The best part of this run is the section from the "gravel pit" (on Cove Creek Rd just downstream from where Cove Creek Rdintersects with Jonathan Creek Rd / US 276) to the takeout near / at Liberty Church Rd. A common alternate put-in is at the Fire Station on Joe Carver Rd; the folks at the Fire Station have been friendly and gracious but ask before you park there. This upper put-in adds another 3 miles to the lower section but the quality is not as good. You could also put in further upstream at Grindstone or Hemphill roads but the author has not done so and sees no purpose in doing so.
The first 3 miles from the fire station are continuous class 1+ to 2- with a lot of standing waves. There are only a couple spots where there are distinct rapids. You will be paddling mostly through farmer's field but also past sawmills, industrial facilities, a trailer park and a very well maintained and landscaped RV park. As you pass under Jonathan Creek Rd / rte 276 the second time you will pass the "gravel pit' and enter a nicer section of the creek. The banks become steeper and more wooded and a few distinct rapids and easy places to surf appear. Most of the homes along this stretch are expensive, well landscaped and not terribly intrusive.
Not far after passing Gold Finch Way (bridge with metal protector on the center piling) you will encounter Double Drop, the first truly distinct rapid. The first part is a sloping tongue, the second drop has a hole. Small rapids continue until after you pass under I-40 and two smaller bridges. You will notice that the price / quality of the homes drops a bit. One enterprising home owner has used several vehicle chassis as a bank stabilizer rather than the normal techniques of rip-rap or gabions. About a hundred yards after this "marker" the real action starts. The river turns to the right (and there is a good sandy takeout eddy on the left ) then back to the left (where there is a tighter last chance eddy) above the meat of the run.
There are two class 3 rapids each has a small lead-in drop of about 2 ft. Most boaters should look at these two drops before running them. ( A good time to do this is when setting shuttle) There are inviting looking chutes on the left which neck down to a point too narrow to fit a boat through. The first, Submarine, can be run by taking a right side chute on the entry drop which lines you up for the 8-10 ft. wide right side of the main drop. This 8-10 ft wide slot can be run on the left or right (or center if you wish to practice your roll). The author prefers left with a little left angle.
The second rapid, Wendy's Wonder, has a similar entry drop on the right which also lines you up for the main drop. This main drop can be run in the center of the right chute with a little right bow angle to help you partially "square up" to punch the diagonal wave near the top. The next rapid is Shoulder Bone (boat scoutable). There are takeouts below Wendy'd Wonder and Shoulder Bone which do not involve steep banks. The remainder to the bridge is boat scoutable and there are plenty of chutes and eddies. . If you paddle to the bridge the takeout is on river left, just below the bridge, but it's fairly steep so bring a rope. Most people get out at the upper easier takeouts.
Be careful where you park at the takeout as some of the local people are protective about their property. There are about 3 parking spots above the bridge along White Oak Rd at the Liberty Church bridge and another 3 below. The land where you could scout the steep section with Submarine and Wendy's Wonder is now posted "no trespassing"
At the upper end of the flow range The rapids near the end transition to 3+, then class 4. It can be run above 750 on the Cataloochee Cr gauge by people who don't need advice from me.
I'll leave the original post below up for a while. As of 2013 there was a little wood above the gravel pit (avoidable at most water levels) and everything below was clear. It is however a small, relatively narrow creek so always be alert for wood, especially after a storm. The former USGS gauge was located near submarine but is no more.
Carolina Whitewater, B.Benner
Dave Schall testified:
From the put-in at Rt. 1394 to US276, the river is fairly Nantahalaesque with long and fairly continuous shoals. There is one class III chute with wood completely blocking the left channel. Run it on the right but look out for wood. It looks like a beaver dam gone mad. There is more wood further down and one river wide strainer that requires a portage on the left. The river continues at a class II pace with a few small play waves until it crosses under the US276 bridge.
After the bridge, the river turns 'creeky' and picks up a bit with a few class III ledge drops. This might be a better put-in as the upper section was kind of uneventful. There are a few hazards in this section to be aware of. There was a single strand of barbed wire strung at eyeball level that requires careful attention. It was in the middle of a pretty swift class II shoal. We cut it but it may have reappeared since.
One of the drops in this section requires very serious attention, not because of its difficulty, but rather its potential for badness in case of a screw-up. There is a very narrow slot on the left that is packed full of wood. A good portion of the current goes towards and then under this debris dam. The line requires a drop off a 2' ledge and then a quick turn to the right through the open slot. Overturning here would be the equivalent of dropping into a spaghetti strainer with a whole lot of boiling water pushing on you. The drop is pretty obvious and there is plenty of time to eddy out above it. Scout or portage on the left. The take-out shortly after on river left.
