Nantahala, North Carolina, US
|Usual Difficulty||III+(IV) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|NANTAHALA RIVER NEAR HEWITT, NC|
|usgs-03505550||900 - 2000 cfs||III+(IV)||00h22m||731 cfs (too low)|
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. https://lakes.duke-energy.com/pdfs/2018/Nant%20Bypass%20Schedule%202018.pdf
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.1||Magic Carpet Ride||III+|
|0.6||Camp Branch Falls Rapid||III|
|0.8||Troll Hole/Fuzzy Bunny||III+|
|1.0||The Mank/Fraggle Rock||III+|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is the rapid after the 3rd bridge. Enter in the middle or top left and follow the current around the 'S'.
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.
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.