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


Cullasaja, North Carolina, US

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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

Eclipse


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

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
CULLASAJA RIVER AT SR 1620 NEAR HIGHLANDS, NC
usgs-0350056050 3.98 - 6.50 ft IV-V(V+) 3y284d23h46m 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

RIVER DESCRIPTION
Some of the bigger drops are:
Double Drop
Eclipse
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: Verified
Last Updated: 2006-02-11 09:15:02

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.

DUE TO RECENT FLOODING TRASH CAN IS NOW A MANDATORY PORTAGE! PORTAGE RIVER RIGHT.

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.


User Comments


2004-09-30 23:01:37 (3486 days ago)
Obadiah JenkinsDetails
the entrance to eclipse has changed due to flooding, several ill placed boulders will make it a
challenging new line. double boof, aka trash can is no longer a go. at 4.8' all the water still
pushed right into an undercut sharp protruding rock. a mandatory portage for anyone who doesnt want
to get slammed. portage river right. the lead in to whale tail is cleaner than before and still
good to go. be careful out there.

2004-09-27 21:15:38 (3489 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
cullasaja -- update... New

Forum: BoaterTalk
Date: Sep 27 2004, 21:42 GMT
From: unipaddle

this might have been posted already. many changes on the lower of mention. trees in 1st rapid. new
ODDLY placed boulders above ecliipse. jerry curl has adjusted its "jerry curl". most of
all TRASHCAN! this is now the ugliest rapid on the river. 5 foot sloping drop into pinny pillow
area with all the water washing to the right of the large boulder sending you towards a jagged,
overhanging, undercut, jaw snather of a boulder @4.1. it will probably be passable @ 4.5 and above.
wash out of trashcan leads directly into whale-tail with very few eddies in between. the nasty
reputation of the lower cullasaja just got worse.

2004-09-27 21:08:11 (3489 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
The Cullasaja ... New

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: cullasaja -- update... unipaddle New
Re: lower cullasaja BSK New
Date: Sep 28 2004, 0:39 GMT
From: ugadelta98

The Cullasaja is broken into three distinct sections (for whitewater boating): the Upper, Middle,
and Lower.

Upper: 3 Big drops at the beginning, several portages (including Dry Falls), some flatwater, a
little class III/IV, and then some solid V/V+ stuff from Nemesis and Bricklayer down to Cosmic
Crunch (which is realistically a VI).

Middle: Some Class IV boulders garden stuff below Cosmic Crunch, some class III boogie through
semi-tight slots, one small drop, two 8 foot drops (both IV's above 4.5), some Class III boogie,
T-Bone (a Class IV+/V) multi-tiered drop, some more Class III boogie, a mile or so of flatwater, a
small gorge with Class III+/IV moves (above 4.5 it is Class IV, and only gets tougher as more water
comes in), then some ledges in front of the rock shop; there are 3 more Class V rapids below the
rock shop, and directly above the big falls, but very few people run them- if you screw up and swim
you could end up flushing down over Cullasaja Falls (over 200 ft multi- tiered drop).

Lower: put in at the base of Cullasaja Falls; you have many Class V/V+ rapids for over a mile. The
famous ones are Double Drop, Eclipse, Next Time, and Whale Tale, but there are many more stacked in
there. It is a serious creek run. The takeout is the Peeks Creek Bridge.

I grew up in Franklin (live away now though), and have been paddling the Cullasaja for about 8
years, so I am very familiar with the majority of the run. I have paddled alot of the Upper, all of
the Middle (many, many times), and from below Whale Tale down on the Lower (we hiked in from Peeks
Creek- I'm not a good enough creeker to even consider the rest of the Lower still). That river is
beautiful, powerful, and dangerous, so be careful on it; I see alot of people posting on here about
it these days.