There is room for parking at the USGS gauge, White Oak Rd. It is possible to paddle down further and walk back up the gravel road (the first on the right after the USGS gauge, Rabbit Run Rd maybe?). There is a great play hole at the end of the gravel road. I wouldn't park down there though because it is essentially someone's backyard.
Speaking of backyards - Jonathans Creek runs through every backyard and dog lot in Maggie Valley. In places the river banks resemble a junk yard, and not just because of the 2-liter bottles and milk jugs. Entire automobiles have been placed as retaining walls to stop stream erosion. In short, it's hideous. For what it's worth, the water quality didn't seem too bad. Runnable when other stuff is too high. Benner and Benner say 1.5'+ on the Jonathans Creek USGS gauge is good to go.
Later, DaveNote: we couldn't find a USGS gauge for Jonathans Creek. Maybe it was removed sometime after 2002, when Dave wrote the above.
Fairly straightforward; first drop is a tongue second drop has a hole. Not a keeper hole but one that could flip the misaligned / unwary. It's the first rapid of significance after Goldfinch bridge.
After you pass under the Ball Dr bridge and the house with the vehicle chassis' on the right river bank, in about 100 yards the river turns to the right then the left and the action starts. Submarine is the first. Running the entry drop on the right lines you up for the main drop (an 8-10 ft wide slot also on the right). You can run the right or left side of this slot. Don't be tempted by the slots on river left as then neck to to a point too narrow for a boat.
Like the previous rapid, Wendy's Wonder has an entry drop followed by the main drop. There is a large boulder in the center of the creek after the entry drop. It is undercut on both sides and both sides allow the passage of water. For many years the left side was clogged with many logs and the flow down the left side was restricted. That forced most of the flow down the right side. During the winter of 16/17 high water blew out the log jam. Now most of the water flows left of the boulder. The left line is extremely narrow and is prone to catching wood, so the right side is still the best option. You can run the entry drop on the right center to right with right bow angle so that you line up to run the main drop on the right. Be aware that the current will try to push you left, so paddle aggressively.
Rock near the top looks like a scapula. Best line is left of that rock & follow the tongues.
As of June 2104 the first bridge after Jonathan Creek Rd / rte 276 is under construction. For most paddlers (who will put on along Cove Cr Rd just downstream of 276) this will be the 1st bridge that you come to. It will be about 0.4 miles below this lower put in. There is a photo in the photo section.
Put in on Jonathans creek behind the fire station, and ran it to the Pigeon and then followed the Pigeon to near Waterville Lake. Took out at the New Hepco Bridge, Fines Creek Rd. We had 1” of rain in Maggie Valley the day before, and the USGS Gauge on the Pigeon near Hepco was reading 850 CFS. Passed a landowner near where the Jonathans Creek gauge near White Oak used to be, she said at one time they were considering damming Jonathans Creek near the confluence with the Pigeon, (or maybe the Pigeon itself) so the gauge was for a temporary flow study. Not much on Jonathans, one set of drops about 1+ miles below I-40 bridge as mentioned by Dave, otherwise nothing even of new school class II. At the confluence I noticed the water temperature was close to 15° warmer. Several noteworthy drops that were not listed on the AWA section for the Pigeon E & W Confluence to New Hepco Bridge. Of course having a good volume of water on the Pigeon, and getting a back ender in a rather juicy hole affected my rating. I would rate one drop a solid III+ (the surprise hole and ender). Other than a bit of a hike at the bridge it is an under valued section. We had run a section of the Pigeon upstream (from confluence of Richland Creek) and became bored, getting out after a few miles before anything fun started, so I was surprised to find some fun rapids.
The gauge is a "surrogate" gauge and is located on nearby Cataloochee Creek. Cataloochee creek is the next drainage over to the west. They are fairly similar in size (Cataloochee 49.2 sq miles vs 65.3 on the old Jonathan's gauge) and have similar slope patterns.
USGS gauge 03459000 on Jonathans Creek was located just downstream of the marked take out. Daily mean flows are available for the period of 1930 to 1972.
USGS gauge 03460000 on Cataloochee Creek also has daily records going back to 1934.
Take I-40 to exit 20 and follow rte 276 (Jonathan Creek Rd) south. If you are doing the prime section from the gravel pit to Liberty Church Rd, Cove Creek Rd is your first road on the right and follows Jonathan Creek. About 100-150 yards from the intersection with rte 276/ Jonathan Creek Rd is the put-in.
Continue along Cove Cr Rd to a right onto White Oak and follow it to the takeout at or just above Liberty Church Rd.
To get to the upper put-in follow 276 to Joe Carver Rd (it helps to have a GPS because as of May 2013 there is no sign on the corner - but you can see the church and fire station) If you get to Grindstone you've gone one road too far.
Reid J @ Submarine
Reid J @ Double Drop
Katie E @ Wendy's
Katie E @ Submarine
Pete @ Double Drop
Tony @ Double Drop
Pete @ Shoulder bone
Karol @ Shoulder Bone
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