Cullasaja - 2. Middle (Below Cosmic Crunch to Above Cullasaja Falls)


Cullasaja, North Carolina, US

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2. Middle (Below Cosmic Crunch to Above Cullasaja Falls) (Middle Cullasaja)

Usual Difficulty IV(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 2.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 84 fpm
Max Gradient 136 fpm

Chan on 1st Drop


Chan on 1st Drop

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
CULLASAJA RIVER AT SR 1620 NEAR HIGHLANDS, NC
usgs-0350056050 4.00 - 5.50 ft IV(V+) 3y286d07h44m 2.91 ft (too low)


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 what’s 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. There’s 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 V’s. 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)


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2006-02-11 09:13:50

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.4First WaterfallIVWaterfall Photo Video
0.5Second waterfallIVWaterfall Photo Video
0.6Daniel's RockIIIPhoto
0.8T-Bone5.0Access Photo Video
0.9Ledges Below T-BoneII+Photo
1.5Second GorgeIII+Photo
1.9The SlotIII+Photo
2.3Lead in LedgeIII+Access Waterfall Photo
2.4The Big Stuff5.0Waterfall Photo
2.5Last Rapids5.0Hazard Photo
2.6Boogie Above the Falls5.0Takeout Hazard Photo
2.8Super Slide5.3Takeout Hazard Waterfall Photo
2.9Cullasaja FallsHazard Waterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

First Waterfall (Class IV, Mile 0.4)
Click Here For Video

First waterfall

First waterfall
Photo of Will Reeves by Kevin Miller

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)
Click Here For Video

Middle Cullasaja

Middle Cullasaja
Photo of Will Reeves by Will Reeves

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)

Daniel's Rock

Daniel's Rock
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 04/30/04 @ 4.0

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.

T-Bone (Class 5.0, Mile 0.8)
Click Here For Video

T Bone

T Bone
Photo of Akira Fujino by Will Reeves taken 09/22/12 @ low runnable level

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)

Ledge Below T-Bone

Ledge Below T-Bone
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 04/26/04 @ 4.04 FT

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)

Middle Cullasaja

Middle Cullasaja
Photo of Duarte Morais by Will Reeves

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 Slot

The Slot
Photo of Akira Fujino by Will Reeves taken 09/22/12 @ low runnable level

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)

5-6 Foot Ledge above the Class V's

5-6 Foot Ledge above the Class V's
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 12/30/03 @ 4.01ft

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)

1st Ledge of the Big Stuff

1st Ledge of the Big Stuff
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 12/30/03 @ 4.04FT

10-12FT ledge right above the big rock that splits the river.

Last Rapids (Class 5.0, Mile 2.5)

Final Drops

Final Drops
Photo of Akira Fujino by Will Reeves taken 09/22/12 @ a good level

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



Boogie Above the Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 2.6)

Next in line

Next in line
Photo by Adam Garrett taken 12/30/04 @ 4.01ft

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)

Super Slide

Super Slide
Photo by Adam Garrett

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

Cullasaja Falls

Cullasaja Falls
Photo by Adam Garrett

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!


User Comments


2004-09-27 21:09:09 (3491 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
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.

2004-04-20 00:40:56 (3651 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails


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 />

2004-04-20 00:22:23 (3651 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails


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.


2004-04-18 20:08:24 (3653 days ago)
Adam GarrettDetails
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.

2004-02-11 21:59:43 (3720 days ago)
Brad RobertsDetails
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).
-Newton

2003-04-17 16:58:59 (4020 days ago)
Todd CoreyDetails
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't measure exact
distance) the road will bend to the left. At this bend you will see an old service road covered
with grass, which will head back toward the river. Park in this area and hike your boat down the
service road to the river. This is where the put-in is for the Middle Cullasaja.

Description: The description I'm giving isn't for what is normally run on the Middle Cullasaja. I
put in at the bridge, which was much farther up stream. This is just to inform you of what is
farther up stream from where you typically put in. We put in at the bridge on SR 1620.

After floating down a 1/4 mile we came to a slide, (I suck at estimating height so don't quote me
on any of this) I would say in the 20' range. We ran this with no problems just left of center.

We float some more and then come to the entrance to a canyon. We eddied out on river left and
bushwhacked our way through the shrubs to scout the first drop, which lead to having to scout the
second and third. By this time we are scratching our heads wondering where the heck we were. This
definitely didn't match the first waterfall picture on AWA and we questioned if this was really
only a class IV rapid?

What we were looking at was a 25' double tiered drop (similar to Boxcar on North Fork) just bigger
and 3x the volume of water. Immediately following the drop were rock walls that pushed the water
into the second drop 40' downstream. There weren't any eddies in this stretch so running the first
committed you to the second and third drops.

The second drop was an 8-foot boof, which landed 6 feet in front of the third drop. The third drop
was the one we looked at the longest. The walls of the canyon pinched down to a 4-foot wide slot.
The water was ricocheting off a rock on river left and shooting from left to right in front of the
drop.

After much debate and a few rounds of "paper, rock & scissors" we decided to make a
go of it. We ran the first drop straight down the middle. You can aim for the river left wall after
the first tier and shoot off of a launch pad to finish the second tier. That is what Nate did and
he looked very stylish doing it. If only he would have had his eyes open for it I would have
thought he intended to do it.

We rode the second drop high on river right, which dropped us right in front of the
"pinch". We ran the "pinch" straight down the middle and reached our first eddy
on river right.

The next two drops are fairly straight forward. Just run the last one on river right. There is an
exposed rock in the center of the rapid which wants to flip you. That happened to us and we lost a
paddle there. We ended up climbing out of the canyon at this point.

There are more challenging rapids in this stretch and a couple places looked like you would have to
portage. Don't quote me on that though. I wouldn't attempt it unless you enjoy class IV+
rapids.
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