This photo needs editing.
Difficulty IV-V(V+)
Length 5.4 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 01/17/2018 7:45 pm

River Description

From Trailhead 266A and Pineola Road [FS464], hike ~ 1 mile on Trail 266A to North Harper Creek.  Watching for strainers, cruise through some mellow class III for a while. Style on down and notice the creek get larger as Hull Branch creek enters from river right, this is the end of North Harper and the onset of Harper Creek.  About 1.5 miles later, eddy out on river left and portage the 3-stage 100 footer known as Harper Falls. To portage take the trail downstream past the trail, around the ridge/corner over the falls, and well past the falls before dropping down to a parallel trail and hiking back upstream to the base of the falls. The falls can all be run down the right, and scouted from the left. The middle tier is around 50 feet tall so choose wisely.

Paddlers can put in below the 50 footer and run the next 20 foot roll-over drop (the third in the falls series), or put in below the 20 footer. Below the 20 footer is a manky rapid of boulders as is typical below big falls. You may want to walk some of all of this pinny mess. This marks the beginning of the highlight of the run: 6-10 high quality Class IV bedrock rapids and slides that share the world class geology of Wilson Creek. After this great sequence the creek mellows but maintains a technical Class III+ character to the bridge just upstream of Wilson Creek.  

Rapid Descriptions


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Gary Mitchell
12 years ago

On 3.8.2008 the North Harper/Harper combo was almost wood-free. There was 1 little flatwater portage you just stepped over. Visual was -2.5" on the bridge slab vertical with zero being flush to the horizontal slab. It was good to go on the top and the bottom but some of the section between the two big waterfalls needed 2 " more water.

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Gary Mitchell
12 years ago

On 2.1.2008 Harper Creek falls on down was on the low side of fair after 1 inch of rain fell around Edgemont.

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Moffatt Prescott
14 years ago

Myself along with Cooper Lambla, Adam Kinney and the man Chris Clark paddled this particular creek in the winter of 2004. There was one mandatory portage past a shelfed out super necked down fifty footer, and then another non-mandatory portage past a really gnarly Ravens Fork style rapid. There was a decent amount of wood and some rapids required log dodging to sucessfully navigate. This run catches a little flack for being too long with out enough fun factor, but if you are into running a really big super fun/clean waterfall then you need to be here. There is always the option to just hike and huck but this is a beautiful run that is really remote with some cool tight technical creeking on the upper part. Look for Wilsons to be huge and Gragg Prong to be too high.

No Gage

Gage Descriptions

Look for at least 1 inch of rain within the last 12 hours @  AFWS-Edgemont, Grandfather Meadows and Jonas Ridge. 
Yes all three should have over 1" in the last 12 hours and then MAYBE LCC will be running!  Preferably 2 inches or more in the last 12 to 24 hours.  The hurricane rule applies here - in case of hurricane approach the tribs from above (north in this case) and forget about running WC gorge. 
Most people find the Wilson Creek tribs in order to avoid the high water Class V Wilson creek hydraulics (over 6" @ Adako or the Gorge put-in).  As a result, there are not many WC trib visuals and runs.
People & guidebooks will tell you to look for the Adako bridge visual (also known as a Wilson Visual) to be 2 feet...but don't put your entire boat in that eddy, the Wilson Creek tribs run a lot more than people think. They can be run at low water at least as low as 10" on the Wilson gage. 
Adako at 2 feet guarantees water, but if you are ready, willing & able you can hit these pristine creeks when the Adako visual is quickly on the rise or not even rising yet.  Depending upon rainfall patterns and timing, water in the Wilson tribs can drop out before Adako rises.  Bottom line is that if you are at Adako bridge during or soon after a >1" rain and Adako is still low or rising --- dash for the tribs and you may catch Gragg Prong, Harper, North Harper, Lost Cove, Little Wilson, and maybe even Rockhouse Creek.  If the sandbars and waterlines tell you that Adako has peaked out below 6" and the rain is over, then don't bother with the WC tribs. From Adako bridge, you can get to most of the WC tribs in 30 to 60 minutes.
It is rare, but we have seen Little Wilson running strong over 24 hours after a 1" rain - this is because the rain gauges can fool you.  More than 1" of rain fell during that rain event - for sure.  Rain gauges and their solar panels can become obstructed by trees which is the often the case with the Edgemont gauge.  If you see dashes on the AFWS page then there is usually a communication issue with the rain gauge - frequently a blocked, missing, or broken solar panel.  If a rain gauge is reading 0" or really low and all of the nearby gauges are gathering rain, then there could be something physically wrong the gauge (broken, obstructed...). 

Unable to see the painted gage on Harper Creek bridge at the confluence with Wilson Creek. 

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

Development Proposed on Wilson Creek (NC)

Kevin Colburn

A large housing development is in the early planning stages for the banks of North Carolina's Wild and Scenic Wilson Creek.  The development, as planned, would lead to roughly 250 homes being built near the Creek on a 650 acre private lot that encompasses nearly 2 miles of Wilson Creek.

Matt Muir


Kevin Colburn


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190942 03/03/08 n/a n/a
1208774 01/17/18 Kevin Colburn descriptioniption
1208773 01/17/18 Kevin Colburn improved description