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.
Re: Straight Fork, NC Info please. by rbednar Apr 15 2003, 5:38 GMT New
Date: Apr 15 2003, 10:03 GMT
Not a whole lot to it. About two miles long, typical fast moving smokies water, nothing above class III. Easier than lower Big Creek, similar in difficulty to middle prong without the ledge drops. Potential for much harder water upstream but no trails enter into it. Oconoluftee was 1800 when i ran it, considered a low but runnable level.
Got a recent report of a run at 1800 on the gauge. Was close to optimal.
This run is very nice. It is all roadside. No wood problems as of April 2010. If you enjoy the little in TN but don't have the time to get to it, this makes a great class III option for you. The run is as pretty as other smokies runs, but without any houses (like lower big creek) or passing cars (like at the little). It has a greater wilderness feel to it without the pressure of running class V, like at the other more wilderness runs of the smokies. If you are just getting into creeking or just want to do something new go check out the straight fork. You can also do a one car shuttle fairly easy. Just bring a bike or hike up with your boat if the road is gated off. Which it is not in the spring or summer. The put in is the second bridge. The take out is the parking lot by the gate. Below is a low head dam so it is best to get out at the gate. Above the bridge the creek is unreasonable due to lots of wood. A fishing trail goes into that part but the gradient doesn't pick up and the wood thing is a real problem. All-in-all though I would recommend this run to anybody who loves boating in the smokies. O and the rapids are distinguished and fun class III instead just one long continues rapid. More like what you would see on the little than lower big creek or tremont. However the run is easier than both of those runs.
The closest online gage is probably the Oconaluftee at birdtown, of which the Straight Fork is a tributary along with the Raven Fork. The Raven Fork will be putting most of the water in the stream, and the online gauge is a good many miles downstream. Look for a minimum of 1100 before heading that way. Be mindful that if the flow is going up you might be in for quite the ride.
There is also a gauge on the Raven Fork under the bridge abutment at the confluence of the Raven Fork and Straight Fork. I'd look for at least 8 inchs on this gauge, but drive upstream a little for a visual just to be sure.
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