Difficulty III-IV+
Length 7.2 Miles
Flow Range 350 - 1000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 28 minutes ago 153 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/03/2020 10:57 pm

River Description

Gauge Description:
There is a gauge painted on the US 64 bridge piling. 6 inchs below 0 is about as low as you want to go. The Rosman USGS gauge is the combined flows of the North Fork and the West Fork. Depending on which stream is putting the most flow in, 350 cfs is roughly equal to about 0 in the US 64 gauge.

The North Fork is a classic North Carolina intermediate/advanced creek. At moderate flows below 6 inches the majority of the run is class 4, with a big class 5 in Boxcar Falls. From Boxcar to about a mile below Submarine the rapids are continuous with lots of class 3 boat scoutable boogie water between the bigger drops. The run is probably a notch easier than the Watauga and a lot easier than the Green Narrows. With the right water levels and some creative shuttle work you can run the nearby West Fork of the French Broad on the same day.

Local Expert Harrison Metzger says:
I've probably seen you on the N.Fork since I've run it probably 75 times over the past 11 years. I can help with the rapid names. Also I think the size and difficulty of a few of the rapids may not be quite right. The first slide is known as Sandpaper. I don't think it is 20 feet tall. I would say more like 12 feet. Most local boaters call the left side of Boxcar "Blind Date." It is considerably meaner than the right. The first set of rapids below Boxcar is called Island Rapid. There is a huge log that creates the boof on the right. It can be avoided by threading through the boulders at the top of the island and running a set of drops on that side.

The next rapid downstream needs a name. This is the double drop with the slide into the big diagonal hole. Benner's old book referred to the rapid after this as Razorback, but I think that would be a good name for the big slide. I would rate this a III+ to low IV, not IV+ It is pretty easy if you catch the eddy on the right between drops and hit the hole square.

The next rapid downstream was called Razorback in Benner's old book and he rated it a Class VI for some unknown reason. This one is called Water Cannon and I would also rate it Class III-IV. I don't think it is 12 feet tall...I would say about 6 to 8 feet total.

The Clog, yes it is definitely class IV+ with some class V consequences. The worst is the sucking sieve that you have to cross above when moving left after the first 5-foot drop. This can be avoided by running through a tight chute top left, which puts you right into the large eddy partway down. This left hand eddy is a good place to set ropes and scout the bottom half of the rapid. The drop just below here tends to shoot paddlers to the right where there are numerous pinning possibilities at lower water. The hole at the bottom is called the Black Widow and it becomes a keeper at higher levels.

There is a significant rapid missing from the AW description, the next one below the Clog. It is called Vortex, a set of three drops. The first one, about five feet, is run on the left into a left eddy. The second, a shallow scrape of about four feet, feeds the main drop but you can catch another left eddy. The main drop is a series of holes funneling down into a 5-foot slot at the bottom (the vortex) with good eddies on both sides.

Below here is about a quarter mile of fun Class III boogie water to Submarine. There is currently a couple of large trees downstream just below Submarine blocking most of the flow. I hope to go in there soon and cut them out. Submarine is about 9 feet high. The best way to run it is over the slight roostertail at the top with a slight right angle and a strong final stroke to avoid the hole against the rock wall bottom left, which I call the "Closet of Doom." People who go in there tend to get worked and loose their paddles.

The only other comment I have is on water levels. I painted the gauge correlating it to the old Benner gauge which was on the old U.S. 64 bridge that DOT removed a few years ago. Like the Benner gauges it is intended to be read from the bottom of the numbers. So the bottom of 0 is zero, the minimum for a fun run. This equals about 350 or 3 feet on the Rosman gauge. It can be run several inches below 0 but it is not much fun and hard on equipment. I like to have at least 4 or 5 inches to run Boxcar because it gets so rocky at lower levels. Hope this helps.

Also see Chris Bell's Asheville-Area Canoeing and Kayaking Page.

Shuttle info:

Take out: You can take-out at the outfitters store at the intersection of Hwy 64 and Hwy 215, but most people just stop in for a quick gauge check.
The standard takeout is a wide pull-off on the side of the road near alligator rock. Look for alligator rock to be dangling over the road as you drive upstream. If the river gets out of sight of the road you have gone too far.

Put-In: The easy put-in is at the SR 1326 bridge. There is a large gravel area for parking. There is also a short put-in that elminates the flat water at the top of the run, and one large slide. Using the Alligator rock take-out knocks about a mile and half off of the run, bringing it down to 5.5 miles. Using the short put-in takes off another mile, getting the run down to 4.5 miles. The locals use that combo and
run multiple laps down the river.

Photo of unknown kayaker in Boxcar Rapid , courtesy of Julie Keller (www.juliekeller.com See Carolina Whitewater, B.Benner.

