This photo needs editing.
Difficulty V+
Length 2.6 Miles
Flow Range 800 - 3000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 40 minutes ago 1160 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 12/15/2009 4:14 pm

River Description

Note:  By order of the Cherokee Tribal Council, that portion of the Raven Fork crossing the Qualla Boundary (the official name of their reservation) is closed to boating.  The bottom portion of this run is located on the reservation -- it is illegal to boat it.  Carefully read the additional information below.


The majority of the Upper Raven fork is outside of the Cherokee Reservation. A good portion of the run is in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. However the takeout is squarely in reservation grounds. Please note that the Raven Fork within the reservation is presently closed to boating.

Don't even think about paddling the Raven Fork with out politely obtaining permission from those who live at the take out. There are two variations on getting to the put-in. If you're good enough to be on this run you'll track down that info from one of the local experts.

Some of the larger named drops include (not in order), Jedi Training, Harjes Rapid (where Chris blew out his shoulder), Cave Man, Anaconda, Headless Horseman, Mortal Kombat, Mike Tyson's punchout, Big Boy, Atomic Elbow Crusher, Mangler and others.

The top mile accessed via the Enloe Creek Trail is 400 feet. The next two are the same, but a bulk of the gradient is in the middle at 560 ft/mile, and the 3/4 mile stretch from jedi training through mangler is 730 ft/mile. As steep as the steepest 3/4 mile on road prong, but pool drop. Tell me that aint the steepest 3/4 mile of boating in the SE.

Rapid Descriptions

Big Boof

Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The bottom is unfortunately clogged with wood. 15 foot superboof.

Easy Slide

Class - IV Mile - 0.5

Fun and Easy                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       


Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.8

20 foot waterfall into a big pothole on the right. Run center.                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Lord of the Rings

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A great warm up, this drop is magical. 5 drops. First 6 foot shoulder on right, second boof 8 feet straight, third delayed hole punch down the middle with alcove on left, fourth, slide right of center, thread between two logs, fifth, boof right.


Class - 5.2 Mile - 1.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is probably the hardest rapid other than big boy and the portages.

Headless Horseman

Class - 5.1 Mile - 1.15
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Big hole at high water, Don't flip!

Class 4 with wood

Class - Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
I am sure some run it without noticing the wood, but it could definitely kill you. Most people portage left.

Right Right

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.25
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A great rapid with two entrances: Tight on the right and boof in from the left. Either way, stay right. Hence the name.


Class - 5.1 Mile - 1.28
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The top of this one is often portaged, especially at low water, since most of the flow goes into a death trap of an undercut on the left. Seal launch in from the top of the undercut, or with ample water, drive right into the safe zone. From here keep working right down a long, fun, and bouncy slide, staying away from possible trouble on the bottom left.

Log Slot

Class - IV+ Mile - 1.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
I am sure this one didn't have a name untill a log lodged vertically about 2 feet down from the slot. Its undercut on the right and recirc on the left and the line to the left or right of the log right below is fine. Swims have occurred here.

Unnamed boogie

Class - IV Mile - 1.35
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Three drops of welcomed smallness and ease. A ten foot cascade, a wall shot on the right and a shoulder boof.

Hale Mary

Class - 5.3 Mile - 1.38
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
You can wheelchair it on the right, or portage. Very few have run the tight centerline that has a critical ridge of rock that tends to spin people out into a bad undercut rock hanging halfway down the cascade. Named after Jason Hale when he pinned for a good while here.

More unnammed boogie

Class - IV Mile - 1.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Another relaxing stretch of class 4, with two low angle bedrock bouncy affairs

Jedi Training

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.4
More fun than hard, and large. Slide down the entrance slide lining up for the big hole much like a larger line on zwick's on the green. MOst people drop into the slide on the right afterwards that winds down a crack on the right wall. Lean into the wall curler and before you know it you are at the bottom. You can also punch more of the meat and run a shallow but fun line down the middle/left.

Mortal Combat

Class - 5.1 Mile - 1.41
This one is the beginning of the huge. After a junky boof off the left wall(angle right), Run a class 4 entrance rapid and eddy out right or left. Here the line goes off to the right and down a big ramp into a hump. Stay to the inside(left) of the hump and keep it pointed downstream. Off to the right is a hole backed by undercut formations. Run down the final 15 foot slide trying to stay on the right of 2 teeth that stick up on the horizon. The hole kicks left into a wall.

Boof above Big Boy

Class - IV Mile - 1.5

Right below Wet Willy are two boofs. The second one signals its time to get out on the right above Big Boy.                                                                                           

Wet Willy

Class - 5.1 Mile - 1.51

The centerline is the easiest, and has a great boof at the bottom, but watch the cave on the left. Right is best with good water, a straightforward flume. Some run the left, but it is least common.

Big Boy

Class - 5.3 Mile - 1.55

This is reputed to be the most serious drop in the Southeast. No one seems to argue about it. 35 foot drop with the finest of lines. Easier lower.              

