Cullasaja - 1. Upper (Lake Sequoyah to below Cosmic Crunch)


Cullasaja, North Carolina, US

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1. Upper (Lake Sequoyah to below Cosmic Crunch) (Upper Cullasaja)

Usual Difficulty IV-V+ (for normal flows)
Length 4.75 Miles
Avg. Gradient 167 fpm
Max Gradient 300 fpm

Triple Drop on Cullasaja


Triple Drop on Cullasaja
Photo of Tim Johnson by Adam Garrett taken 12/20/03 @ 4.04FT

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
CULLASAJA RIVER AT SR 1620 NEAR HIGHLANDS, NC
usgs-0350056050 4.00 - 6.00 ft IV-V+ 3y284d10h02m 2.91 ft (too low)


River Description

First, anyone running this section of river must be aware that there are several unrunnable waterfalls and slots along with miles of flatwater between the rapids in this section of river. No one runs the whole thing but instead this section of river is usually run in several parts. For example the upper slide is usually done as a one shot waterfall and the gorge above the Nemesis to Bricklayer Falls and Cosmic Crunch section is run by itself as a short class V+ run.

The Cullasaja begins on the west side of Highlands NC, at the outflow dam of Lake Sequoyah. The rest of the run is semi-roadside along Hwy 64.

For the top Park & Huck:
Put-in at the base of the dam. If the first drop scares you, then you should not be on the river. The first drop is a three tiered slide dropping about 60 feet. The drop is similar to Stairway to Heaven on Bear. Then pull your boat back up the rock face to hike back out.

Below Triple Drop is a short gorge with a lot of flat water and wood. There are at least 4 trees of 2 feet plus diameter that cross the entire river bed. The only major drop is a slide/Flume 150yds above Dry Falls. The Flume looks nasty and cuts from center and goes river right before it empties out directly into a rock wall. Run the slide river left, and don't forget to take out as soon as you can because the mandatory portage, Dry Falls is just downstream. Taking out here is short, but rough because of the dense undergrowth.

Below Dry Falls is another gorge with some good class 5 water in it. After that the gorge flattens out for a few miles leading up to the RT 1620 bridge aka Turtle Pond Road is where the USGS on-line gauge is.

There is one more major gorge of note below this. And it includes the big roadside drop, Nemesis. If you are driving upstream from the lower, the first really big drop you will see above the falls will be T-Bone on the middle section. It will have a pullout that can handle about 10 cars. Keep driving upstream. About three more miles up the road and the river will take a sharp right hand bend. If you look upstream at the bend you will see a big convoluted mess that makes T-Bone (class 5) look like a walk in the park. That’s Nemesis. There is a roadside pullout past it on the right. You can decide if you are all that in a creek boat or not. To scout: park and walk back down the road until you get to the sharp bend where the guardrail is built on a rock wall. Walk under the wall and you'll see Nemesis. Be Careful the Rocks are VERY Slippery. If you make it down through Nemesis you might as well keep going to Bricklayer Falls. About a 60 foot drop that ends on a huge rock that cuts the river in half. Be sure to have some left or right angle when you go. Below Bricklayer is a convoluted mess called Cosmic Crunch that is on the outward realmes of what is runnable.

Take-out on river right below Cosmic Crunch where a forest service road meets the river, or you could just paddle the extra mile down to T-Bone and take it in too.



AFWS Current Rainfall Data for Macon County.
Check the Highlands gauge, 1824.

See also: Other sections of the Cullasaja:
0. Above the lakes (Class IV-V+)
2. Middle (Below Cosmic Crunch to Above Cullasaja Falls) (Class IV(V+))
3. Lower - Base of Cullasaja Falls to Peeks Creek Bridge (Class IV-V(V+))
4. Peeks Creek Rd (NC-1678) to Peaceful Cove Rd (NC-1677) (Class II(III))
5. Peaceful Cove Rd (NC-1677) to Fulton Rd (NC-1668) (Class I-II)


StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2006-02-11 09:12:05

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Triple Drop5.1Putin Waterfall Photo Video
1.3Slide/FlumeIVTakeout Hazard Waterfall Photo
1.5Dry Falls5.3Takeout Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo
4.3Nemesis5.3Hazard Photo
4.3Nemesis5.2Access Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo
4.3Nemesis5.1Hazard Photo
4.3Bricklayer Falls5.2Hazard Waterfall Photo
4.4The NotchIV+Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo
4.5Cosmic Crunch5.3Portage Hazard Waterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Triple Drop (Class 5.1)
Click Here For Video

2nd Drop of Triple Drop

2nd Drop of Triple Drop
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 12/30/03 @ 4.04 FT

Park and Huck this one. Put-in below the dam. The first drop is about 6-8FT then line up for the second drop of about 15-20 FT. Run from left to right, using the pillow rock to slide up and over onto the bottom drop that's about a 20FT slide into a big pool at the bottom. There's a good trail leading down to a rock platform between the 2nd and 3rd drop that you can walk down to get a better look for wood.

Slide/Flume (Class IV, Mile 1.3)

Slide/Flume Above Dry Falls

Slide/Flume Above Dry Falls
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 05/07/04 @ 3.7 FT

Looks like you would need quiet a bit of water to run it smoothly. There is a flume that runs from center to the bottom river right side. Looks pretty sketchy though. Start looking for a place to carry out after this because death awaits below at Dry Falls.

Dry Falls (Class 5.3, Mile 1.5)

Dry Falls

Dry Falls
Photo by Adam Garret taken 04/24/04 @ 3.2FT

Mandatory Portage Probably don't wanna miss the portage on this one. Looks like there's nothing much below here for a little while.

Nemesis (Class 5.3, Mile 4.3)

Nemesis 2

Nemesis 2
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 05/07/04 @ 3.7 FT

The second drop looks the sickest. Really tight and turbulant water.

Nemesis (Class 5.2, Mile 4.3)

Nemesis 1

Nemesis 1
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 05/07/04 @ 3.7 FT

One of the biggest, steepest, sickest drops on the Cullasaja. Apparently, you can park and huck this one, but looks like the huck would also be sik.

Nemesis (Class 5.1, Mile 4.3)

Nemesis 3

Nemesis 3
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 05/07/04 @ 3.7 FT

Hopefully you're still in one piece when you get to the bottom here. Don't worry though, you have a few hundred yards to get it gathered back up before Bricklayer Falls.

Bricklayer Falls (Class 5.2, Mile 4.3)

Bricklayer Falls

Bricklayer Falls
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 05/07/04 @ 3.7 FT

Run left to right and right around the big rock at the bottom.

The Notch (Class IV+, Mile 4.4)

Bricklayer Notch

Bricklayer Notch
Photo by Adam Garret taken 03/09/04 @ 3.5ft

There's some wood blocking the entrance to the Notch. Looks like a pretty straight foward drop with a pretty good pool at the bottom that leads into the big part of the drop.

Cosmic Crunch (Class 5.3, Mile 4.5)

Cosmic Crunch

Cosmic Crunch
Photo by Adam Garrett @ 3.7 Ft

Has it been run?


User Comments


2004-05-21 09:27:23 (3618 days ago)
Adam GarrettDetails
As of March 9th, there was a huge log across the "notch" above Bricklayer. It crosses the
entire river channel, may not be a problem above about 6 feet. Also, looked to be a log in the
chute leaving the river left eddy at Cosmic Crunch. And more wood in the next drop right below
Cosmic Crunch.
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