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Difficulty IV-V
Length 8.4 Miles
Gauge WATAUGA RIVER NEAR SUGAR GROVE, NC
Flow Range 400 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 219 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 08/04/2015 5:41 pm

River Description


Carolina Whitewater, B.Benner

This is a fun one. Lots of good boat scoutable boogie water. Some good slides. A couple of large vertical drops. At one point in the first two miles the river completely disappears under a bunch of large boulders. The easy portage is river left (river right is someone's backyard). There are some undercuts and sieves to be avoided. This is a run that short creek boats were designed for!

There is an option of doing a short run from SR 1326 to the NC Hwy 194 Bridge. This gives you the top three miles of roadside water and a very easy shuttle.

Bradley - 2001

Don't miss the take-out. Just downstream lies Big Falls. Inadvertently running it could be way ugly.

Directions
From Elk Park:
Take-Out: In downtown Elk Park look for the signs to Big Falls and follow them. Take Little Elk Creek Road (SR 1305) to the river. First bridge over water you come to is the take-out.

Put-in: From Elk Park take Hwy 19 south to NC 194. Eventually you will cross the Elk. From there continue on to SR 1326. It will be a small turnoff on the right. Its easy to miss.

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

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Mark Mastalski
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15 years ago

Even at low water this is a high intensity run. Four of us ran this stretch on March 20, 2003 when the level was 32" below the put-in bridge beams. I would say this would pretty much be minimum. Keep an eye out for strainers, and undercuts abound. Along the first steep stretch there is a 3-4 foot pourover with a severly undercut rock on left-center and a log across the rest of the drop. Portage on the right or at low enough water you can portage the rock shelf which has the undercut. I call this one "Lost Lendal Falls" since my Lendal paddle slipped away from me while I was getting out to portage. Tight slots, 6-8 foot drops, and undercuts abound so be careful (did I say that already?). As the river begins a right turn you will see a house on the river right and a bridge over the water. Make your way to river left to scout/portage. This drop contains a class VI sieve on river right between two large boulders and a strainer at the bottom of the entire drop. There is an eddy at the extreme river right by the strainer but it is difficult to catch. Not catching it would bring ugly consequences. This section also contains an absolutely sweet long slide which begins on river left takes a sharp turn to the right then throws you back to the left and into a pool. Nice!

After the bridge a second steep section begins with even better drops. At the sight of an old mill the river drops about 12 feet into a sweet pool. Run left of center and boof a bit...no problem. Further down the river continues through a maze of boulders and drops. There is a severe pinning hazard on very river left where a screw-up can send you into the undercut rock wall which extends out from left. If you run this section make of three things: first, don't pin in the left slot which is made by the shore and a large, flat mushroom shaped rock; second, make sure you can make the slot around the wall because it is severely undercut; third, get ready to immediately take out on river left because a class VI drop is just ahead.

Take your time and scout what you don't know. Boat scouting this one can be difficult as the gradient exceeds 200fpm in a very narrow canyon.

default user thumbnail
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9 years ago

did it at around 500 and it was still very low

default user thumbnail
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9 years ago

josh lerner there are no mandatory portages and you can run the whole thing and take out in the parking lot at the convergence of elk river and elk creek(make sure you have an suv or something)

Summary of Gauge Readings

Boater's gauge is located on the SR 1326 river left bridge piling. Minimum is 5" below "0".

Another good indicator (as cited above) would be the Watauga at Sugergrove should be over 400 cfs and rising.

AFWS Rain Gauge for Avery County.

Gauge NameReadingTimeComment
WATAUGA RIVER NEAR SUGAR GROVE, NC
AW Gauge Info
219 cfs ℹ️ 01h01m n/a
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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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Matt Muir

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Kevin Colburn