Wilson Creek - C) The Gorge: National Forest sign to parking area above Brown Mtn. Beach

Wilson Creek, North Carolina, US


C) The Gorge: National Forest sign to parking area above Brown Mtn. Beach

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 95 fpm
Max Gradient 100 fpm

10 Foot Falls

10 Foot Falls
Photo of Drew Austel by Aaron Weiss taken 06/05/03 @ -3.0 inches

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02140991 500 - 5000 cfs III-IV 01h00m 629 cfs (running)

River Description

Some of the bigger rapids include: Mank Above 10ft, Ten Foot Falls, No Name, Boatbuster, Thunderhole, Triple Drop, Bitchslap, Hidden Eddy, Razorback, and Huntley's Retreat

Between these drops are numerous large ledges with accompanying large ledge holes.

The best description of the river can be found in William Nealy's classic guidebook "Whitewater Home Companion, Vol. 2"

Benner and Benners Carolina Whitewater has an excellent discription of the river.
Appalachian Whitewater : The Southern States

AFWS Current Rainfall Data for Caldwell County.
Gauge 1835, Edgemont, is at the beginning of Section 2 of Wilson Creek.


Note added by Garrick Taylor:

Go to either http://www.boatingbeta.com/cgi-bin/myflows.cgi or http://syotr.org/?s=l to find a virtual gauge based on an AFWS gauge located on Wilson Creek.  This virtual gauge is far more accurate than relying on the USGS gauge on the Johns River.

Wilson Creek is one of the newest federally-designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. Click here to check out their description!

From Morganton NC go north on Highway 181 toward Linville. Take a right (east) on Adako Road and follow that to Brown Mountain Beach. Take FS 1328 North past Brown Mountain Beach.
The take-out is on the left. It will be the first parking area on the left after the pavement ends. The put-in is the first parking area on the left past Ten Foot Falls (visible from the road), aproximately 3 miles past the take-out.

From Lenior take Highway 90 north to Collettsville. Then take a left on Adako Road and follow it to Brown Mountain Beach.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-05 20:26:21


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.3Mank Above Ten Foot.IVWaterfall
0.3Ten Foot FallsIVWaterfall Photo
0.4No NameIVHazard Waterfall Photo
0.5BoatbusterIVWaterfall Photo
0.5Dental WorkIIIWaterfall
1.0Triple DropIVHazard Waterfall Photo
1.2Hidden EddyIVWaterfall
1.2Approach to RazorbackIII+Waterfall Photo
1.2RazorbackIVHazard Waterfall Photo
1.4Huntley's RetreatIII+Waterfall

Rapid Descriptions

Mank Above Ten Foot. (Class IV, Mile 0.3)

At the end of a good sized pool, the river will become choked up with boulders. Starting in midstream look for a slot on the right (above Idaho rock) that isn't really wide enough to punch thru. Hug Idaho rock, line up and bang on down. Just below is the entrance to ten foot falls.


(aka Unrunnable Rock Jumble)

Ten Foot Falls (Class IV, Mile 0.3)

10 Foot Falls

10 Foot Falls
Photo of Will Reeves by Brad Roberts taken 01/15/03 @ -3

Start with a 4 foot tall boof, into a tricky class 3 entrance rapid. Then take a left and line up for the big plunge. A ten foot tall 45 degree slide into a sometimes interesting hole followed by a large pool.  At lower water, you want to skirt just left of the right center in-stream boulder and stay right of the curler on the way down.

No Name (Class IV, Mile 0.4)

Warning - No Name Ledge

Warning - No Name Ledge
Photo of Warning - No Name Ledge by adakovizual taken 10/15/06 @ -9

Ledge drop with a few sneak lines.  Sneaks are far right or far left.  Boof on the right side of the center of the drop into a very sticky hole backed up by a large underwater boulder.  Especially sticky around 0" on the Adako bridge gauge.  If you pencil here, a beatdown may ensue (sight of a near drowning in 2006, see accident report 2006-01-07 description). If you pull, the hole will try to keep you and possibly recirculate you. There is a more forgiving slide down the left side of the center drop.

