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Difficulty IV-V(V+)
Length 5 Miles
Gauge Elk River at Big Falls
Flow Range 250 - 700 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 55 minutes ago 78.85 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/21/2006 2:13 pm

River Description

Waterfalls; see this stream also in the North Carolina inventory.

Clay Wright contributed on 2002-03-06 02:57:09 :
Big Falls at top has been run, with cut head and a broken back (oc-1) but several clean ones. Some flat, but good rapids, one chunky double ledge, Twisting Falls portage (narrow and high, but not sketch) then a 10-15' and a ramping 33'er which is sweet! Long shuttle the only drawback to this cool run.

There are many good drops on here. There is about 2 miles of flatwater after big falls, before you get into the rapids. The first is a nice double drop, then a couple of nasty ledge holes, then a manky sieved out boulder jumble that often has many strainers, preventing passage. Best walked on the right.

Some more class 3 brings you to the big drops. There are about 8-10 of them, some dropping up to 25 feet or so. They are all ledge/slide combinations, none of which are really difficult, but some have some beatdown potential. Most are class 4-4+ with maybe one or two being easy fives. Then it chills, the scenery picks up and nice bedrock class 3 picks up.

Be on the lookout for a gorging up and some gradient downstream, because the portage is coming. Get out and walk on the left. It is a little scary, but to portage without going all the way up and over the mountain, which would suck horribly, one must scoot along a raised ledge right above the class 6 waterfall. Just go slow and be carefull.

Slide back in for a sticky 6 foot ledge hole with a wall just downstream backing it up. It bends to the left and goes down a corridor before turning back right and falling off a 15 footer and then a 35 footer. After this the run peters out for a mile before you reach the takeout. Awesome run.

Rapid Descriptions


Gage Descriptions

A new experimental virtual gauge has been created that combines with equal weighting percentage flows calculated from total flows on both Doe River at Elizabethton and Watauga River at Sugar Grove.

The big if here is that for this equation and subsequent virtual gauge to be accurate there needs to be uniform rainfall over all 3 watersheds, which is seldom the case. However often times the non-uniformness of rainfall can be relatively negligible. Given this, I think this gauge can become quite usefull in determining flows in the Elk River.

Traditionally, the Watauga was a good indicator, with 600 cfs indicating a good minimum. As of recent times, The Doe has proved to be an equally important indicator, with flows over 1200 cfs being a good sign that the Elk has water.

There is also a NOAA rain gauge in Banner Elk that can give you a good idea of what kind of rain fell in the area.

There are also a handfull of afws gauges in the area that can help in deciding whether to give it a shot.

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




Kirk Eddlemon


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192834 12/21/06 Kirk Eddlemon n/a