you can run this creek at lower water and only have to portage elephant ear which lands on rocks.
seems clean at the right level
In the the early 1980s, (84?) David Huntley and I (Gary Mims) paddled most of this section. I was in a Perception Mirage. On the day of our run Wilson Creek was running 3 feet plus on the old metal bridge. We wanted to do Lost Cove, but couldn't figure out a put-in. We looked at a topo map & decided to give N-Fork Catawba headwaters a shot. It was steep and gnarly, more trouble than fun, and I never figured anyone would ever go in there again. I do remember running a few high clean drops and a stair-steps type rapid. I don't consider the runs in those days real "first decents," because we usually portaged everything that at the time looked class V. Similarly, we ran Upper Green back then, and portaged/cheated about all the "Dirty Dozen" rapids in the Narrows except Frankenstein (unamed then and easier because you could paddle through the cave, right of the undercut, the area now clogged with deadfall.) and Hammer Factor. At that time HF was called "Fish Top Falls," and had been run by numerous kayakers who carried up from the lower green put-in. Things do change.
There is a lot of good footage of this river in the paddling video "Over the edge" it was filmed when B.J johnson and his group ran it.
Upper Fork of the Catawba
As of press time, the Upper North Fork of the Catawba near Linville Caverns, N.C., had only been run five times, most of the descents taking place in spring 1998. And for good reason. The section, which starts two miles from Linville Falls, occupies the extreme upper reaches of the Catawba and rages towards sea level at a whopping 450 feet per mile. With the entire Catawba watershed beginning only a mile upstream, the section runs maybe twice a year, requiring at least seven or eight inches of rain.
The run was pioneered in the fall of '97 by Banner Elk, N.C., locals Doug Helms, Brent Meadows, Franklin Smith, Jim Little, Quinn Slocumb, Chris Sumrell and Sherwood Horine. The group put in below the first falls, a 50-foot slide into an undercut wall and large hole, which was run last spring by Daniel De La Vergne, Brad Kee, Eamonn McCullough, B.J. Johnson and Katie Nietert. The main gorge below the 50-footer includes four series of falls. The first is called Shotgun Willie, consisting of a four-foot entrance drop into a six-foot slide into an eight-foot slide into a 12-foot vertical drop into a 20-foot stairstep drop. As if it needs more, the river then courses through a log-strewn boulder garden before entering the next rapid, Elephant Ear, a 15-foot drop into a must-make eddy. Colt 45 comes next, the section's only unrun rapid, which local Spencer Cooke describes as "a big meat cleaver with a bony entrance and a recirculating hole at the bottom in a four-foot-wide area in a cave." The section's final waterfall is THC, featuring a six-foot-wide entrance into a 25-foot drop. --edb
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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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