The Lawsons Fork is a great whitewater resource for paddlers in the Spartanburg area. This creek flashes quickly during big rain events, but offers one short, relatively steep section that is runnable down to low flows.
This river has approximately 14 runnable miles, from the base of the Whitney dam on Hwy 221 in north Spartanburg to the take out at Goldmine Road, just prior to its confluence with the Pacolet River, east of Spartanburg.
The upper two-thirds is comprised of flat water interspersed with the occasional class II rapid. Most people, however, opt for the final 4.5 miles which has the best gradient: this section is known for Glendale Shoals at the beginning of the run and for Little Five Falls near the end.
The best stretch is Glendale Shoals, a 250 yard long set of rapids that falls about 25 to 30 feet (extrapolated 180+ ft/mile). It starts at the base of the dam at Glendale and culminates in a five-foot drop called Lawson's Dawg. Hit your boof, and you'll be back for more. Many laps can be had here.
Those folks continuing past Glendale Shoals are met with a quiet stretch of river that averages a gradient of less than 20ft/mile. The next few miles past Glendale have some small rapids and offer some great eddy lines and outstanding waves during higher flows.
At just under 2.0 miles, you'll float under the decaying truss of an abandoned bridge. You'll pass a clearing at mile 2.5 and another set of clearings (natural gas rights of way) at mile 2.8. At about 3.5 miles, Little Five Falls begins, your reward for enduring the flat water upstream.
Here, five rapids come in quick succession. At low flows, pick a line. At higher levels the final four rapids can merge into a class III boogie feature with some near river-wide ledge holes, so scout accordingly.
Watch out for strainers and wood on this section. Lawsons Fork is heavily forested the entire run and offers a scenic tour of high bluffs, mountain laurel, rocky shoals, and a nice respite from the work-day blues.
Put-in: below the old mill dam at Glendale, South Carolina, several miles east of Spartanburg. Park in the pullout, scout the top part of the run from the old bridge, then take the stairs to the river. Visiting the bridge just to view the rapids is a worthwhile endeavor in its own right. If the level is too high to run the Shoals, head downstream to the next pull out. There you'll find a posted river guide sign and room for several cars.
Take out: immediately after passing under the bridge at Goldmine Road on river right less than half of a mile after the last rapid.
After putting in at the stairs at the base of the dam, ferry across to river left and run this slide into a nice play wave. In low flows, all of the water channels down the slide. At high flows, it engulfs the entire shoals, creating numerous lines.
Below Glendale Slide is Lawson's Dawg. At medium flows, this rapid offers a first rate boof. It vaguely resembles Soc-em-Dog on the Chattooga River, but is easier to hit. Some of the river peels off to the right, so you'll have to work a little bit to hit it perfectly. In low water, the approach is a little boney and can kill your momentum, but it's still good to go. The run out is manky in levels under 300 CFS.
At higher flows, this is a first rate rapid. Just be weary of everything to the right of the boof, as it gets scarry looking. Lines open up left of the boof in higher flows as well. The run-out can be a little manky.
An island splits the water into three channels. The far right channel is the easiest, although it bends sharply and may pose a challenge to new boaters. The middle offers several, more challenging lines that generally run from middle to right. The left is a straight shot, but is no good in low flows. At about 250 - 300 CFS the left starts to open up and provides a short slide that runs through two boulders at the base. In high water, multiple lines across the entire feature open up.
Details to follow
More rowdy paddlers might be tempted to seal launch off the bridge just above the put-in at Glendale Shoals, then run the dam. Don't do it! Just under the water under that bridge there is a rotten old wooden dam that will impale you. You can see it at low water.
The big mill right near the put-in burned down several months ago. It's a shame because I had heard there was a group going to make it into appartments. 6-5-04
We ran below the dam Feb 6, 2010 the water was running really high and fast we ran it down past the waterfall and then we ran it on the 28 and the water was down but still runnable
There were a few impassable deadfalls and strainers. We went through yesterday and cut out 6 deadfalls and cleaned up some particularly dangerous strainers. I certainly wouldn't seal launch off the bridge as there is some old wood above the dam. However, I have safely run the dam. Go checkout this run next time we get some rain. Better yet, send me an email and I'll head down it with you :)
We'll be setting up a visual guage on the dam once we get Wofford's permission. I think the online pacolet guage might be a suitable substitute in the mean time.
This is an update to the strainers. I've ran the upper sections of Lawson's fork now in 08 at low and high flood waters. Nothing a little persistence can't get you through. Main problem is just occassional blockage. Also, Jeff's reference to getting impaled is quite exaggerated. Maybe something has changed since he was there, but I just didn't see an issue with this spot. Just watch where you are going, I've gone under that bridge 4 times now. There is a sign to warn you when it's coming.
Gauge is no more! visual is now our only option.
There isn't a page for it but the upper sections of the river are full of consecutive deadfalls and several really bad strainers. There is one just past Lakeforest that was pretty much impossible to get by.
Permits are not required for this reach.
Take out: from the put in, travel downstream on Emma Cudd Road. At about 2 miles, Emma Cudd intersects Bethesda Road. Turn left onto Bethesda and travel about 1.4 miles to Goldmine Road. Turn left onto Goldmine and follow it about .5 mile to the parking area on the right just before the bridge.
Big water at Little Five Falls
Beware the locals
Perfect flow for huckin'
Damon below dam
Duane Below the Dam
Running Lawson's Dawg
Little Five Falls (3rd rapid)
Little Five Falls (1st rapid)
Entrance-Little Five Falls
Glendale Shoals @ low
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