Nantahala - 2.Upper, Route 1310 Bridge to Hwy. 19

Nantahala, North Carolina, US


2.Upper, Route 1310 Bridge to Hwy. 19 (Upper Nantahala)

Usual Difficulty III+(IV) (for normal flows)
Length 3.1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 100 fpm

Upper Nanty

Upper Nanty
Photo of Brad Roberts by YakGrRl taken 03/15/03 @ 500 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03505550 900 - 2000 cfs III+(IV) 00h21m 1020 cfs (running)

River Description

This is a great run either at a creeky level or with a lot of water. The entire run is road scoutable.  Please check for wood on your way to the put-in.  The put-in is four bridges upstream.  Start counting bridges after you pass the commercial put-in.  If you start to see large class five looking drops and waterfalls, you've gone too far upstream and reached the Nantahala Cascades. There is a big turnout just before the bridge for shuttle and unloading boats.  Please be thoughtful when parking if it is busy.  The lot can accommodate many more cars if parked side by side instead of parallel.  The Forest Service has been monitoring the lot on busy days so please do your best to keep the lot clean.

There are periodic "bypass" releases which provide water to run the Cascades / Upper Nantahala. The releases which occur during "Week of Rivers" (near july 4th) and during the Nantahala Outdoor Center's Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF) will be quite busy. The remainder of the releases much less so. On all the releases the Forest service closes several parking areas which are popular put-in locations and turns them into unloading areas. There is also a new put-in (with concrete steps, ramp, etc. just below PB&J.)

For 2018 the bypass flow releases can be found in this link to a pdf file.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-04-28 15:02:58


Stream team editor

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.1Magic Carpet RideIII+Putin Photo
0.6Camp Branch Falls RapidIII
0.6Jungle BoogieIII
0.6Bridal VeilIII+
0.8Troll Hole/Fuzzy BunnyIII+Hazard Photo
0.9S-TurnIIITakeout Photo
1.0The Mank/Fraggle RockIII+Hazard
2.0Island RapidIII+Takeout Hazard Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Magic Carpet Ride (Class III+, Mile 0.1)

Kimmie @Magic Carpet

Kimmie @Magic Carpet
Photo of Kimmie E by Lee H Thonus taken 08/16/14 @ 320 cfs

From the put-in to Magic Carpet Ride, it is "choose your own adventure."  MCR is the first rapid below the put-in.  It offers many options, all of which are viable.  At higher flows, it can be run either right or middle.  The right tends to be meaty and offers a nice boof at the bottom instead of the slide. At lower flows, there is an actual mossy rock slide that you run into the eddy.  After this rapid, you have a wave train into one of the largest rapids on this section, PBJ. 

PBJ (Class III+, Mile 0.2)

Kelsey G @ PB&J

Kelsey G @ PB&J
Photo taken 07/08/17

This is the second rapid and probably one of the biggest on the run.  From Magic Carpet Ride, you'll head down a big wave train to a blind corner.  From an eddy, you can manage to see the top two drops, but not the main drop.  There are three drops in this rapid, the top two being much smaller than the last.  It is very important to note that the flow levels change how this rapid is run.  You should scout this rapid from the pull off and choose your line.  It comes up very fast when you're on the water.  There is a "fold" in the rapid on the left side, giving the rapid it's name.  This fold is either out of water or covered.  At levels lower than 400cfs, you can punch the hole in the main drop. Stay well to river right or in the middle of the drop.  Higher than 400cfs, the line changes and the difficulty is greater.  This is more like a class IV at higher flows. There is a nice tongue on river left.  Avoid the hole at higher levels. There is a lot of fun class III boogie down to the next rapid. 

   If you look at the photo of Kelsey, you can see that rocks force you right of center just above the main drop with the hole. At lower flows if you are close to the rock and immediately drive back left, you will have a smooth ride on the far left tongue. If you don't get quite that far left, you will be on Kelsey's line and will have to brace & punch the hole. Gauge was at 1010 cfs that day so pretty hard to get far left.

