After steady rains Sunday and Monday Charlie Bullard and myself ran the 2 mile section of the mitchell from the kapps mill bridge to the Mt. Park-zephyr road put in. The river was running at approximately 500 cfs. The run was quick but fun with several high class 2 rapids as usual. After the short run we decided to make an attempt at running a section of the river farther upstream. We put in the river just below the private low water bridge on grover cockerham road and took out at the kapps mill dam. We were suprised to find that the water was faster, more technical, and contained more rapids than the lower section. The river was recently renovated through a stream restoration project. The restoration project included adding large rocks to portions of the river leaving a couple of narrow drops that are roughly mid-high class 2. These short runs make for great surfing and playboating opportunites. This section of the river is also free of any strainers so runnign it at a higher level is definately possible. However, this run is also relatively short taking less than hour.
Jerry Hopping, Charles Herring, Jim Van Lew and myself ran the Mitchell on Saturday. The level was between 4 and 3.25 feet as it was dropping fast which is probably typical. We had good water. We had planned to do section 1 as described by Benner. The put-in is now legit with paved off-road parking. When we arrived at the put-in on Mountain Park-Zephyr road we met local paddlers Colby, Matthew and Charlie who had just run the 2 miles above that put-in. They were easily talked into another run. We put in at the bridge for Kapp Mill Road just down stream from the dam and former mill and house. They ran the 2 miles and we continued down for an 8 mile run.
It was a fast 8 miles as the rapids were fairly continuous. Even the flat water was fast. None of the rapids were more difficult than a high class 2. There were plenty of surfing opportunities. The scenery was primarily rhododendron, white pine and rock bluffs. There were many ducks. The one disappointment was the water quality. According to Jerry and Benner, the Mitchell used to run clear even after rain. Though it is still a trout stream, after a rain it is quite muddy. There were a few strainers but they were easy to spot and avoid.
We took out at Zephyr road just upstream of I-77. Be careful of the road names they are confusing and mislabeled on the map and GPS. There is also a Mountain Park Road which is part of the shuttle. Make sure you have enough water. I have done 2 low water runs and they were excruciating.
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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)
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