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Difficulty IV(V+)
Length 2.5 Miles
Flow Range 4.00 - 5.50 FT
Flow Rate as of: 10 years ago 2.91 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 02/11/2006 9:13 am

River Description

The Middle section of the Cullasaja is a good place to work on moving up to the next level. Two drops are usually portaged, but first the fun stuff!

The usual put-in for the middle section, according to a well-known local, is ½ to 2/3 of a mile above T-Bone. There is a Forest Service Road that has been cut down the right bank. You can park here and walk your boat down to the river and put on below the mayhem of Nemesis, Bricklayer, and Cosmic Crunch. The later of which seems to be on the outer limits of whatÂs runnable.

About 1/4 mile below the put-in is the First Drop, a sliding drop that has a vertical drop of river left. Good landing area below, so it's pretty user friendly. The Second Drop is directly below and can be run down the slide or down the drop, but if you run the drop go to the right of the rock that has recently possitioned itself in the main channel. Going left usually results in a bad bow pin (witnessed).

The Take-Out is usually at the Rock Shop or the 1st bridge above the shop. The few that want to paddle on down to The Big Stuff will probably have to set a vehicle in the big pull-off on the right side of the road and then run the drops and huck back up to your vehicle.

About halfway into the run is T-Bone. T-Bone is a 4-step drop next to a bend in the highway. In the bottom center of the drop is one of the biggest, scariest potholes you will ever see. The usual line is up against the left bank. There is a very easy portage beside the road. At higher levels, say above 5ft, a right line opens up.

Below T-Bone is some class III+ technical boogie water, until you cross under the bridge and then look for the Rock Shop take-out. After the Rock Shop there is a good looking surfing wave and then a small ledge before the proverbial bottom drops out. A pretty serious horizon line marks the entrance, and the current split by a large boulder. Scouting is best achieved on river right. ThereÂs a 10-12FT slide/drop, then most of the river takes a hard right hand turn around the big rock in the middle of the channel. While passing the rock start looking for an eddy to get in to line up for the stuff below. Next, hit another steep sliding drop and then you really, really need to look for an eddy to get into, because 200ft plus Cullasaja Falls is waiting below.

There is a Super Slide that has been run, but it is not advised because a swim would set you up for the last of your life. The slide is only run a low levels because of the push the extra water would give at the bottom and the chance of having to run Cullasaja Falls. A word of CAUTION about the class VÂs. Only run these if you have a bombproof roll and have adequate boaters to set up safety. A swim here would probably be FATAL.

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+)
1. Upper (Lake Sequoyah to below Cosmic Crunch) (Class )
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)

Rapid Descriptions

First Waterfall

Class - IV Mile - 0.4
A classic ledge drop. The slide can be run pretty easy off center. Center has some rocky jumble in the middle. Far right is somewhat vertical, with a good deep landing. Above there is a good pool to decipher which line you want to take, and to get plenty of speed. The only major danger is an undercut on the river left ledge at the base of the drop. And even that would be pretty hard to get into. it's about 3-4 feet underwater at 3.21ft on the USGS gauge. Even then a ton of left angle would be needed to get into the cut.

Second waterfall

Class - IV Mile - 0.5
A nice sliding waterfall. The falls is vertical on river left, and a slide into a boof right of center. At higher levels the hole can be sticky.

Daniel's Rock

Class - III Mile - 0.6
Named after an epic broching horizontal pin. Good practice for eddy hopping, though. The rock in the center looks like it would cause a problem, but most of the water flows left around the rock and pulls you with it.


Class - 5.0 Mile - 0.75

IV+ at low levels, say below 4.5ft, a solid V at higher levels. Starts off, with some smallish ledges leading into a steep slide with a huge pothole in the center bottom. Usually ran on far river left at low levels, at higher levels a right line opens up. During the summer there will be a crowd swimming below the big slide.

Ledges Below T-Bone

Class - II+ Mile - 0.9
Short ledge right below T-Bone. You can use this as a visual gauge on how the rest of the run will be. If it's scrappy, probably gonna be too low. If not, you're good.

Second Gorge

Class - III+ Mile - 1.5

After what feels like a long flat section the river picks up for a small micro-gorge with three to seven drops depending on how you count rapids.

The Slot

Class - III+ Mile - 1.9

The last drop in the second micro-gorge can be run as a fun vertical slot move.  Watch for trees.

Lead in Ledge

Class - III+ Mile - 2.3
A sliding ledge about 50 yards above the really big drops. Looks good just about anywhere, but river left. There's a trail that leads down to this drop and the big drops from the first big pull-off above Cullasaja Falls

The Big Stuff

Class - 5.0 Mile - 2.4
10-12FT ledge right above the big rock that splits the river.

