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Difficulty V
Length 3.4 Miles
Flow Range 1.0 - 2.5 IN/12H
Flow Rate as of: 3 days ago 0.01 [IN/12H]
Reach Info Last Updated 08/05/2015 3:48 pm

River Description

The Upper Santeetlah is a beautiful place with pockets of large old growth trees (some of
which are in the river), pristine water, and beautiful rapids. At the putin, on forest road
81c the river is very small before the tributaries have a chance to come together. There
is a flat pice of cement at the base of the river left bridge support on forest road 81c .
This is a good visual gage. Look for the water to be level or above the down stream side
of this cement slab for a good run. For the first 1/2 mile the river is small with boulder
rapids. Within the first 1/2-3/4 mile there is a 3' diameter hemlock across the entire river.
Portage this on river right. The river then enters a section of bedrock rapids. The rapids
in this section all have the same character, they start on river left and slide to river right.
This section ends with a narrow 100' long side. After this long slide there is an 18' drop
(scout this one), and then a 10' drop. The river continues in a drop pool format for 3 or 4
more rapids before changing into long continous boulder rapids similar to the West Prong.
There are a few more slides in this section before the takeout at the forest service
gate. It is best to takeout about 100 yards down stream of the gate to avoid crawling
through the rhododendron. You cannot see the road from the river so it is best to make a
visual reference of where you car is parked. If this gate is locked you can either hike up
from the gate or go to the top of the Cherohala Skyway and hike down forest road 81. As
of April 2002 there was a lot of wood in the river so watch out.

Rapid Descriptions


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John Pilson
12 years ago

We were one of three groups on January 9th, 2007, and put on at close to minimal flows ("the good side of elfing") at 1:00 p.m., which was six hours after a 24 hr rain delivered 2.32" of rain on the Chestnut Flats gauge. The creek was much higher earlier in the day. We goofed up and didn't put on as high up as we could/should have, but instead near the confluence with John's Branch (which is where 81 and 81C intersect). Because the FS gate was closed, we were hiking, and going up another 3/4 mile or so would have taken us to the bridge at Whigg Branch which is where we should have put in. The Upper Santeetlah is truly a stellar run. Wood is an issue here and there. Heads up. Be sure to check out the topo map ahead of time, and/or bring a copy. Here is the url to a Topozone map you can mess with for the area:

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Steven Matz
15 years ago

Just wanted to give an update on the wood situation. On April 13, 2004 Josh Phillips and I paddled from the bridge at 81C to the takeout with no portages. All drops are presently clean.

Gage Descriptions

Look for Tellico over 750 and rising.
Look for 2" of rain at AFWS gage #1924.
AFWS Graham County Rain Gauge

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




Matt Muir


Kevin Colburn


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193172 01/15/03 n/a n/a
1205178 08/05/15 Kevin Colburn map accuracy