2004-09-14 20:36:01 (3502 days ago)
Shannon NicholsonDetails
Our group ran this last Saturday (9/11/2004) at somewhere around 4.6' on the USGS gauge. We've run
this section down to 4.0' and all of us agreed that 4.6' is the best level we've run it at so far.
Everything is a little more padded out. There is a small stick in the right side run out of First
Drop since the rainfall from Hurricane Frances, but it is easily avoided. Be careful on this creek,
though, because it is sick.

2002-03-03 19:41:15 (4428 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
ok, so on March 3, at 4:30pm, peeks creek was reading a foot, usgs was around 4.0 or 4.25; and the
gauge on the downstream bridge piling at route 1620 (where the USGS gauge is) was reading 6.9
Visually i thougth the level looked moderate on the upper and the middle, and stomping on the
lower. bradley

2001-12-27 00:25:37 (4495 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
From Clay Wright on the Perception website: Posted - Dec 12 2001 : 22:00:14
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So much rain, but
. . . Tried for Raven's but low water alternative Cullasaja proved a technical roadsite treat. The
put-in one of the most spectacular in the SE: just off the highway but down a steep, spray-swept
trail to the base of a 70+ foot unrunnable waterfall. Action starts immediately with a nasty s-turn
into a reverse Sunshine style left boof. Lots of impact, though everyone who ran it said it was
'fine'. Beautiful double boof left next, then Eclipse. Another Sunshine-esque rapid, Eclipse ramps
8' into a visible piton-rock. Only a tight right boof allows you to miss most of the rock - enought
ot soften the impact. The remaining technical slots should be scouted well, too. Next in the memory
was "Next Time" which at this low flow comprised of a mandatory right to left boof into a
shallow, narrow corridor. Sweet boof, all aces. Several fun boofs and a whale-tail later we were
scraping through class 2 boulders looking for the bridge. Cool run. Short, steep, sharp, sweet. For
added amusement, we drove upstream to the lake and ran the top cascades. This awesome series has
been on my list since the Wayne Gentry days and it lives up the videos for sure! The first drop
slides 10' but the 2nd 20' flume is only a boat-lengh away. You try and aim left or drag your left
blade as you rocket out of this one, cause a low wall off the right bank sends all the water (any
you, hopefully) into a 90 deg. left turn leading a 45 deg right turn down a 15' bounding cascade.
No video shot this trip, but Daniel D, Al G, Nate E, Tommy H, Pat Keller, Jason Hale and I
sessioned it so many times we could've used a time-lapse. Daniel's handpaddling runs were far
better than mine. nuff said. Anyway - another cool roadside class 5 off my 'to do' list. So many
more . . . but rain on the way! Clay

2001-12-02 22:53:31 (4519 days ago)
Josh BrucknerDetails
4.25' on the USGS gauge is probably about 3/4' on the Peeks Creek gauge. Wouldn't go any lower.

2001-11-26 12:08:59 (4526 days ago)
Josh BrucknerDetails
WARNING- 11/25/2001 There is a stick across the bottom slot of the first rapid. It looks like you
could run the right channel if you had more water than we did (3/4' at peek's creek bridge). There
was also wood blocking the top of the sneak at Eclipse and across a small drop just below next
time.

2000-11-12 06:34:27 (4905 days ago)
Matt MuirDetails
From Brad Roberts of Boater Talk: Very hard, dangerous, class 5-6. We break up the run into three
sections. Upper is from the lake to above the unrunnable falls. Middle is from below Nemesis to
above the 200-foot unrunnable falls. Don't miss that last eddy. Then there is the lower. 600
plus feet a mile. 10-foot pools followed by 20-foot drops. Its from the base of the big falls to
the bridge two miles downstream. Don't do the lower until you are bored on the Green Narrows.
Be especially careful around the drops called Eclpise (similar but worse than Sunshine) which has
nasty siphon/undercut in it, and 15 feet downstream the waterfall known as Next Time. After the
first 6 drops it eases up a little. To hard class 5, that is...... Be careful out there.
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