Super Collider

Class - 5.2 Mile - 1.58
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Run down the left and then off a table like rock formation about 12 feet and don't get pinned.

Atomic Elbow Crusher

Class - 5.2 Mile - 1.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Go right or left of the Elbow Crusher rock in the landing. There are curls coming off the right wall with good water that don't like you to do the right line.

Mike Tyson's Punchout

Class - 5.2 Mile - 1.65

This one drops more vert than any other and is definitely the most out of control. Its huge and will blow your mind. Must run!                                                        


Class - 5.1 Mile - 1.7

One of the harder and more technical rapids. The first drop is pushy, leading into a sticky hole right above second drop, a jagged ledge you want to run far left. Then the classic third drop, where you boof the left wall 10 feet and land on a righty so you don't go spelunking. Check the cave out afterwards, or before, if you like setting safety.

Harjes Rapid

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.7
Named after Chris Harjes. This one tends to land you on a high right brace next to a cave on the right. Drive left and tuck your boat back underneath you, or sneak it on the left. In the picture, Harjes is the rapid right above Trip, with Mike Tysons the one above that. He is running first drop of Caveman.


Class - 5.3 Mile - 1.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Its been run a few times, but its retarded looking. Big 12 foot boof that lands in a sieve that goes off another big drop that goes into a undercut with wood on the right. You can carefully seal launch next to the wood or launch from 15 feet above the pool below. Hint: its not deep.

Little Headless Horseman

Class - IV+ Mile - 2.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Kinda looks like its big brother upstream, only class 4 and easier.


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14 years ago

Ravens TR New [add to watch]

Forum: BoaterTalk
Date: Mar 21 2005, 16:41 GMT
From: waterfrk09

As TDUB suggested and our group confirmed on Saturday, you can get down as low as 4 in. On Saturday the level was exactly that. The road leading to the old railroad bed was blocked by a truck so we opted to make the hike up and over. The hike sucks, just shoulder it and go. 2 miles up and 1 down felt about right.

It being the entire groups first time, we took every bit of daylight we had and scouted everything. A summary of the rapids at this level:

Big 15 boof up top with large wood exit, sketchy but runnable, easy portage on the left

Lord of the Rings

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15 years ago

From Leland on Boatertalk:

Manuel at the takeout likes Budweiser. (they usally get him a 12 pack inexchange for parking privilidges)

He's a super cool guy to talk to as well - been all over the world.

On the drive up to the putin hike there is an almost exposed drain pipe in the road. BE AWARE OF THE PIPES AND DON"T BREAK THEM!! We damn near lost access due to someone driving over this pipe, breaking it, and pissing off the folks who live up there. The pipe is right after you turn right onto gravel at the top of the driveway. or at least in the first couple hundred yards. I think it's on the right side of the road (showing in the rut) but I haven't been up there in a while so that could be wrong.

The put-in and take-out are both on private property, the bridge and "public" road are actually tribal land, and the whole thing is such that it's a miracle we have access at all. don't fuck it up.

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15 years ago

From Chris Young on Boatertalk:
about Ravens put-in/take-out (please read) New

Forum: BoaterTalk

Date: Jun 02 2004, 23:06 GMT
From: BAyoung

recently people have been abusing the generosity of of the locals. The nice man who allows us to take out on his land usually receives some compensation (beer or smokes) but people have just pulled up and parked without asking. Also people who have not made it all the way up the put in raod have left their cars blockin gthe road. this not only prevents others from getting up, but specifically their is a landowner who lives up there and this is essentially his driveway. I would encourage people not to discuss the details of where the put-in/take out are on this board due to nature of the situation on tribal lands. those who go to the raven can easily call someone who has been for the necessary details. i would hate to lose this resource as there are no other backups available and people put in a lot of work to establish this. Thanks. -Chris Young

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15 years ago

From Leland, on boatertalk:
Ravens: 569
Toxaway: 596
Road Prong: 616

book is coming right along....only another month or two till the writing is all done!


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15 years ago

Date: Jun 02 2004, 14:13 GMT
From: SEBoater

Anaconda (has wood)
Headless Horseman
Right Right
? (has wood)
Jedi Training (tree @ top, but room to get under it)
Mortal Combat (wood, but easily avoided)
Wet Willey
Big Boy (wood)
Atomic Elbow Cruncher
Mike Tyson's Punch Out
Harjes' rapid
the Mangler

the question marks have names, but I'm not positive on what they are. the warm-up starts out big & then it gets bigger.

& a few in the boogie water that would probably have names if they were on any other run.


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Scott McCorvey
15 years ago

Ran it today with Ted, Ben, Andy, Payton, and myself. The Oconaluftee peaked at 2500CFS when we put on. The gauge at the bridge registered 20inches. The drop below headless horsemen has new wood in it. The drop below caveman also has wood in it. Run far left on that one. Caveman, Mortal, Mike Tyson, Headless, and Anaconda were clean of wood.


