Difficulty I-II(III)
Length 7.5 Miles
Flow Range 200 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 20 minutes ago 5390 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/21/2020 8:20 pm

River Description


The put-in for this section is on Chicken Bridge Road on river left. The put-in is steep at the river.


The take-out is right above the Bynum dam on river left. Parking is available off of US 15-501. This is also the put-in for the Middle Haw.


The Upper Haw is a nice section of river through rural Chatham County. This section is ideal for beginners, novices, and intermediate paddlers. Most rapids are boat scoutable. From the put-in there are small rapids providing opportunities to test skills. This section of river has many unnamed rapids. The larger rapids include Sawtooth Ledge, Little Nantahala and Final Solution.

Rapid Descriptions

Sawtooth Ledge

Class - II Mile - 1.7
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The first major rapid on this section of the Haw. There are rapids on either side of an island. On the left, there is a rocky Class I. On the right, there is a slighty more technical, but fun rapid named, Sawtooth Ledge (II). The rocks at the end of this rapid are sometimes hard to avoid.

Lunchstop (Upper Haw)

Class - I Mile - 2.7
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The next rapid really does not have name. It is an ok playspot. It is a nice spot to step out of your boat and stretch.

Little Nantahala

Class - II Mile - 3.6
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This rapid is recognized by old bridge supports. Run this rapid towards the center, in the main flow. Fun rapid to surf.

Final Solution

Class - II Mile - 4.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is the last rapid before the Bynum Dam slack water. According to guidebooks and CCC mailing lists, canoes love to broach on this rapid.

Bynum Dam

Class - Mile - 6.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Take-out for the Upper Haw. Portage around the dam on river left. Running this dam, like all dams, is not recommended.


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Ken Bowman
1 year ago

Upper HAW14,000 cfs 27OCT18 Hala Atcha 9'6 A lot of water moving very fast. Cruising at 5.5 mph without paddling. Some features were bigger, some were washed out. Hell of a fun time though.

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4 years ago

I kayaked this stretch from Chicken bridge on Sunday Sept 25 2016 I believe the water level was just above 3. If it was much less I would have had to drag my kayak over lots of rocks. I put in under the Chicken bridge. For the first part it was pretty slow moving but scenic. The second part was full of rocks and small rapids and was pretty fast. This was a fast moving and fun section to paddle. After the section of rocks the river became calm and for a few miles I paddled staying to the left as possible for the portage above the dam. I hugged the shore line as I approached the dam and there is a decent muddy take out to the far left. Total trip took about 2.5-3 hrs The day before I launched from the new kayak landing on old Greensboro hwy and kayaked to the Chicken Bridge. This was about 3 hrs. Very slow moving.

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Lewis Ketron
5 years ago

Ran 11/28/2014 @ ~1800cfs, 5.5ft. in a dagger canoe. Most rock gardens washed out at this level, plenty of water over 'sawtooth ledge'. Trip took 2hrs, lot of steadily moving flatwater. Have run at 3 ft, (~3-400cfs?) scraped a lot and a lot of maneuvering to get through, but doable. The bank at the takeout appears to have washed enough to drop some trees across the entrance where the sluice gate is. I didn't like the look of it and took out at a spot about 100 feet farther up, where the trail comes to the bank.

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Cody Blischok
7 years ago

Ran it in 2 person Old Town at ~900 cfs. Level seemed pretty much perfect. Most rapids boat scout-able. Had to frantically attain to make another run on the left to center at Sawtooth Ledge (A down tree on left side of the river bend forced us too far river right). Stopping on the rocks at Little Nantahala made for a great middle of the trip lunch/break spot. Not a human was seen until the takeout at the dam. Highly recommend this paddle to anyone interested in getting away from civilization for around 3 hours.

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7 years ago

10-5-2012. Ran Upper and MIddle Haw today at less that 350 cfs. Not too bad, but scarped bottom any times.

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Robert Martin
16 years ago

Chicken Bridge got it's name after a truck, loaded with chickens, crashed at the bridge. The surviving chickens hung out at the bridge for several weeks afterward. The Air Force used to use the bridge as a target for mock bombing runs. It was not unusual to have an A-4 Skyhawk or an F-4 Phantom zoom over you at low levels. They made the Air Force stop this practice back in the early 80s.

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robert martin
19 years ago

This section is known as the Upper Haw or the Chicken Bridge section. It is a good run for the novice at the right level.

Gage Descriptions

The gauge is downstream at Bynum.

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.

Date Flow Result Factor  
1999-01-24 High Near Miss/Rescue Inexperience Read More



article main photo

A Close Look at Cheoah River Fatalities

Charlie Walbridge

The recent death of Chris Clark at Python Rapid on North Carolina's Cheoah River is the third at this site in the last six years. In each case, the person who died was an expert paddler and their paddling partners did not see exactly what happened. Let's take a close look at the Cheoah below Bear Creek Falls and develop strategies for future runs. The river here is very fast and continuous. After a fast lead-in (Chaos), the river drops over Bear Creek Falls, a 12' drop. Below, most of the flow pushes toward the river right channel (Python). Ferrying over to the easier river left channel (the West Prong) requires careful boat control. Python itself contains several nasty holes and sieves, with a bad hole blocked by a boulder at the bottom. There is a good route through it, but paddlers need to plan their route carefully. Scouting is a good idea for first timers, although catching eddies and getting out is not  going to be easy. Groups need to stay together.. The rapid is tough enough that you can't watch your buddy all the time, but you can be ready to help if needed. Click through for links to the accident reports, photos, and comments from expert Cheoah River paddlers. (Photo above by Boyd Ruppelt)


Michael Carter


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190877 04/25/08 Michael Carter n/a
1215595 07/21/20 Michael Carter updated image position
1215596 07/21/20 Michael Carter updated image position