Looks like there is a short roadside stretch with an easy shuttle, and a stretch that ends up in the lake with a 30 mile shuttle. Running Cataloochee Creek is an adventure. Many boaters get lost trying to find the put in and takeout. The water level is somewhat curios. Good flows at the top part of the run when the river is at 4 feet provide easy boating and even a few nice play spots. Some of the annoying strainers are underwater so you can boat most of the creek without getting out. The rapids are generally easy class II rocky ledges or just piles of boulders in the streambed. All of these rapids are easily boat scouted. When the water level is low these rapids are actually a bit more challenging and can be a scrape and grind experience. The last half mile is different. Cataloochee drops into a mini-gorge and really picks up steam here. The three final rapids are hard core bad ass and gnarr. When the water level is low you can easily run the first two rapids. This is the payment for all of the scraping. The last rapid is practically unrunnable unless you don't mind pain or are really good. Really good boaters usually don't run Cataloochee. After the last drop the creek stagnates in one of the filthiest pools of polluted water in the southeast. The lake at the top of the pigeon dries. Once you paddle this lake you will never want to run the pigeon again. Be careful of trash piles in the lake. I saw a Mack truck sized floating mass of toilet paper once. If it fell on you while rolling around on the lake this could be a bad scene. The takeout might be illegal it is hard to tell. Great Smoky Mountains National Park NPS Map of the Park
According to Carolina Whitewater look for a minimum flow of 2.9 on the bridge gauge.
Permits are not required for this reach.
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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)
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