From top to bottom Upper Creek is one of the most exposed and difficult creeks to paddle in North Carolina. It ranks on a difficulty level on par or harder than the Toxaway or Raven Fork due to the number of class five rapids, huge portages and must make moves in the run.
The Put-in is at the intersection of Ginger Cake Acres and Highway 181. Seal launch off the road! The creek doesn’t have a visual guage but if it looks floatable at the putin its running if it’s a wave train its too high. The Creek wanders through a neighborhood at first so be respectful and don’t walk around on the bank too much. As the river gains momentum it drops away from the road and civilization into the first gorge which includes several substantial rapids. If you can’t see the next eddy SCOUT. Upper creek falls will sneak up on you and it isn’t at all survivable. Portage river left around Upper Creek Falls. Put back in where the trail comes close to the creek. This is the start of the “Never Ending Slide”.
At the bottom of this monstrous multitiered rapid portage the sieve pile and begin sorting your way through the next gorge. Almost all the rapids have been run or seal launched into. Rapids in this section include Fight club, Drain Pipe, Car Wash, jack hammer and several more class five rapids that will need scouting or portaging. The river slowly starts to tame down to class 2 after this section for about a mile then things pick back up starting with a ten-foot sunshine right type of move into an eddy then a slot move followed by a nice 5 foot ledge boof!
The river meanders through beautiful class 2 for about 10 minutes until you arrive at the Ravens Cliff Gorge section marked by a horizon line where all the water flows left and off a 4 foot ledge with a hole at the bottom. The next rapid is a 6 foot ledge with a rock in the center-right side. Directly after that is “Skip Jump” Falls. There are two lines of varied consequence/difficulty. The easiest and most fun is the left side but right goes too. After this either rope boats up the dihedral on river left or run the marginal Pucker Factory rapid right above Tobys drop. If your portaging walk through the rhoto until you can see the bedrock slab. Lower boats down to river level. Tobys drop, named after the legend of Toby McDermott who on the first descent of the gorge ran this rapid accidently and survived unscathed. It’s a portage unless someone brings a chainsaw and cuts the old growth log out of the landing that Toby went under. You can see the rapid and the log from google earth. After portaging down the left bank at river level dip back into the woods above the old growth and use the rhoto covered rouge path to get to the base of the falls. Destination F***ed is the next rapid and can be portaged river right. After that hop out on the river right gravel bar to take a look at the must run rapid called “mini cherry bomb”. Theres a way around on river right but it would involve hanging on fixed cables and probably tossing your boat in the pool below. After that there are several quality rapids. None of them have names but they are worth boat scouting. The river begins to mellow and get close to a hiking trail (Green Town).
Your in the home stretch at this point but don’t let your guard down! “Roadside Attraction” is a pile of boulders that arnt pretty and have only seen two descents in the past 15 years. Walk on the river right side. After that your on the lower section of the creek. Go downstream to the bridge on FSR 482 or takeout upstream of there on FSR 197.
One of the cool things about Upper creek is that there are different sections that can be paddled, or it can be done from top to bottom.
The sections include:
Ginger Cake Acres to the top of Upper Creek falls. This section involves a short hike out but can be done in one to two hours if you scout your way through.
The Never-ending slide to FSR 982 includes the two most stacked gorges but you miss the top goods above Upper Creek Falls. Still an all day mission for most.
Green town short cut trail to FSR 982 is a mile hike in and puts you in above Raven Cliff Gorge. Expect this to take at least a half day or more without someone that knows it.
There are plenty of other options around to go check out. Gragg Prong, Harper creek, and highwater Wilson Creek can be linked together easily with upper creek if you want to move fast and efficient.
Coupling Upper Creek with Steels Creek would be a cool combo also.
The entire run is a huge mission. Expect to be on the water for 6+ hours for your first time.
Here is an elevation profile:
Here's a video of the whole run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nui1GXXDZ04
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Runout boogie low water
entrance to skip jump low water
Skip Jump Falls low water
ten foot seal launch
Mini Cherry Bomb
6 foot boof above skip jump
Manger on Skip Jump
Skip Jump Falls
Upper Creek Falls
Dylan Mckinney Roosting "Destination F*****"
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