You can also eddy out on river right just before you pass that center rock. Gives you a look at the hole and the option to ferry to the left. 

Camp Branch Falls Rapid (Class III, Mile 0.6)

You will know you are here by Camp Branch Falls coming out of the mountain on river right.  There is a big eddy at the top of this rapid.  At lower flows, the main line is to make kind of an 'S'.  Start in the middle, boof a small pourover rock, work your way right to slide down the slanted rock into fluffy water.  At higher flows, you can run the middle line or the wave train on the right.  The boof on the left is not spectacular, but doable.  You'll have to work your way back right for the next rapid.   

Jungle Boogie (Class III, Mile 0.6)

This is a three drop rapid after Camp Branch Falls Rapid.  There is a fun slot move at the entrance either on the right or left.  Eddy out to boat scout Bridal Veil. 

Bridal Veil (Class III+, Mile 0.6)

This rapid should be run down the middle.  Beware of the many rocks in this rapid, especially near the top an on the left side.  There is boofing potential here.  Stay middle and in the center of the wave trains.  There is a big eddy on river right to catch.  At lower creeky flows, this is a very manky rapid.  At higher flows, it is padded out and a lot of fun.  From here you have boogie and boofing until you reach Troll Hole/Fuzzy Bunny under the bridge.

Troll Hole/Fuzzy Bunny (Class III+, Mile 0.8)

Troll Hole

Troll Hole
Photo of Whitney E by Lee Thonus taken 06/21/14 @ 250 cfs

This is the rapid at the third bridge.  There are many eddies upstream to catch before running this rapid.    At lower levels there are two popular strategies for Troll Hole. The one that I like is to enter left of center angling right and go over the main drop clipping the right side of the hole or boofing into the eddy. The other line is to start right and after you clear the center rocks, paddle hard for the center. At that point you can turn sharply right to clip the hole or boof into the eddy or square up and punch the hole. .  At higher levels, dig in and go through the hole or a nice tongue appears in place of the hole.  Be careful of the bridge pilings at higher levels.

S-Turn (Class III, Mile 0.9)


Photo of Kimmie by Lee Thonus taken 06/21/14 @ 250 cfs

This is the rapid after the 3rd bridge.  Enter in the middle  or top left and follow the current around the 'S'.

The Mank/Fraggle Rock (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

After a little class III boogie, you'll get to a manky, rocky rapid.  With lower water, this rapid is just plain un-fun.  At higher flows, there is a very bad hole that forms in the middle of the rapid on river left.  You can scout this from your vehicle or park and choose your line.  You can either run left and move your way right to avoid the hole or you can run the right line although it has more wave holes at higher levels.  This rapid is long and involves maneuvering.  At lower flows, it is a class III+, but at higher flows, a IV.  This rapid ends after the rock wall on river right.  There is almost a mile of boogie before the last big rapid.  There are a lot of wave holes to play in at higher flows. 

Island Rapid (Class III+, Mile 2.0)

