Cullasaja - 3. Lower - Base of Cullasaja Falls to Peeks Creek Bridge

Cullasaja, North Carolina, US


3. Lower - Base of Cullasaja Falls to Peeks Creek Bridge (Lower Cullasaja)

Usual Difficulty IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 184 fpm
Max Gradient 300 fpm


Photo of Jeff Cook by Josh Werts taken 10/02/04 @ 4.05 ft.

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-0350056050 3.98 - 6.50 ft IV-V(V+) 7y162d00h21m 2.91 ft (too low)

River Description

Gauge Description:
Its been scrapped down as low as 3.6, but most like to see a bit over 4.0 to pad things out. 4.6 has been stated as the optiomal level. Pads things out and covers some bad undercuts. Its been run up to some pretty stupid levels.

The gauge is located at the SR 1620 bridge, near Vanhook Wayside Park and the take-out for the Upper Cullasaja.

There is also a gauge on the RT 1678 (Peeks Creek Road) take-out Bridge. One foot here is close to 4ft on the USGS

Some of the bigger drops are:
Double Drop
Next time
and Whale Tail.

More Info:
Just getting to the put-in of the Lower Cullasaja is a major workout.

First thing to do is park at the wide spot in the road that is the overlook for Cullasaja Falls. You'll be standing on the side of Highway 64 dodging cars, trucks and tourists. Carefully unload your creek boats (don't even think about a playboat on this one) and set them in a place where they won't get run over by passing vehicles, or slide 200 feet down the cliff to the base of the falls.

Get all of your gear together, and gingerly start your way down the trail to the base of the falls. Its only about a 60 degree slope. With a boat on your shoulder that qualifies as a cliff. Just picture the hike into Tallulah - sans stairs.

Someone always slips on the way down and loses a grip on thier boat. My advice is to quickly get behind the downhill side of a tree when this happens. A fifty pound boat doing about 60 miles an hour bouncing out of control down a hill can do quite a bit of damage. Another thing to be aware of working your way down the hill to the put-in is that most of those vines are poison ivey. Be careful what you grab onto.

With any luck you and your boating friends have made it to the base of the falls!! Check the first three drops for badly placed logs before you put on. Once you have made sure everything is good to go, get your skirt on the boat, get focused and peel out. Its about 4 strokes to the first class 5 drop.

From the put-in to the drop known as Whale Tail the river does not let up.
Below Whale Tale the river calms down to class IV for a little while, then class III+ boogie to the Peeks Creek Bridge.
The take-out is the bridge at SR 1678, Peeks Creek Road.

AFWS Current Rainfall Data for Macon County.
Check the Highlands gauge, 1824.

Gradients from Topo map
From the Lake Sequoyah
to Buck Creek:
1st 0.5 mi: 200 ft.
next mile: 120 ft.
next mile: 60 ft.
next mile: 120 ft.
next mile: 300 ft.
next mile: 60 ft.
next mile: 140 ft.

See also: Other sections of the Cullasaja:
0. Above the lakes (Class IV-V+)
1. Upper (Lake Sequoyah to below Cosmic Crunch) (Class )
2. Middle (Below Cosmic Crunch to Above Cullasaja Falls) (Class IV(V+))
4. Peeks Creek Rd (NC-1678) to Peaceful Cove Rd (NC-1677) (Class II(III))
5. Peaceful Cove Rd (NC-1677) to Fulton Rd (NC-1668) (Class I-II)

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-04 17:34:56

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0First DropIV+Photo
0.02nd Rapid - Double Drop.5.0Photo
0.0Eclipse5.2Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.0Next Time5.1Hazard Waterfall Photo
0.6Trash Can5.0Portage Hazard Photo
1.0Whale Tail5.0Photo

Rapid Descriptions

First Drop (Class IV+)

1st Drop on Lower Cullasaja

1st Drop on Lower Cullasaja
Photo of Tim Johnson by Adam Garrett @ 3.3 (Low)

Go thru a slot over a three foot drop, then take a right over a 6 foot drop that lands on rocks. There is usually a log or two stuck in this one to make it even more interesting.

2nd Rapid - Double Drop. (Class 5.0, Mile 0.0)

Double Drop on Lower Cullasaja

Double Drop on Lower Cullasaja
Photo of Tim Johnson by Adam Garrett @ 3.3 (Low)

There are a choice of two lines. The double boof on the left at lower flows. Or the double boof off the right at higher flows. The next rapid "Eclipse" is immediately below. Everything is undercut in this rapid.

Eclipse (Class 5.2, Mile 0.0)

Cullasaja Rapid #3 - Eclipse

Cullasaja Rapid #3 - Eclipse
Photo of Jeff Cook by Zoli Desi taken 11/28/04 @ 4.15

Eclipse is the biggest rapid on the lower Cullasaja. What you have here are three big back to back vertical drops, with undercuts & sieves everywhere.

Start top left. Drive right and do the sunshine boof off the river right rock shelf. Don't pin on the shallow rocks at the base. Then boof the next two 8 foot ledges that are back to back. The bottom hole is great for rodeo moves, weather you want to do them or not. There is a nasty cave sieve that boats and boaters have wasked thru between the second and third drops.

Next time is immediately below.

Next Time (Class 5.1, Mile 0.0)

Next Time!

Next Time!
Photo of Shannon Nicholson by Jeff Cook taken 07/04/03 @ 4.3 feet

Next time is about 75 feet down from the put-in. Its about a 15 foot waterfall. The right bank is an undercut cave in the landing zone. There is usually wood in the base. Boof right to left to miss the undercut. In the photo you can see Eclipse in the background.

Trash Can (Class 5.0, Mile 0.6)

Trash Can

Trash Can
Photo of Shannon Nicholson by Jeff Cook taken 07/04/03 @ 4.3 feet

A steep slide with a fin bisecting it. The landing zone is rather manky.


Whale Tail (Class 5.0, Mile 1.0)

Whale Tale on Lower Cullasaja

Whale Tale on Lower Cullasaja
Photo by Adam Garrett @ 3.3 (Low)

Blind from the top right, Last chance eddy top left. Three tiered drop, don't surf the top hole. Nasty sieve thing bottom right. Big boof off the bottom middle, don't get pushed right.

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