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Difficulty I-III
Length 23 Miles
Flow Range 350 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 828 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 01/12/2002 8:57 am

River Description

Carolina Whitewater, B.Benner

Upper Green and the Nanty Gorge (with one exception; see below).

David A. DeCoursy wrote:

Beautiful and easy beginner run with close access to NOC. At 950 cfs it's all class I-II with about 4 ledges where you can find some small but suprisingly stronger than expected spots for learning to side-surf and hold your edge. Great for taking newbies for a relaxed introduction to ww kayaking.
Very pretty, great access for the most part.
The end when I went was a very unexpected Class 3 consisting of a breaking wave and hole shortly behind it.
Fontana Lake needs to be low, I've read, or else this last rapid (The Narrows) is under water.
In my opinion, for such a simple river, the end is a tad tougher than Nanty Falls, but without the Class-2 entrance. Scouting will reveal the easily obtained line but when you've been paddling class 1-2 for 6 miles, it IS a suprise. Newbies are bound to flip without a scout. Stay right at the entrance and move to the right of center once past the top breaking wave. You can punch the holes easily at 950 cfs if you're used to such things, but keep in mind the person you are taking may not, especially in light of the relaxed previous miles. (No worries, though; it's all lake after 5 seconds, so it's a very friendly swim.)

Rapid Descriptions


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Harold Johnson
1 year ago

On 8/22/18 nine of us ran the the section alongside Needmore Rd. We dropped a shuttle car at the first access on Needmore Rd and then traveled upstream approximately six miles and put in. The LT was running at 970 CFS and was a nice paddle. Mostly class l with three class lls. We attempted to paddle this section last year at 300 CFS and gave up after a little over a mile as it was too low. Even tho it was an overcast day, the scenery was still nice.

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Ted Whisenhunt
5 years ago

There are several official well maintained launch spots along Needmore Road. We ran it at around 650 CFS and it was low but runnable. I would think that around 900- 1000 CFS would be just right for experienced paddlers. Most of the river is class I, II but beware of the "Narrows" rapid at the end, just before you reach the Fontana Bridge. This is a serious rapid and does have consequences. There is a lot of jagged rubble just beneath the surface after the hole and also a very large undercut rock that you can get washed into. Also, as mentioned in other reports, the "Narrows" rapid would be underwater in the summer when the lake is up. If you choose to take out up river at any of the designated sites then this is a leisurely river for the most part with a few fun class II rapids. Also, this is a beautiful area with nice mountain views as you paddle.

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Roman Ryder
12 years ago

We ran it today at 1600cfs. We set up our putin and takeout on Needmore Rd. at the bridges that cross creeks (approximately 5 miles apart). It was almost a constant class I from beginning to end with occasional class II features in the larger rapids. There are a number of spots where you'll hit rocks barely submerged, that would probably normally be above water. Due to trees and branches, there aren't a lot of eddy opportunities, so it may be wiser to paddle a shorter distance.

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Paul Butler
15 years ago

FIRST OF ALL RUN THIS IN THE WINTER WHILE THE LAKE IS DOWN AND AFTER IT HAS RAINED. This is a good spot for newbies(especially if starting from needmore. there is a good footbridge out there somewhere it is near the beginning of the lake section. This is where you would want to start if your used to class 2,3 water. There are quiet a few easy and good play spots near there, but the good hole right above the bridge gets shallow real quick right after it.

Once you get into the lake section is where all the good stuff is. It has a couple class 2 rapids that are fun to goof around in, but there is nothing to serious. Then you will round a few corners and see a couple large waves. The first is above the rapid by about 20 ft and it was about 4 feet when we were out. Then into the rapid we hit some 6ft waves that were nice. Then there is a drop that was pretty signifigant the day we went out, but the drop is only on the left side of the river and straight into a crazy hole. The river is channeled all to one side so right near that crazy hole was a huge wave. REMEMBER THIS IS ALL ON A DAY AFTER GOOD RAIN AND THE LAKE WAS DOWN FAR.

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Directions Description

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No Accident Reports




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)


Matt Muir


Seth O'Shields


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190890 01/12/02 n/a n/a
1201876 03/01/13 Seth O'Shields n/a