Boatbuster (Class IV, Mile 0.5)

Boatbuster and Thunderhole

Boatbuster and Thunderhole
Photo of Eric Paysen by Brad Roberts taken 01/15/03 @ -3

Boatbuster & Thunderhole are two back to back drops with some pretty fast current. Run both of them left of center above -2".  At lower water (<-2") run the far right side boof at Boatbuster.

Thunderhole (Class IV, Mile 0.5)

Usually run left with a little right angle.  Can also run the sides at higher water.

Dental Work (Class III, Mile 0.5)

The ledge below thunderhole with a man-made wall on the left. There are several lines depending upon water level.  Above zero there is a right angling rail with a sharp left turn at the bottom (more fun to slide the rail).  At lower water run the diagonal slots starting river right but don't flip or you may have teeth sticking through a new hole in your face.

Triple Drop (Class IV, Mile 1.0)

Triple Drop

Triple Drop
Photo of Eric Paysen by Brad Roberts taken 01/15/03 @ -3

Triple drop is (you guessed it!!) a three tired drop. The main thing to avoid is the sticky hole at the bottom. The hole is backed up by a rock about 8 feet downstream that keeps everything kicking back into the hole. There are two slots that can be used to enter this rapid.  Below -5" the submerged rock in the middle drop can launch you or push you into the left wall eddy.


(aka Stairstep)

Bitchslap (Class IV, Mile 1.1)

Another really tight one. Pick your way left to right between the really narrow rock slots or run the right side from the top eddy to the river right eddy halfway down.


(aka Boulder Clog, aka Unrunnable Rock Jumble, aka Fat Lady Squeeze)


Maytag (Class III, Mile 1.1)

At the end of a large pool after Bitchslap where you can look up on river left and see road traffic there is a 4 foot ledge.  On the left side of this ledge is a large undercut boulder.  Sneak this ledge to the left of the undercut boulder or on the far right of the ledge.  Most boaters boof the middle of the ledge over a little chip with some right angle.

Hidden Eddy (Class IV, Mile 1.2)

Above -5" run the left side auto-boof, but watch the flip rock if you don't get far enough left.  Otherwise, run the right side boof into the "hidden eddy" on river right or the left to right slide into "hidden eddy".  If you piton the wall get ready to roll.


(aka The Wall, aka Billboard)

Approach to Razorback (Class III+, Mile 1.2)

Upstream from Razorback

Upstream from Razorback
Photo by Aaron Weiss taken 06/05/03 @ -3.0 inches

The largest drop in this section has a piton rock in the center, safely avoid it by boofing the right side.

Razorback (Class IV, Mile 1.2)


Photo of Eric Paysen by Brad Roberts taken 01/15/03 @ -3

Another big sliding ledge drop, with a shelf that extends out from the right bank - just to give you something to piton into. The standard line is run about 8 feet off the right bank, then boof left toward the bottom of the slide.  At higher water a couple of lines open up, one far left and one on the left side of the main horizon line.

Huntley's Retreat (Class III+, Mile 1.4)

Another large ledge drop. Run left at normal flows.  Below 0" you can run the slot between the boulders from left to right.

Railslide (Class III, Mile 1.7)

Railslide is after the big pool known as the "Bathtub" where you can do a fun rockslide on river left.  Railslide can be boofed on the left , backslid or frontslid down the sloping ledge or run standard as a sharp S-turn