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16 years ago

the steepest mile around here (western nc) is the raven's fork, but there are several portages:

a short partage for some wood in the third rapid - but the rapid was run pre-wood.

portage around hail mary which you can scoot over in your boat (has been successfully run once by tao, but it didn't look pretty).

portage at the mangler - this drop still hasn't been run.

even with those portages and another at big boy, i ran more hard rapids in a mile there than i have anywhere else. maybe run 'em again tomorrow...


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16 years ago

Wood in Big Boy. <more> New
Forum: BoaterTalk
Date: Jun 20 2003, 12:38 GMT
From: SEBoater

right right is clean
the log is gone from the pool @ jedi training
thw log in the lead in to mortal combat is gone

new wood between atomic elbow crusher & mike tyson
the log in mike tyson, at the top boof, is gone

2 trees have fallen @ the top of caveman, several branches are hanging halfway in the first drop. it would be easy to cut them out with a small hand saw.

Oconluftee @ 850
bridge guage @ 12"


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17 years ago

From Clay Wright from Boatertalk, March 1, 2001:
went back to the Raven Fork yesterday and it is even better with higher water. We had about 1' 3" on the "Tony Robinson" guage - a good bit higher than the "Freshwater" footage. Big group of 8, but great weather and we all had good lines. No broken boats, paddles, bones etc.
Daniel D's backward "anaconda" run. So good he went back and came down backwards again.
The surfs at Headless Horseman
Running Leelans's new "waterspout" line blind (3'wide exit)
Pat Keller surfing the 1/2 way hole in Mortal Kombat.
My piton of the log about 2.5' above the water just below.
Pat's near "face shot" into "elbow-basher" wall.
Mike Tyson's punch-out -
- this is now one of my favorite rapids ever.
10' ledge into a long curler-packed 30' slide and off about 20' vert. Like a creek-version of Oceana after an approach series. Big trip highlight.

The Negatives:
The hike-in. over one log, under the next for 2 1/2 miles.
Continuity: pool drop, but a blown skirt or broken paddle could spell disaster. At this level, set safety below every rapid.
Cold: about 20 degrees colder in the gorge than on the hike.
Walking Big Boy:
long and steep and loose - makes you feel like hucking and hoping . . only the next 2 rapids aren't friendly at all. We hiked the set.
The other portages:
some BAD undercuts/logs etc along the way.
Daniel's near first Descent:
only one drop still unrun, and Daniel D just about dropped in backwards. Good thing he's such a scrambler. All those 200% days on the Green really paid off.
Daniel, Jason Hale, and Al G hittin it again today.
Good luck, boys -

Gage Descriptions

Online gauges consist of:

1) The Oconaluftee USGS of which the Raven Fork is a tributary.However since this gauge is a considerable distance downstream - and not actually on the Raven Fork itself, the Oconaluftee gauge may not always accurately reflect actual water levels in the Raven Fork.

2) For the visual bridge take-out gauge, most of the reported runs have been from a minumum of 7 inches, to close to two feet. Keep in mind the numbers on the gauge(10,20,etc), are not feet! They are inches. So when its at 10 its 10 inches, not 1.0 feet. This has caused confusion in the past when making visuals.

3)An new gauge has been reported: the Swain County Gauge (aka "Trout Farm SG")

This gauge (aka "Trout Farm SG") has been directly observed to correlate with the visual gauge on the take out bridge so that a 4.5" bridge reading = 0.9 on the above Trout Farm gauge. While more data points are needed (please post them below!) it is currently assumed that a 1.1' reading on the Trout Farm gauge = 7" (minimum level) on the takeout bridge gauge.

The trout farm gauge is overall highly suspect, and using rainfall graphics, precipitation gauges, radar info, and other beta will help tune you in better to what's going on. Use the trout farm gauge to see that the creek is responding, but going over when it is less than 1.3 and nothing else suggests runnable levels can often yield a skunking. The visual gauge has read 10 inches on one occasion when the trout farm gauge was 1.3, and on another occasion the visual gauge has read 3 inches when the trout farm gauge read 1.3. Often it jumps to rediculous numbers like 210.3 and 37.4 for no reason. Take it with a grain of salt.

A good rule of thumb is if the West Prong ran good one day, Raven Fork will the next. With a watershed of 20 square miles and nice channelizing bedrock, this one goes often, and an inch of rain at Pin Oak Gap and or Newfound Gap is all it takes to get it going. In the winter those totals can get it going high.

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.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2013-03-29 n/a Injury Extreme Weather Read More




article main photo

Raven Fork Closed by Cherokee... again (NC)

Jason Robertson

The Raven Fork through the Cherokee Reservation in Western NC has been closed again. Boating remains open on the harder section upstream of the reservation.

Kirk Eddlemon


Chris Bell


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193140 03/26/09 Kirk Eddlemon n/a
1196909 12/15/09 Chris Bell