Rapid Descriptions

Top put-in

Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Located at Macedonia Church Road, the first paved road on your left as you exit the top of the gorge on N.C. 215. Putting in here involves about a mile of flat water and nice scenery. Not advised if the level is below 3"

Sandpaper aka First Slide

Class - III+ Mile - 1
A big slide, about 12 feet tall. Scout on the left. There are multiple routes possible. Named because it is really shallow even with a lot of water.

Short Put-In

Class - Mile - 1.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Using this put-in takes out a little over a mile and a half on the run. You miss some flatwater, some class 2 stuff, and the big slide. Look for a pull-off on the left of N.C. 215 about a quarter mile past where the road makes a sharp turn to the right away from the gorge. The large pull-off, usually marked by a big puddle, is the 1/2 mile trail down to just below Submarine Falls.

Boxcar Falls

Class - IV+ Mile - 2
A big nasty waterfall with two possible routes. The standard line is to enter just right of center and drop down into the sluice paddling to the right to boof off the right edge of the bottom drop. If you miss the boof expect to go deep. There is also a left hand line known as "Blind Date". The left hand line is more sketchy, as you must punch a hole and drive hard to the left to avoid dropping into the vortex where the two drops converge. Boats running Blind Date have gotten stuck in the cave under the waterfall; one boater had his eardrum burst when he was driven to the bottom of the river. The portage is on the old railroad bed on river right. There is a seal launch off the sloping rock, which is also a good place to set throw ropes and scout.

Island Rapid

Class - IV+ Mile - 2.1
After the pool below Boxcar the flow splits around a large island. The right side is a series of ledges leading down to an eddy on the right above the bottom drop. This drop formerly harbored a huge log that had been jammed across the river for years. However a massive flow of water from Hurricane Frances on 9/7-04 dislodged this log and it is now broached across the river below Submarine Falls. You can run the right side bottom drop either next to the island on the far left or a boof in the middle. Or you can still cut left through the slots at the top of the island and run the shallow slide on that side.

Typewritter, aka. Diagraslide

Class - III+ Mile - 2.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This 6 foot tall slide runs diagonally to the main current. There is an undercut on the bottom left. Above 3 inches on the gauge the hole at the bottom is stiff. By boofing right into the eddy behind the large rock on the right, you can turn and square up to hit the hole at the bottom. It will surf you out to an eddy on the right.

Razorback aka Water Cannon

Class - IV Mile - 2.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A big slide that is bisceted by a long fin of a rock. Not a place to be upside down. Watch out for a couple of diagonal holes on the way down and a very strong eddy line at the bottom. Awesome cliff on the left resembles the left wall below boxcar.


Class - IV+ Mile - 2.6
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The longest rapid on the river and one of the more hazardous, the Clog is a long boulder garden that leads to a riverwide hole at the bottom. It is named for a sucking sieve left of center below the first drop. You can run the first 5-foot drop in the center of the river, but that involves a ferry into the eddies on the left in front of the Clog. Our you can bang through a shallow slot top left that puts you on line for the eddies. These are a good place to scout the bottom drops. They can be run on the right or the left, but beware of pinning rocks in the center and right lines, and of a shark-fin rock sticking up in the middle just above the bottom river-wide hole, the Black Widow. It is best to hit this beast on the far right or far left.


Class - IV Mile - 3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A set of three drops. The first one, about five feet, is run on the left into a left eddy. The second, a shallow scrape of about four feet, feeds the main drop but you can catch another left eddy. The main drop is a series of holes funneling down into a 5-foot slot at the bottom (the vortex) with good eddies on both sides. Fun class III boogie water continues immediately downstream.


Class - IV+ Mile - 3.2
This 8-foot waterfalls traumatizes many boaters who get slammed into the hole and undercut cliff on the left. The best line is right of center with a slight right angle and a strong stroke at the lip, aiming for a rooster tail through the bottom hole. If you go too far right you will scrape off a shelf of rock and get slammed into the Closet of Doom on the left. Get a good deep breath before you slide down. Portage on the left.

Short (hellish) takeout

Class - Mile - 3.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A few couple of smaller rapids below Submarine a picnic table on the left marks the steep trail up to N.C. 215. The carry is Class V but when you get to the top you are only 1/4 mile from the short put-in at the power line crossing.

play wave

Class - Mile - 3.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
About a half mile below submarine is a small rapid marked by a cliff on the left and water flowing over an obstruction on the right. Right below this is a minor play wave/hole, one of he only play spots on the NF.

