Straight Fork, North Carolina, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||136 fpm|
|OCONALUFTEE RIVER AT BIRDTOWN, NC|
|usgs-03512000||1100 - 4000 cfs||III-IV||00h23m||727 cfs (too low)|
I would like to see at least 1100 on the Oconaluftee River near Birdtown [ NC ] gauge. 8 inches on the bridge gauge at the confluence of Raven Fork and Straight Fork should be about minimum. With no trees this little run would be a blast with a lot of water. On the other hand high water would send you into hidden trees faster than you could probably react.
This is a great intro to creeking run. Its fast, semi blind in places, and non stop for 4 miles. The run can be thought of as one long non stop rapid, with the occasional small eddy. The whole run is roadside which makes for easy scouting and portaging. As of March 2008 there were two tree portages and a couple of trees to be ducked under.
Taken individually, non of the drops are any harder than class 3, but due to the non stop nature the creeks feels like its on the upper end of class three. Lots of back to back boulder drops. There are also two good sized ledge drops, both had wood in them as of March 2008.
This may be a restricted run, as it's takeout is in the Cherokee Qualla Boundary. The majority of the run is in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Once past the gate, you can do the entire run within the park if need be.
Be aware that the park service does lock the gate from time to time.
A run from the large metal bridge & horse park to the confluence is about 5 good miles of water. The roadside stretch above the bridge appeared to flatten out. If you have more info on the upper stretch, please add it in the comments section.
There is good parking at the confluence and above the confluence at the Park service gate if you would like to cut out some of the flatter water.
At higher flows, continuing down the Oconaluftee River would make for a fun longer run.