Island Rapid

Island Rapid
Photo of Viki & Harrison by Lee Thonus taken 06/21/14 @ 250 cfs

This is the last real rapid worth mentioning on the Upper Nantahala.  After a mile of boogie, you'll reach a calm spot.  At flows 600cfs and below, you will see the giant rock in the top part of the rapid and at higher flows, it will be covered.  The top part of the rapid is a ride on the tongue and moving right to miss the rock.  For the next part of the rapid, stay center, moving back into the flow as the water merges from the other side of the island.  Keep right angle and stay on the right side of the wave train and you'll be fine.  Be very careful here as there are several trees down after the drop on river left that can be hazardous.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 5 2015 (1353 days ago)
simonkrzych (155765)
4/28/15, 260 cfs in upper = it was a minimum flow but surprisingly doable. G in Octane, Eli in
spanish fly, and CT in ducky. We put in about a quarter of a mile up from island rapid. G portaged
on the left, the middle part of island rapid. We paddled all the way down to the normal nanti
April 26 2013 (2092 days ago)
Mikey WillersonDetails
April 26 2013 (2092 days ago)
Mikey WillersonDetails
January 22 2013 (2186 days ago)
02gtvertible (155128)
This is a awesome run, but as stated, do not under estimate it! I am a fairly confident
intermediate boater, and i feel it pushed my limits. The level we ran it was at 700 cfs, and there
were several fairly large holes. It is a very continuous run with very little if any slack time.
Make note, that there is some wood in this run, we ran across two or 3 large trees that were down,
and half way in, and half way out of the river. Never the less, a awesome southeast run!
November 14 2011 (2621 days ago)
x (1)
Showing the full flow at the Hewitt gauge is actually useful. When this section of river runs, the
powerplant is almost always generating. Subtract the ~650 cfs the powerplant generates and you have
an idea of the flow in the Upper Nanty and Cascades. Given that you need at least 250 cfs to paddle
the Upper (even that is bony), look for the Hewitt gauge to have 900 cfs for elf and 1,000 cfs for
a healthy minimum.
June 15 2010 (3138 days ago)
Gary MillerDetails
The streamkeeper team is off in its flow levels for this Section. The site shows the Upper Nanty
running at the same level as the lower NAnty every time there is a release on the lower. However,
the water doesn't enter above the Upper Nanty. It comes in at the lower put-in. This needs to be
corrected. Upper only runs when Cascades has water. Upper ran last winter, but no more water on a
daily basis.
December 30 2009 (3305 days ago)
Gavin FayDetails
Ran the Upper Nanty for the first time on 12\29\09. Great run, a lot of fun, but don't under
estimate this run. It is top heavy, the upper mile is continuous Class 4, the bottom 2 miles while
still continuous are more Class 3-3+. One thing to look out for in the first 1\2 mile or so around
a bend, is a pretty narrow pushy section with decent sized waves and ledge holes, with a nasty hole
at the bottom right. You run a rapid just downstream from the put in, followed by a short moving
pool. Once you enter the next rapid start working yourself left, make sure you dig to punch the
holes. If you stay left and don't get knocked off course you should miss the bottom right hole.
December 17 2009 (3318 days ago)
beeco19 (151153)
Ran this stretch 11-16-2009 at 1040cfs. As the post below says this run has a big water feel on a
small creek. There are not a lot of larger eddies, and the big ones are still a little difficult to
catch due to the flows. Leland's book ranks this as only a small step up from the gorge section.
However, that ranking is at around 250-425cfs. At 1000 (which is what these special releases have
been around) it is much more difficult. 3.3 miles in 25 minutes, that includes us just floating
through a lot of the easier parts.
November 15 2009 (3350 days ago)
x (1)
They are releasing water over the spill way right now (November '09). I ran the upper section
yesterday with just shy of 1000 cfs which was a great level. At lower levels you would not be able
to raft this section due to the rocks but it would probbaly be possible at the level it was
yesterday. I would compare the harder rapids to the boogie water on the cheoah. It is a very narrow
section and very continuous, we had several swims and it took 1/2 a mile or more to stop the boats.
On the second and third runs there was no swims and it took 27 min to run this section. Lots of fun
at lower levels to but it was a blast with more water.
September 12 2009 (3414 days ago)
x (1)
I'm new to the area and have a fourteen foot raft; I was wondering if anyone knew if this stretch
is raft-friendly, or too tight and only suitable for kayaks/canoes. Any info would be very
appreciated. It's pretty tight, but they say they are releasing during November.
May 4 2009 (3545 days ago)
x (1)
Ran this today, and there's a root ball or some tangled wood in the right slot at the bottom of a
rapid that's not far downstream of the big ledge rapid that's under the first bridge, as you paddle
down. The real hazard is that you really can't see it from the water, and it's not too visible from
the road, although that's how we spotted it. There's a sharp rock rising maybe three feet out of
the water with a 3 foot wide clean slot/drop on the river left side of it, against the left wall,
and the straighter drop with the wood on its river right side. The road is on river right. It's
messy enough to create a bad broach/pin, although it's close enough to the river right bank for
rescuers to maybe even wade in and help.. But it's dangerous for the unwary and could ruin your