2,700 cfs; it is generally running when the Oconoluftee is as low 850 cfs.

Once at the creek, confirm the level using the gauge painted on the river right piling of the bridge next to the picnic area near the confluence of Big Creek and the Big Pigeon.

1.6' minimum level
2'-2.5' optimal
3.0'+ high water creekin'

It is often true that when the TVA's Little Pigeon at Sevierville (not the same as the USGS's Little Pigeon at Sevierville) gauge is between 1,500 and 3,000 cfs, Big Creek is running.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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Stuart Smith


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190832 11/30/08 Stuart Smith n/a
1212179 05/07/19 Stuart Smith updated image position
1212219 05/08/19 Stuart Smith updated image position