This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-IV
Length 5 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 02/15/2017 1:56 pm

River Description

This is a nice pleasant intro to creeking and a scenic Class III-IV trip in its own right. The stream is situated in a beautiful section of the Joyce Kilmer Forest. The first two miles are class 2/3. When you go under NC-1127 bridge the river bends to the left and the gradient starts to pick up. Most of the rapids are clean and boat scoutable. The highlights are some nice bedrock low angle slides and drops.

There used to be a dam about 1.5 miles past the NC-1127 bridge that required portage. It was built in the 1960s to keep native fish from returning after they were poisoned to make way for stocked exotic trout. The dam was removed by the US Forest Service in 2016 and they did a great job of trying to re-establish the look and feel of the native channel. Now there is a small bedrock ledge there. Kudos to the USFS! 

There are two put in options. You can either put in at the campground on NC-1127, or put in a little further upstream at the USFS RD 81 bridge. Take out at the pullout at the lakes headwaters.

Santeetlah can usually be run pretty quickly, I recommend heading over to Snowbird Creek and trying to catch it too.

Rapid Descriptions


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12 years ago

Mostly Class 3. Good surf wave below the dam.

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Paul Butler
15 years ago

This is a good intro like he said but things to note are there is one shallow double ledge even if you think the water is high enough to cover the ledge it probably isn't so i recomend trying to run it horizontal and land flat incase it is shallow, also it is boat scoutable but prob have a look if its your first time, then on down a bit the river curves hard right and you want to hit the middle or left side where the rapid is cause a rock blocks the right hand side, then after a bit you will reach a dam which if it has enough water flowing can be run and if you have enough balls can be run also like he said good wave and at high levels it can be awesome and there are 2 more semi signifigant rapids after the wave then you will come down to the lake, its a fun run run if its going so give it a try.

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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)


Kevin Colburn


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1207231 02/15/17 Kevin Colburn photo
1205172 08/05/15 Kevin Colburn map accuracy
1207230 02/15/17 Kevin Colburn photo
1190915 01/24/06 n/a n/a
1207232 02/15/17 Kevin Colburn dam removal described