When the river starts to flatten out, start looking left for the parking area. Last seen, there was a log laying across the eddy on river left.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 12 2013 (2015 days ago)
richiewrt (154616)
10ft falls has changed as of 7/10/13. The vertical rock on river right that pushed water back
toward the middle is no longer there.
August 16 2010 (3077 days ago)
Garrick TaylorDetails
http://afws.erh.noaa.gov/afws/hydropop.php?lid=EGMN7&days=7_day Is a great gage for Wilson. It
predicts what flow will be 3-4 hours after the time of the reading on the gauge. 2.5 is zero. Every
0.1 change on the gauge is roughly 1 inch in the creek. So 2.4 would be about minus 1 inch. 3.0
would be roughly plus five inches. This holds for most boatable levels on the creek. The online
gauges at Boatingbeta.com and syotr.org are based on a more accurate correlation of this same
May 19 2008 (3896 days ago)
Gary MitchellDetails
Top of triple drop has changed from a straight across small ledge to a right side boof and a left
side swirling slide
January 11 2007 (4390 days ago)
Gary MitchellDetails
An incomplete list of difficult places on Wilson Creek...the creek is constantly changing and
changes dramatically with flow and weather conditions. At levels below +6" on the Adako bridge
gauge there are a few spots that boaters should be aware of. The referenced photos all have titles
that start with "Warning". 1. Sieve in creek middle at the 4th ledge (usually run on the right down
a slide that finishes in the middle). At -5" (on the Adako bridge gauge) a boat disappeared in the
middle slot but was easily pulled out. Word is that a someone was partially sucked into that sieve
in their boat and they had a hard time getting them out. 2. Creek Right Sieve in Entrance to Ten
Foot Falls - sieve on creek right just below the small drop below the ledge that constitutes the
start of the Ten Foot Falls entrance rapid . If you swim or flip going into/over/after the entrance
drop then you could be pushed right into the sieve. Empty boats have been caught in that sieve.
"Warning - 10ft Sieve" photo was taken @ -9" on the Adako bridge gauge. 3. "No Name" ledge between
Ten Foot Falls and Boatbuster - many people have not been able to swim out of here on their
own...recently one boater was rope rescued and revived using CPR. Downstream of Ten Foot Falls pool
there is a boulder garden..."No Name" drop is at the end of that boulder garden..."Warning - No
Name Ledge" photo was taken @ +1" on the Adako bridge gauge. Above -5" on the Adako bridge gauge
you can sneak it far right...the right side of the main ledge has a very sticky hole because a
large underwater rock pushes water back toward the ledge...the left side of the drop also has a
sticky hole. It can also be snuck extreme left when there is enough water. 4. Creek Left undercut
immediately downstream of Thunder Hole pool - in the "hero" eddy on creek left there is an
undercut. Many boaters like to catch this squirrelly eddy but if you flip in there you will likely
get sucked into the undercut. "Warning - Thunderhole Undercut" photo was taken @ -9" on the Adako
bridge gauge. 5. Pin spot in the drop below Thunderhole where there is a man made cement wall on
creek left. Refer to the photo titled "Warning - Slot Below Thunderhole". When running the right to
left slot move avoid hugging the left wall at the end because it gets very narrow...if you get
pushed that way you can usually squeeze through by dropping your right side down and skirt drag the
rock on the right. 6. Maytag (undercut) - at the end of the pool following Unrunnable Rock
Jumble/Fat Lady Squeeze/Bitchslap, Maytag is the second major drop downsream of Triple Drop. Maytag
is often termed "the most dangerous place on Wilson Creek"...while in the pool you will notice that
the creek left bank is open all the way to the road...this open area is your Maytag reminder. Many
boaters get surprised by Maytag. You can sneak it far left of the Maytag boulder above -5" on the
Adako bridge gauge. Trying to sneak far right can slide you back into Maytag. "Warning - Maytag"
photo was taken @ -8" on the Adako bridge gauge.
September 27 2006 (4496 days ago)
Gary MitchellDetails
The signed Catawba Re-Licensing Agreement calls for a Wilson Creek USGS gauge to be
installed...look for it sometime in 2009.
July 7 2006 (4577 days ago)
Gary MitchellDetails
always check the adako bridge gauge before making any wilson creek decisions...the bottom of zero
is zero...we have found that the creek is runnable without portage as low as -12" ... disregard the
comment at the top of the page that says "...and that the Johns River reading is a clue as to what
was happening in the Gorge about twelve hours earlier." It definitely does not take 12 hours for
the water to go 7 miles - more like 1 to 3 hours depending upon flow conditions... ALSO...contrary
to popular opinion, the Grandfather Meadows AFWS rain gauge is NOT in the Wilson watershed. We went
up and checked it out, confirmed by the iFlows technician. It is actually in the Linville watershed
just off 221 near the Grandfather Mountain entrance. It is not part of the weather station on
Grandafther Mountain as some of the locals will tell you. However, it is only about 2 or 3 miles
from the intersection of the Watauga, Linville, and Wilson watersheds which is at the top of
Grandfather Mountain and only a little over a mile from the edge of the Wilson watershed near the
intersection of 221 and the BRP.
June 5 2006 (4610 days ago)
Robert FarmerDetails
Many of the otherwise manageable ledges have very ugly keeper hydraulics below them. Knowing where
to go is important. First timers should have a good guideperson. FYI.
April 28 2005 (5013 days ago)
Philip MalatinDetails
RE: using remote information to decide to go to Wilson.