Crack pipe

Class - II+ Mile - 4.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
In the class II rapids below Submarine a double drop appears that is somewhat larger than anything since you left the gorge. The log that was partially blocking this drop has washed out as of 5/15/04. The PVC pipe that was sticking up has also washed out, but beware of future strainers since this spot seems to catch a lot of them. Avoid the left side due to a very undercut rock at the bottom and a small screw-up rock that will try to shove you into it.

Alligator Rock takeout

Class - Mile - 5.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The first large pull off on N.C. 215 as you are heading up the gorge. You will know when you are getting close when you see the road on the left and a cliff where locals have been dumping garbage for decades. If you ever see anyone dumping garbage, get the license plate and report it to the U.S. Forest Service and to the Streamkeeper. The takeout is named for the jaws-shaped rocks hanging out over the highway just downstream.


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Robert Maxwell
15 years ago

I've been keeping track of the correlation between the FB at Rosman and the Hwy 64 Gage for about two years. So far the correlation is:

FB@Rosman = HWY 64 Gage

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will lyons
15 years ago

If you run to the lower Alligator Rock takeout, beware of the rapid that has an island with a big rootball in the middle. Last time I was down there (about a month ago) there was a long in the right side making it unrunnable. The left side was sketchy at best, with a few logs. Probably not an issue normally, but GO LEFT! Otherwise, it would be bad, the log is totally across the current only about 8-10" above the water.
Also, if you hike out, this run is pretty fun albeit scrapy at 200cfs. There's a sweet left to right move at Boxcar that is more fun than either the standard line or blind date proper.
Have fun.

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Alex Hyman
15 years ago

The large hemlock log that has been in the Island Rapid below Boxcar is finally gone due to the flooding. It has been taken downstream to the large uncut rock directly below submarine. Beware of this new hazard in the event of a swim out of Submarine. PS the new pictures (RM) of island rapid are not of island rapid. That rapid is Vortex.

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Joey Jarrell
16 years ago

Ran it today at 0" and had a blast but had some info to pass along. There are now strainers blocking up the right side of the island below Boxcar. Not sure where the newest one, which makes the drop up against the island impossible, came from. May be part of the old one. Looks pretty tough to get around even at higher water levels as its a pretty big tree. You can head down the left side of the island instead. One other thing is the log at Jammed Pipe is gone and apparently so is the pipe so be careful you don't end up on the left side near that undercut by accident. Trust me its not fun.

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William Van De Berg
16 years ago

At the bottom of the run, below all of the major rapids is a small class 2 rapid that we called Crackpipe because of the steel pipe on river right lodged in the rapid. On the left of this rapid is a major undercut which receives a good bit of the flow and which was the site of two scary pins this past saturday (2/7/04). The rapid will be noticable by the pipe on right, and a dry rock in center forcing you to run left of it. To the left of that dry rock is a small rock splitting the current. Run between the large and small rocks to avoid the undercut that lies to the left of the small rock. This is a scary hazard that comes at an unexpected time on the run (just as you let your guard down post-big drops).

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17 years ago

I ran this once at 225 cfs and would consider that a minumum level to get down the river below submarine. Of course there is a takeout at submarine falls that cuts all of the flatwater out of the run.

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17 years ago

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Asheville boaters, will N Fork of French Broad be an option on Saturday? by roscoepwavetrain May 07 2003, 12:41 GMT New
Re: We went there last night and couldn't find the guage. It was under water! Trip report on upper Davidson... by tallman May 07 2003, 13:14 GMT New
Date: May 07 2003, 14:20 GMT
From: tcorey

A buddy and I went up there yesterday as well and ran the river.

We left Greenville around 1:15 and got to the gauge around 2:20. Not bad. It was raining hard on the way up there. I was concerned that it may be too high but the gauge was reading right at a foot. NO PROBLEM! The highest I have run it was 1'10" so I knew we would be fine.

When we got to the put in I noticed that the water was definitely higher than a foot. But surely it wasn't 10" higher so we should be fine. When we got through the first few entrance rapids I was thinking it was higher than 1'10" but Ryan is a good paddler so we should be o.k.

Boxcar was fine and we ran it with no problems. Then we hit the next stretch of rapids and I knew then that the water level was higher than I had ever been on. The routes through the rapids didn't change but rock's that you normally see where gone. The Clog was huge and Midnight hole was gone. It was just a huge wave. We walked Submarine. When I ran it at 1'10" it just pushed everyone into the undercut and it looked like it would do the same thing at the level we were at.

We hiked out and decided to hit it again. I had put a mark on the bank at the put in to get an idea of how much the water would rise in case we did do a second run. It had risen over 6" in under an hour and it was still rising. We didn't have any trouble the first time so we decided to hit it again at this level. Let me tell you. 6" makes a HUGE difference on that river. We eddied out high above Boxcar and walked down to it. It was a monster. The swells would push you back into the hole at the bottom and the water was bubbling up 10' past the end of the drop. We opted to walk that and we were wondering what the rest of the river was going to look like. We blinked twice and we were at the Clog. It was amazing how fast that water was. We entered the clog in the center (like normal) and headed left. We hugged the left bank and again, there was no hole, just a huge wave at the bottom.

