Fires Creek - B) Two miles above the Horse Park to Leatherwood Falls

Fires Creek, North Carolina, US


B) Two miles above the Horse Park to Leatherwood Falls

Usual Difficulty II-III+ (for normal flows)
Length 8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 113 fpm
Max Gradient 200 fpm

Fires Creek 3

Fires Creek 3
Photo of Eric Paysen by Will Reeves taken 03/01/03 @ 430 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03504000 400 - 5000 cfs II-III+ 00h59m 344 cfs (too low)

River Description

Fires Creek is a narrow steep roadside whitewater run. Even though it has a large watershed, good access, and is near several whitewater outdoor centers, Fires Creek has attracted little local attention.

Unlike other similar creeks Fires has no single spectacular large rapid. However when the gauge reads 400 cfs or more the creek is literally a 6-mile rapid with a western feel. The run is genuinely fun and very constant in character. Fires Creek is narrow and thus there is always a strainer hazard, but the creek was relatively clean in early 2003.

There is a bridge about halfway down the run but boaters can access the stream to put in almost anywhere. Taking out is slightly more difficult but not a real problem, because of the nearby road.

"The two miles above the horse camp from the concrete arch bridge down drop at an average of 200 fpm. Sure didn't feel that steep. Very continuous gradient, no big drops." Brad Roberts, 2003

Clay County AFWS Rain Gauges


Try this Google Maps linke to locate or get directions to the take-out.


StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2009-05-09 10:07:31


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.5First of the big dropsIIIHazard Photo
1.6Big DropIII+Hazard Photo
2.0Bristol Horse CampAccess
3.5Boof Right Slide LeftIIIHazard Photo
7.5Unnamed Creek FallsIIIWaterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

First of the big drops (Class III, Mile 1.5)

Fires Creek 1

Fires Creek 1
Photo of Will Reeves by Kevin Miller taken 03/01/03 @ 430 cfs

The biggest drops on the upper section are almost a half mile above the horse camp. The photograph is an example of the shallow nature of the upper section of the creek.

Big Drop (Class III+, Mile 1.6)

Fires Creek 2

Fires Creek 2
Photo of Brad Roberts by Kevin Miller taken 03/01/03 @ 430 cfs

The largest series of rapids are less than a half mile above the horse camp. While the first mile is techically more difficult the largest three drops on the river occur here at a tight left bend. These are visable from the road. Brad Roberts is featured in this photograph runnign the second drop in a four drop series.

Bristol Horse Camp
A good alternate put in to avoid the first two miles, which are scrapy at times.

Boof Right Slide Left (Class III, Mile 3.5)

Fires Creek 3

Fires Creek 3
Photo of Eric Paysen by Will Reeves taken 03/01/03 @ 430 cfs

Fires Creek picks up significant volume below the horse camp and the drops tend to be easier but larger than the upper section. This photograph of a small ledge is indicative of the river.

Unnamed Creek Falls (Class III, Mile 7.5)

Last Drop of Side Creek

Last Drop of Side Creek
Photo of Kevin Miller by Will Reeves taken 03/01/03 @ 430 cfs

An unnamed side creek flows down into Fires Creek near the takeout on river right. The final drop is a long slide that can easily be carried up and run. Be careful not to skip your boat across the pool.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
April 7 2011 (2845 days ago)
Tom WelanderDetails
I re-read Allen's trip reports after my first run of Fires Ck (March 6th 2011) and couldn't
describe it better: It's gorgeous. All the wood around
blind corners makes it scary. Otherwise it's a blast. USGS Nantahala had peaked at 1,400cfs a few
hours earlier. Fires was dropping gradually, so it may have peaked about the same time. Wonderful,
near-bankfull level.
April 25 2010 (3192 days ago)
Mark MershonDetails
There are significant river-wide strainers below the horse park. Make sure you have good sight
lines, and don't run anything blind.
March 4 2003 (5801 days ago)
Kevin MillerDetails
I agree with the 400 cfs number as the minimum, but I would look for 500+ before running it again.
It was "bang/scrape" at 430 cfs, but a raft (Stinger) was able to complete the bottom
half of the run with little more difficulty than the hard boaters on the river.
March 3 2003 (5802 days ago)
I think 500, or maybe 550 cfs is a better minimum. Another option is to look at the bridge where
the turnoff is for fires creek rd. Look for the Center cement bridge piling to be about a foot
underwater, or for all the bolts holding the beams to the cement piling to be underwater.