To say that the Watauga gauge is better than the John's gauge or vice versa is just plain wrong.
Wilson and the Watauga are separated by a 6000 ft mountain. The two sides can get significantly
different amounts of rain. The simple fact of the matter is that the John's gauge measures the
water that comes from Wilson gorge, but the gauge is below the run and also measures the flow of
another stream, John's River. The Watauga gauge is more or less at the top of its watershed, and
can be used to tell what's going to happen at Wilson in a widespread rain event. It is also a
useful way of predicting the flow on Wilson. It was remarkable how often the old bridge gauge at
the Watauga and Wilson were dead on.

To make a long story short, if the Watauga gauge is rising but not the John's gauge, you might want
to think twice about making the trip to Wilson.

Add to this mix, the IFLOWS rain gauges or historic radar data. The Edgemont gauge is in the Wilson
watershed. Bailey Camp and Globe are in the John's watershed. I have seen the John's river gauge
reading 1000 cfs while Wilson was 6 inches below 0.

Since the hurricanes of 2004, it seems as if John's should be 500 cfs and *rising* before Wilson is
running. By "running," I mean 3 inches below 0.
March 7 2005 (5064 days ago)
Robert MaxwellDetails
Far be it from me to buck traditional river correlations (yeah, right). But overall, Watauga proves
to be a better indicator for Wilsons then does Johns River. I know there are more complex ways to
correlate Wilsons, but if you had to pick just one gage to check, choose Watauga. Here's the

Watauga = Wilsons

February 13 2005 (5086 days ago)
The latest as of 2-13-05. From Jah Will.

WHAT???? Some incorrect info. Check it out Bros. New

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Wilson Creek JRock New
Date: Feb 13 2005, 19:54 GMT
From: slave2h2o