We walked Submarine again. I think at these levels that is the worst rapid on the river. We hiked out and stopped by the guage on the way out. The top of the gauge was under the water. I'm guessing it was in the 2'6" range.

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mike lewis
17 years ago

Jan 1,2003 - The strainers in Submarine seem to be all gone as of today. Great job Canoeman!
Caution further downstream a riverwide strainer still exsits! You can eddy on river right and butt slide down some rocks into a class II/III current. Be careful please!
I noticed a lot of long logs still in the river, just waiting for the next flush of rain to move them around.

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17 years ago

From Canoeman on Boatertalk:
To everyone who boats the North Fork of the French Broad near Brevard, N.C., the big strainers just below Submarine Falls have been removed.
Submarine is the 8-9 foot drop toward the end of the gorge against a rock cliff on the left. A very large tree with about four trunks peeled off the cliff a while back and was blocking the whole river about 50 feet below the falls. Yesterday we spent more than three hours hiking in and cutting the trees out. This involved hanging off the cliff with a chainsaw to cut the trunks, ferrying people to a gravel bar on the far side of the river in my Super Fly rodeo play canoe, and cutting and dragging the trunks to the gravel bar using a come-along and ropes. I spent about 2 1/2 hours on the slippery rocks in my underwear, polartech and bare feet cutting the trees and tying off the ropes so the rest of the group could haul them ashore. At one point I was cutting through a trunk when it broke sending my 12-inch Homelite chainsaw to the bottom of the river. Amazingly, after spending about 90 seconds 3 feet down on the ice cold river bottom, it started right up. I almost froze my ass off, but we got the job done.
As we were getting ready to haul all our gear 1/2 mile straight up to the top of the gorge, I cut a 12-inch tree that was stuck between the large undercut rock in the center of the river and the right shore about 100 feet down from Submarine. Both ends are still there, but you can get around. Beware there are still some logs below the surface against the river-left cliff just downstream of the "Closet of Doom" at the base of the falls. There are also some other strainers left in the easy stuff downstream that we didn't get to for lack of time.
So the next time you paddle the N. Fork you may notice these nasty strainers are gone, and thank your lumberjack boating friends: Lee Belknap and his 14-year-old daughter Liz, Mike Lewis, and yours truly, Canoeman.

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Eli Ren
17 years ago

At lower flows the right line of boxcar gets really bony. The water barely goes around the rock just before the boof so you will probably end up getting dropped into the meat of the hole. The left line is a little shadier but looks better than the right line at lower flows. When you enter the top of the left line, drive straight down the tongue with lots of speed aiming at the rooster tail so you can get a good boof over the far side of the drop (try and drive out onto the rock face if you can). Oh yeah, and get a good breath before you land because if you don't get far enough out you'll go deep.
Peace, Eli

Gage Descriptions

There is a gauge painted on the US 64
bridge piling. 6 inchs below 0 is about
as low as you want to go. The Rosman
USGS gauge is the combined flows of
the North Fork and the West Fork.
Depending on which stream is putting
the most flow in, 350 cfs is roughly
equal to about 0 in the US 64 gauge.

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.

No Accident Reports




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A Close Look at Cheoah River Fatalities

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article main photo

Comment Now on Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan (NC)

Kevin Colburn

The Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest spans 1.1 million acres of Western North Carolina’s lush forested mountains. The Forest is home to popular whitewater runs like the Nantahala, Wild and Scenic Rivers like the Chattooga, and steep adventure runs like the Thompson River. The Forest’s streams are home to astounding biodiversity and produce drinking water, jobs, and recreational benefits across the region. Over the next two weeks you can have a say in the next Forest Plan that will govern how these streams - as well as trails and other recreational sites - are managed for the next 15-20 years. AW has been part of the collaborative Nantahala Pisgah Forest Partnership for the past 7 years, and we are pleased to share some suggested Draft Plan ideas with you that are broadly supported. Comments are due June 29th.


James Moloney


Harrison Metzger


Jeff Paine


Seth O'Shields


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1214486 03/03/20 James Moloney updated stats
1190871 01/08/07 Harrison Metzger n/a
1196357 10/26/09 Jeff Paine Cleaned up extra whitespace
1212149 05/06/19 Seth O'Shields updated image position
1212148 05/06/19 Seth O'Shields updated image position
1212227 05/08/19 Seth O'Shields updated image position
1212152 05/06/19 Seth O'Shields updated image position