The Pigeon River Dries are the normally dewatered stretch of river upstream of the Pigeon Gorge play run. Unlike the run just downstream, the Dries are quite creeky, with all the associated hazards this entails, plus a few extras contributed by jagged rocks loosened by construction of I-40.
The Dries rarely run. The Walters Hydroelectric Project typically sends water around the Dries through a tunnel to the powerhouse at the put in for the popular run downstream. During times of very high inflows and reservoir levels, or during hydropower project maintenance, water may be released through gates on the dam. The start time, stop time, and volume of these releases are difficult or impossible to predict. The best resource is the Western NC Visuals FaceBook page where paddlers post recent photos of the low water bridge at the put in, which paddlers use to gage whether or not the Dries are runnable. The gage listed on this page is just a rough indicator that the Dries might be running. The gage includes generation (often 2000cfs), Big Creek, Dries tributaries, as well as the flows being released at the dam. So a gage reading of 3,200 cfs could correspond to a wide range of flows in the Dries, but is likely to indicate a release is occuring at the dam.
From visually estimates of 350-650 cfs in the Dries (not on the USGS gage), the Dries are class IV-IV+ with one V (No Where to Land, which features a shallow, rock-laden landing zone and a severely undercut left bank at the top of the main drop); from 650-1,500 cfs the Dries are class IV+ with two V's (No Where to Land and Chinese Arithmetic, the longest rapid on the river and the only rapid to have claimed a life). At levels over 900 cfs or so all but the two hardest drops are IV's or IV+'s, but as Tom Piccirilli said of the IV+'s, "they're IV's, but they're 4.9999's." In addition, a swim could be nasty as some of the rock is jagged and in places the action is continuous. The Dries have been run very very high (Tom Visnius and Corran Addison ran them at 3,000 cfs), but for mere mortals the run starts to get very pushy around 1,500 cfs.
From November 2000 to May 2001 the surge tank feeding the Walters power plant underwent repairs, and for almost this entire period the Dries ran. This meant that a run that at one time had been done by only a handful of boaters became very well known (at least at lower water levels).
The following description is courtesy of The Asheville Area Boating Beta Page (boatingbeta.com). To view it in a new window, click here.
IV-IV+ (1 @ V)
IV+ (2 @ V)
The Dries have been run very very high (by Tom Visnius and Corran Addison), but for mere mortals the run starts to get very pushy around 1,500 cfs. At higher mortal flows all but the two hardest drops (No Where to Land, which features a shallow, rock-laden landing zone and a severely undercut left bank at the top of the main drop, and Chinese Arithmetic, the longest rapid on the river and the only rapid to have claimed a life) are IV's or IV+'s, but as my friend Tom Piccirilli said of the IV+'s, "they're IV's, but they're 4.9999's." In addition, a swim could be nasty as some of the rock is jagged and in places the action is continuous.
In April 1994, Tom Visnius and Corran Addison did a BIG water run in the Dries. Corran had done the run at lower levels (two feet over the low-water bridge at the Harmon Den exit) but it was Tom's first visit. The river was flowing NINE feet over the bridge (the water was all the way up in the big flat spot between the highway and the bridge). This corresponds to 3000 cfs. Tom wrote an account of the run for the Western Carolina Paddlers newsletter [see below]. Corran and Tom (for the first time) were both paddling a new boat that Corran's new company had just released . . . the Scorpion.
Some of the folks who had driven out with Corran and Tom ran Upper Big Creek instead. We meet Corran and Tom in the Big Creek parking lot. Both boyz were highly animated. Corran described a typical rapid as being like running the Upper Gauley's Pillow Rock, followed by Sweet's Falls, followed by Iron Ring. Both Corran and Tom told tales of thorough trashings in monster holes. Tom described being stuck for "a long time" in one hole, finally washing out directly into a second hole, and then washing out and just making a must-catch eddy before a scary drop requiring a careful scouting. Most of us would probably prefer the Dries at lower levels.
Here's Tom's article as it appeared in the May 1994 edition of "Messing About," the newsletter of the Western Carolina Paddlers.
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Found this on BoaterTalk:
Date: Dec 13, 07:01
From: B Thornton
I've paddled it twice ,last Sunday was the second time.The level was 360 or so which is low but not scrapey.It is very similar to the upper yough in difficulty.Both are large rivers consricted into tight river beds.The Yough is a little more continous but the average rapid on the dries is a little bit steeper and tighter than than the upper yough rapids.There is one drop that is one drop that is harder than anything on the upper yough called ,Nowhere to Land, or Picket Fence, it is a big nastey drop with a trickey lead in and dubious landing zone.That said I saw several people run it with sun. with no problems, but most people walked it.Both runs are the type of runs that you can tell would be really hard at high water.The upper yough is legendary above 3' and I suspect the Pidgeon Dries will soon join it.
1 year ago
by Kevin Colburn
The gage listed on this page is just a rough indicator that the Dries might be running. The gage includes generation (often 2000cfs), Big Creek, Dries tributaries, as well as the flows being released at the dam. So a gage reading of 3,200 cfs could correspond to a wide range of flows in the Dries, but is likely to indicate a release is occuring at the dam.
The best resource is the Western NC Visuals FaceBook page where paddlers post recent photos of the low water bridge at the put in, which paddlers use to gage whether or not the Dries are runnable.
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No rhyme or reason to the flow - Waterville Gauge Graph
Tom going Chinese
(RM) Tunnel Rapid
(RM) Tiney Tower Victim
(RM) Tiney Tower Right Boof
(RM) Tiney Tower Middle Line
(RM) Tiney Tower Left Boof
(RM) Stairway To Hell
(RM) Rock Jumble
(RM) Nowhere To Land at 1362 cfs
(RM) Nowhere To Land
(RM) Put-In Bridge
(RM) Gunnell Buster
(RM) Dumb-S & Nowhere To Land Entrance
(RM) Chineese Arithmatic Boof
(RM) Chineese Arithmatic near minimum
(RM) Chineese Arithmatic Iced Over
(RM) Chineese Arithmatic at 1362 cfs
(RM) Chineese Arithmatic
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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)
Public hearings have been scheduled later this month regarding a new draft water quality permit for Blue Ridge Paper Products, which discharges tens of thousands of pounds of pollutants into the Pigeon River (NC/TN) each year. The debate over the effluents of the paper mill has been extremely controversial over the past few decades, and this new permitting process marks a significant opportunity for progress. Paddlers are encouraged to attend the hearings, learn more about the issue, and voice your concerns and opinions.
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