Last Rapids

Class - 5.0 Mile - 2.5

Last series of drops before the big falls. Still roadside.

Boogie Above the Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 2.6
This comes up after the drop with the big rock in the middle of the river. If you're running this, you don't need me to tell you how. Just don't miss the last eddy before the Super Slide, that will probably be last slide you see!

Super Slide

Class - 5.3 Mile - 2.8
Probably not that difficult of a rapid, if it weren't for the what if factor. Looks to be over 100 feet long and ends right above Cullasaja Falls. If you park at the overlook for the falls (put-in for Lower) you can see the slide at the top of the Falls.

Cullasaja Falls

Class - Mile - 2.9
250 feet plus drop. Look close at the top and you can see the Super Slide. Please don't miss the eddy at the bottom!


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16 years ago

The Cullasaja ... New

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: cullasaja -- update... unipaddle New
Re: lower cullasaja BSK New
Date: Sep 28 2004, 0:39 GMT
From: ugadelta98

The Cullasaja is broken into three distinct sections (for whitewater boating): the Upper, Middle, and Lower.

Upper: 3 Big drops at the beginning, several portages (including Dry Falls), some flatwater, a little class III/IV, and then some solid V/V+ stuff from Nemesis and Bricklayer down to Cosmic Crunch (which is realistically a VI).

Middle: Some Class IV boulders garden stuff below Cosmic Crunch, some class III boogie through semi-tight slots, one small drop, two 8 foot drops (both IV's above 4.5), some Class III boogie, T-Bone (a Class IV+/V) multi-tiered drop, some more Class III boogie, a mile or so of flatwater, a small gorge with Class III+/IV moves (above 4.5 it is Class IV, and only gets tougher as more water comes in), then some ledges in front of the rock shop; there are 3 more Class V rapids below the rock shop, and directly above the big falls, but very few people run them- if you screw up and swim you could end up flushing down over Cullasaja Falls (over 200 ft multi- tiered drop).

Lower: put in at the base of Cullasaja Falls; you have many Class V/V+ rapids for over a mile. The famous ones are Double Drop, Eclipse, Next Time, and Whale Tale, but there are many more stacked in there. It is a serious creek run. The takeout is the Peeks Creek Bridge.

I grew up in Franklin (live away now though), and have been paddling the Cullasaja for about 8 years, so I am very familiar with the majority of the run. I have paddled alot of the Upper, all of the Middle (many, many times), and from below Whale Tale down on the Lower (we hiked in from Peeks Creek- I'm not a good enough creeker to even consider the rest of the Lower still). That river is beautiful, powerful, and dangerous, so be careful on it; I see alot of people posting on here about it these days.

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16 years ago

Forum: BoaterTalk<br />
Re: Middle Cullasaja Questions coopster New <br />
<br />
Date: Apr 20 2004, 0:59 GMT <br />
From: BLT <br />3 mini gorges to the cully, top is from the dam below the lake, bottom is at the bottom of big w/fall by road...
<br />
The middle gorge is a bit outta control. There is a section just below the middle gorge that has some technical stuff then 2, 8' ledges, then a road side class 5, followed by some flat then a series of class 3 rock gardens, then you get down to the area above the big falls. This one is good if you get there and the others are a bit beefy. <br />
<br />

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16 years ago

Forum: BoaterTalk

Date: Apr 20 2004, 3:24 GMT
From: wncpaddler
You can Park and Huck the two drops above T-Bone and run T-Bone itself as low as you want. Lowest I've done it is 3.21ft. and it was really scrappy. I would say optimum would be 4-4.5 ft. That really pads things out but make some other stuff really intresting. Watch out for what Newt calls the "box" if you run the drop on the second. Running the slide keeps you away from this. (Newt got worked pretty hard there about 2 months back at 4.25) But you can run the drop with good speed and about 2 ft left of the curler at the top. At lower levels the second drop is pretty sketchy. You won't be able to get much speed and are sure to pin hard in the cave on the far left. It's not terminal, but still bad enough. (1st hand experience there) As for T-Bone you can see how it looks, just stay way left and pull yourself along the top part, at lower levels, and stay away from that huge pothole at the bottom. Pretty good recovery there though.

As for a max. level I wouldn't be one it above 5.5ft. There was an epic swim there last Tuesday at 5.5ft. The swim occured above the 1st drop and there were no eddies until below T-Bone, so the Huka went all the way down the 1st, 2nd, boogie water, and was recirculated in the hole below T-Bone for 20 min. Then pinned on a rock. Bad place to be at that level. I'm sure others will disagree, but for a 1st time run....that's what I would suggest.

