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+) 5y297d00h15m 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!


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