Before I go any further, I gotta say that I don't mean to start any conflict. I just want to
clarify a few items. First of all, Unrunnable Jumble is not the same place as the mank above the
entrance to 10 ft Falls. It is the boulder choke after Triple Drop that is left of the spot you
refered to as Fat Lady Squeeze. Now, Fat Lady Squeeze isn't the name of the slot move on the right
side of Unrunnable Jumble. This line is Bitch Slap. Has been named that for at least 6 or 7 years.
Also, the boulder you speak of below, after you make the left turn has always been there and is not
terribly undercut. I boof the bia-tch all the time when flows permit. Now back to the mank above
the entrance to 10 ft Falls. This is one of the places that went through the least change. Never
seen any "undercut/pin spot before or after high water movement of the creekbed. I don't know
what you are talking about here. The section above the mank has changed considerably though now
there's a small flat spinnable hole on far river left that used to be closed off completely. The
next item is the line around the boulder at the bottom of unnamed rapid below Thunder Hole. It is
still the same, always had to catch the eddie to smooth it here. The line is thinner now, but
nothing of any real consiquence. This brings us to Triple Drop. The lines haven't changed at all.
The damn thing will still kick your ass if it wants to. At 6"-9" above zero (correctly
read from the bottom of zero) The hole is awake and waiting for you to make a mistake. At 1 ft the
line is definatly not the same as below 1 ft. Better stay farther to the right and go for the high
boof only runnable at higher flows. Okay now, let me see... Oh yes, the non-paddling locals have
names for several areas of the creek. (ex. The Bathtub, Rat Hole, Wilson Beach...) The Bathtub is
actually the section below Huntley's retreat, and after Goal Post. Goal Post no longer has the two
rocks forming the goalposts. The line can be run the same however. Hugging the right bank ot the
lip, boofing into micro eddie on the right. Can also just run down the middle now without too much
worry. Backing up a bit. The Boof Rock that has been washed away marked the start of Huntley's
Retreat. Below the spot that used to be Boof Rock, the rapid is as you discribe. I only want to
mention that the far left line straight down is good to go, the left line angling hard right,
heading right is good to go, and that the right side boof is either runnable or not. If there is
enough water running over the spot your cool. Just be aware that there are sveral rocks in the
landing zone. If you check it the next time your there. You 'll see that if you know where to be,
it's no problem. As I said already, I don't mean to start any conflict. I just can't grip re-naming
rapids, or over complicating rivers. I have paddled Wilson Creek in all seasons, at all hours of
the day and night. I have run it at levels from -8" to 3.5 ft. and rising, and have been
paddling there for about 5-6 yrs. It is one of my backyard runs that I love and I am completely
intimate with.
Jah Will
September 26 2004 (5226 days ago)
Mark StoverDetails
Post Ivan Report 9/26/04 - Most significant change other than the ones mentioned below is in the
boulder clog (Fat Man's Squeeze I think) right after Triple Drop. The entrance has opened up a bit,
most importantly there are two nasty pin/broach rocks towards the right side about 1/2 way down.
You can get around them on the left or right easily enough if you know they're there, just beware
because the current pushes you right towards them. At higher levels they look to be a nice boof.
Gauge readings still seem to be about 3" off.
September 12 2004 (5240 days ago)
I don't think they have changed fo the best. (long) New

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Wilson was at +3 at 2pm. Felt more like +6. JAMESE New
Date: Sep 13 2004, 0:23 GMT

It will be interesting to see what the changes will look like at low water. The water was so high
this weekend that everything was fine but but I don't know what the rapids will be like at -3.
There are changes all over the creek but not all effect the rapids. Most of the trees that line the
banks are gone. The island at the standard take out is gone with no evideance it ever existed.
Rocks are scattered all over but as far as I can remember here is a list of the changes that will
affect the rapids.

1. The rapid following the pool below Boatbuster is a drop I always called Uturn. The river flows
down a channel then turns hard right around a rock. At higher flows you can run down a left hand
channel but at lower flows you wanted to eddy agains the left hand wall and then follow the river
down the right channel forming the Uturn. Well a large boulder is now blocking the river right
channel preventing the Uturn.

2. At the start of the boogie water in the rapids above Razorback there was a large boulder that
formed a pourover that was placed there by a flood about a year ago. It is now gone. There are
several changes in those boogie water rapids but there is nothing real significant.

3. The left side of the rapid below Triple Drop has also changed but I didn't run that side. Just
scout it before running.

4. Huntley's Retreat, The rapid just below Razorback, is completely different. The boof rock a the
top of the rapid is gone and a class 2 boulder garden is now there. Just below the boof used be a
small slide into a hole that was good for 360's and side surfing. Now it is a rocky 6 foot ledge
into a hole. At high water you could boof it left or run it straight left of center. It looks like
it may be real boney at low water. The lower part of the rapid still looks the same.

5. After the normal take out there is a slide that used to have a nice surf wave at the bottom, now
the wave is a big hole. In the runnout of this rapid there is a rock the size of a Mac truck that
wasn't their before. It doesn't effect the rapid but it is amazing that a boulder that big was
moved and placed there.

These are all the significant changes that I can remember but there may be more I didn't see and
more may become exposed as the water drops. None of the changes I saw posed any significant hazards
but after a flood like we just had the creekbed has to be real unstable so be careful.