Difficulty III+(IV)
Length 1.25 Miles
Flow Range 2.00 - 6.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 39 minutes ago 1.02 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 07/26/2019 5:06 pm

River Description

An alt. put-in .8 mile above Cove Creek where three forks come together. This adds .8 mile and 80 ft. or so of gradient.

There is a well used and maintained trail running the length of the river on the left side.

This run starts off with its largest rapid right at the start and has numerous class III rapids within this section. With its non-stop boogie and beautiful setting within the rhododendron undergrowth you'll want to do a few quick laps of this section, and with a riverside trail it is also possible to get your mountain biking fix for the week running the shuttles. But while blasting down keep in mind that wood is a frequent visitor of this stream bed.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Putin just above Cove Creek and just below a river wide tree if you are planing to run Whalesback. If you are not going to park below Cove Creek and putin just below the large rock on river left of Whalesback.


Class - IV Mile - 0.1
A 7ft. drop with funky cross currents up top and a big hole at bottom backed up by an underwater undercut rock.

Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner

Class - III+ Mile - 0.25
A three stage drop. The first of the three drops begins under an overhanging rock.

Low-head Dam

Class - Mile - 1.25
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
There is a small low head dam that doesn't pose a threat at low water but can become a mean hole at higher level. This also where you park your car and another takeout point.


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9 years ago

Ran this back three weeks ago at around 3 ft. Was very fun and I recommend putting up at the Trailhead...around the bridge I think. It's fun little boogie water and some drops and ledges. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEPvrWc5kM8 http://www.youtube.com/user/stownplayer#p/u/12/D-OEPEkn7ow

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10 years ago

Today Nick I., Ryan I., and myself decided to check out the Top Davidson, Upper Upper, or whatever the section above the normal put in should be called. Our only beta was that there was a clean 20 something foot cascade up in those hills. Long story short the beta did not disappoint. Today the Davidson peaked at 3.2, and we read a level of 2.0 feet on the Top Davidson gauge, which is by the bridge a few hundred feet from the trail head. Hiking upstream 1.5 hours yielded an excellent micro creek run, on par with the Big East of the Pigeon in quality but easier in every way and short, not counting the hike. The trail is pretty good till the end when it splits up a trib. Cross this trib and keep hiking upstream off trail. Scout well for wood on you're way up. We only had to portage twice, but there's plenty in play. Be aware of the wood in the cl.II rapid downstream of the bridge as well, you will not see it on you're hike up. We put in just downstream of where the creek forks almost equally. With more water you could go up higher. The level we had today seemed like a good medium-low. Aside from some great bedrock drops there is one spot where an old diversion dam poses a problem. Currently this is runnable but very sketchy due to wood, and a big concrete cave in the dam. We all walked this one. After running out on the upper we had the good fortune to meet some of the folks who helped groom this stream over the summer. Again, nice work fellas, it was effort well invested. Charley B.

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ted cookson
10 years ago

An alternate put-in can be found upstream at the Daniel Ridge trailhead. This adds about 1/2 mile to the run, including one good ledge drop/boof about 100 yards below where FR475 crosses the river.

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Josh Carter
11 years ago

There is a section further up the river once it diverts from the dirt road that has potential for some good class III/IV micro creeking. You have to hike up it and there is currently a lot of wood but there are a handfull of slides and small drops up there that look good to go.

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ted cookson
14 years ago

Davidson River Road (FR-475) is now open again.

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15 years ago

From Boatertalk:
Depends on flow New

Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Question for anyone who has run the Upper Davidson... jvernon1235 New
Date: Sep 02 2004, 20:15 GMT
From: canoeman

I tend to think of it as class III+ to easy IV. It is shorter and easier than the North Fork but it as at least three significant drops on it. Whale Tail, the first one below where a major creek comes in, stern squirted me one time at high water. That wouldn't be such a big deal except I was in a 12-foot open boat. Not far downstream is Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. At high water I would say that rates Class IV, although it is pretty straightfoward. There are lots of other interesting rapids. Should be good to go today from what I see on the guage. Watch out for strainers. It is a micro creek and they can go all the way across.

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Alex Hyman
16 years ago

On 2/6/04 the davidson was running at 4.5 ft. on the USGS gauge after 3 inches of rain. Myself along with Ned Steadman put on a rougly 3:30 and ran from the first brigde on daniels ridge trail to the above the lowhead dam. The whole run was runnable except whalesback which looked like it could swallow a school bus. At flows around 3- 3.5 whalesback is runnable on the far right but the hole looks quite stiff. At 4.5 the river is pumping all the way from the start to the finish. There are mostly large holes and powerful chutes and low hanging limbs/trees. Whalesback, Whalestail, and BLD should and all be scouted. If you swim hold onto your paddle or kiss it goodbye. At these levels the river becomes solid IV. Portaging is hard in most places at these levels. BLD is almost impossible to portage at this level.

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17 years ago

Date: May 07 2003, 13:14 GMT
From: tallman

So we guess it was at least 4 feet. Went to the upper Davidson instead, found it at 3.65 feet at 6:30p. Got in two runs. What a fun little section! It's roadside & short, much more of a micro creek. There are a couple of rapids that might be about class IV: "whale tail" & "breakfast, lunch & dinner" the rest of the run is just super continous boogie water. Excellent looking water quality, excellent scenery. There were five in our group: me, davidson, micklouie, shannon & (a very nice local, originally from Hungary... sorry I forgot your name!) ~ Great evening on fun water.

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mike lewis
17 years ago

Good technical run for creeking. Starts off with a quick drop into a hole,will grab yah but hang on will flush out. Next drop scout river right,big rock in middle of river to look out at. Big whale tail rock to slide off of,keep right into an eddy to set up for final run. Peal out and hang on for a fun river channel run down to bottom. Rest of river good drops. Boat scout, if you want to scout can be done on river right.
Good level 2.0 on gauge on USGS
Check gauge at bridge at Hwy 280 and entrance to Pisgah Forest.

If you want any more info please feel free to email me.

Gage Descriptions

The gauge is located on the river left bank about 50 yards upstream of the US 276/ US 76 Bridge, just before the Pisgah Forest entrance.

These are a few gauges within close proximity to the reach:
Daniels Ridge
Balsam Grove and AFWS Davidson River gauge
Cradle of Forestry

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports



article main photo

A Close Look at The Cheoah River Fatalities

Charlie Walbridge

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)


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193470 12/29/06 n/a n/a
1210971 01/26/19 n/a updated image position
1212225 05/08/19 n/a updated image position
1213405 07/26/19 n/a updated image position