Yellow Creek - SR 1242 to Cheoah/ US 129

Yellow Creek, North Carolina, US


SR 1242 to Cheoah/ US 129

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 1.1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 375 fpm
Max Gradient 600 fpm

Chris runs the 20 footer

Chris runs the 20 footer
Photo of Chris by Kevin Colburn taken 04/15/03 @ Medium

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-0351706800 300 - 600 cfs IV-V 01h12m 1310 cfs (too high)

River Description

We've tried to hide Yellow Creek for quite some time, since it is arguably one of the best-kept secrets in Western NC.

But, since its gorge and land buffer are now at stake in the Tapoco relicensing (I think we've secured it from development, but still), we need to get the word out how wonderful this run really is.

You'll often hear Yellow Creek called the easiest 500 fpm creek in NC. But that's not to say it's easy -- there's a slide bigger and steeper than Rapid Transit, there's a clean 20-foot vert, there are some wonderful boulder garden drops, and a truly nasty sieve. Overall, it's a solid IV-V, about the same difficulty as the Green if not just a hair easier. And it's really easy to miss when driving by the Cheoah since it is well hidden from the road due to its man-made constriction to fit Yellow Creek through the culvert. However, a short 15 yard hike upstream reveals a beautiful gorge. From there, you can either hike up to the 20 footer in rhodo hell for some park n' huck or drive up to put in all the way at the top, which I recommend.

Sounds great, right? But you know what the absolute best part of Yellow Creek is? It has a 15 square-mile drainage. Farmlands up at the top. It doesn't take much rain to get going and then it often runs for a day or two after everything else drops down. When I was last there, it was a good day after a big rain, Yellow was at a perfect level and holding while the Cascades had already long dropped out. And I'm sure it ran the day after that, too. Also, for one more nearby drainage comparison, that same day, Upper Santeetlah was also about as low as can be run.

It appears the most dependable way to anticipate if Yellow Creek is running is to check the Wauchecha AFWS rain gauge, which sits on the southeastern corner of the upper watershed. In the summer a minimum of 1 inch of rain 4-5 hours before putting on is needed. In the winter the same amount of rainfall would create a nice level.

Another way to anticipate when Yellow Creek is running is to use the Cheoah gage. To use it you must assume that there is no or minimal discharge coming from the Cheoah. The only other major tributary upstream of the gauge is Deep Creek, which is micro and drops fast (not runnable, by the way). When I see the Cheoah spike, that means Yellow and Deep are both going. Once Deep drops out of the curve, the gauge practically reads just for Yellow since it's so close. Unfortunately, we need more runs to be reported to determine accurate correlations, though I think 300 cfs as a low, 450 as mid, and 600+ as max is a good starting place. A significant limitation of the use of the Cheoah gage is that on a normal spike, by the time the water reaches Tapoco, the run is dropping fast. In addition, it can be hard to distinguish between Yellow Creek water and all the other water flowing past the Cheoah gage.

In any case, this creek is definitely worth checking out the day after a big rain. It should be good to go. And since you're in the area, go ahead and set shuttle at the bottom of the Cheoah, either near Tapoco Lodge or at the lake. If Yellow's running, then you can do a low-water tour of the Cheoah's steepest section.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-08-05 20:06:07

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
November 11 2009 (3357 days ago)
x (1)
We were out there today and it was around 1.8-2.0 feet on the colvert and it was juicy I would
venture to say close to the high side of good. Just watch out there is lots of wood out there.
May 15 2009 (3537 days ago)
x (1)
March 11 2008 (3967 days ago)
x (1)
Jerry We ran it on feb 1st 08 level was 1.5 felt like a good low medium level
May 9 2007 (4274 days ago)
Jerry JascombDetails
We checked the new culvert gauge on May 5 and it was a foot. Hiked up, looked awfully bony. What is
a good level on this gauge?
November 29 2006 (4435 days ago)
StevenPeoples (144580)
Hey this is steven I just wanted to comment that me and my buddy daniel young ran yellow earlier
this month at a very low flow VERY LOW. Like paddling on rocks the whole time. It was a blast!
anyway. I just wanted to add that it looked like there was some new wood on a couple rapids I don't
know there names though. So keep an eye out for that. -Peace-
April 23 2006 (4654 days ago)
Brandon HughettDetails
Ran Yellow Creek today at 9 inches or should I say I scooted it. All drops were runable just too
low. Cheoah was at 134cfs.
There was plenty of water to run the 20 footer. It'd be a great park-n-huck falls even at low
water. It's gotta be the easiest 20 footer I've ran. It has a nice pool at the top to simply float
off the lip, just run it center to right of center. The left side could hurt.
December 8 2004 (5156 days ago)
Tim JohnsonDetails
Obie, Daniel, & myself did this run on 12-07-2004. Beware of a few nasty strainers on the
river-left shore at the 2nd to last boulder drop before the tunnel. The sieve also had a huge log
jammed in it. Duck under 2 trees on 2nd of the triple slides. Belive it's called Limbo. AWESOME
run! Ran at about 350-400 cfs then ran Cheaoh at well over 3,600 cfs.
August 8 2004 (5278 days ago)
Robert MaxwellDetails
On 8/7/04 I put a gage up on Yellow Creek. Its located at the take-out on Hwy 129 at the Yellow
Creek & Cheoah confluence. It is a spray painted gage, upstream on river left of the culvert --
best seen from upstream river right. 0" is the base of the culvert. It was running 5"
when I painted it, so the gage actually starts at 6" and caps out at 5ft. The marks are in
2" incraments. I would assume a minimum run would have to be somewhere over 1ft. Please, start
reporting levels so we can dial in a low, med and high for this one.
February 8 2004 (5459 days ago)
John PruittDetails
We ran it Saturday 2/7/04. Cheoah was around 120 CFS. Seemed to be about the same level the
pictures were taken at. Seemed like a Good level, maybe a little low. 4 peoplein our group ran most
of the stuff and 2 of us walked most of it...I was in the latter. But still fun. We ended up
walking from below the falls all the way to below the sieve. We weren't real sure about where it
was. Seems like you could run some of the other stuff below the falls but before the Sieve. The
Portage "trail" was marked with orange ribbons which made the portage a little
easier...but not much easier. Someone should paint a gauge on one of the bridges so we could start
to figure out what it takes to run...
November 12 2003 (5548 days ago)
Kevin ColburnDetails
I first ran Yellow Creek with Daniel from the Nantahala Gorge on March 30th, 2002. Anyone out there
know of an earlier descent?
November 10 2003 (5550 days ago)
Kevin ColburnDetails
There are currently ongoing negotiations to protect Yellow Creek from development and other water
quality impacts through Dam relicensing. The dam owner on the Cheaoh owns all of the Yellow Creek
Gorge. It appears likely that a significant buffer will be established that protects the creek and
our right to access it. AW is working to protect this creek, along with the Cheoah River. The run
above the falls features a number of slides. The nature of the creek changes after the 2 or 3
slides below the falls into a more boulder drop style of creekin. The second boulder rapid after
the falls has a nasty sieve in it and should be portaged. This requires also portaging the first
boulder rapid.

Associated Projects

  • Cheoah River (NC)
    AW and regional paddling clubs spent 5 years relicensing the dam on the Cheoah and scored a huge environmental and recreational victory.