Be careful, and know where you are and what's comming up on the Cully at high water. It can be a great place, but a deadly one too. Check out my photos on the AW page for a look at some of the bigger class 5's right above the big falls.

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Adam Garrett
16 years ago

The two drops above T-Bone can be run as low as you care on the first, but the second is scrappy at around 3.2ft. I witnessed a pretty bad bow pin on the far river left side of the second drop. At low levels (below 3.4ft) the second is really sketchy. At higher levels the second drops forms a huge hole, not terminal, but still pretty sticky (above 4.5ft)

Update: it seems that the far left bank of the 1st Drop is undercut. Ben found it while he was probing around out of his boat. I doubt it is an issue at any level except at maybe summer levels and even then a lot of left angle would be needed to get into the undercut.

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16 years ago

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: New Pics and video clip up on AW of Upper/Middle Cullasaja wncpaddler New
Re: One thing with the pics..... Bradley New
Date: Feb 12 2004, 0:04 GMT
From: ugadelta98

T-Bone (Class IV+, but a definite V at higher water)) is what is commonly referred to as Sliding Rock by the local swimmers on the Cullasaja (different that the Sliding Rock near Brevard) and is located in the bend of the road upstream of the rock shop, after Gold Mine Road. It has a big gravel and paved pulloff parking area to the left, above the main drop. There are two other waterfalls located about 100 yards upstream, First and Second drops (about 8 feet apiece- III+/IV). Above them, about 1/2 to 2/3 of a mile is the pulloff at the old Forest Service road where you can put in below the mayhem of Nemesis and Bricklayer (located on the right, you carry down the steep hill through the woods).

Don't worry about mislabeling those rapids you posted Adam, people have been wrong on trip reports on the AW site for years. The drop you showed is the start of the 3 Class V drops that end the Middle Cullasaja section. They are located right above the Falls, and have a last chance eddy at the bottom before you hit the super slide (and are committed to the biggest, gnarliest, and probably last series of drops in your shortened life- I know people run the big slide, but not me).

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Todd Corey
17 years ago

Middle Cullasaja

Directions: From Brevard take 64 West all the way into Highlands. (Ignore the real estate development advertising Cullasaja that pops up before Highlands.) 64 West will take a right hand turn in Highlands. As you leave town you will pass a Fee Area for Dry Falls. SR 1620 is the first road on your left after you pass Dry Falls. The sign is located on your right but the road is on your left. The gauge on the bridge is located downstream on river right. The day I ran the Middle the gauge was reading 7.28 and the internet gauge was at 4.1. This was an optimal level.

Take Out: Drive up stream from Cullasaja Falls. You will see T-Bone just above the falls. It is easily recognizable from the car-sized boulder sitting in the middle of the river. Just up stream from this there is a turn off on the right. Park there for the take out.

Put In: As you leave the take-out keep heading up stream. About a mile or so (didn

Gage Descriptions

Has been run as low as 3.2
Optimal has been described as 4.0 to 4.5
Not recommended for mere mortals above 5.5, but your mileage may vary.

The gauge is located at the SR 1620 bridge. Its in a wide slow part of the river, and little changes here make big differences in the steep sections above and below.

On the downstream river left piling is an old USGS gauge that does not readily correspond with the online gauge.

At Peeks Creek road there is an additional spraypainted gauge on the river right bridge footing. Looks like an old Randy Carter gauge.

Minimum/Optimum level correlation between USGS and Peeks Creek gauge: 4.04ft USGS------3/4ft on Peeks Creek.

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



article main photo

A Close Look at Cheoah River Fatalities

Charlie Walbridge

The recent death of Chris Clark at Python Rapid on North Carolina's Cheoah River is the third at this site in the last six years. In each case, the person who died was an expert paddler and their paddling partners did not see exactly what happened. Let's take a close look at the Cheoah below Bear Creek Falls and develop strategies for future runs. The river here is very fast and continuous. After a fast lead-in (Chaos), the river drops over Bear Creek Falls, a 12' drop. Below, most of the flow pushes toward the river right channel (Python). Ferrying over to the easier river left channel (the West Prong) requires careful boat control. Python itself contains several nasty holes and sieves, with a bad hole blocked by a boulder at the bottom. There is a good route through it, but paddlers need to plan their route carefully. Scouting is a good idea for first timers, although catching eddies and getting out is not  going to be easy. Groups need to stay together.. The rapid is tough enough that you can't watch your buddy all the time, but you can be ready to help if needed. Click through for links to the accident reports, photos, and comments from expert Cheoah River paddlers. (Photo above by Boyd Ruppelt)


Adam Garrett


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193187 02/11/06 Adam Garrett