Yellow Creek, North Carolina, US
SR 1242 to Cheoah/ US 129
||IV-V (for normal flows)
Chris runs the 20 footer
Chris runs the 20 footerPhoto of Chris by Kevin Colburn taken 04/15/03 @ Medium
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
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.
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Last Updated: 2015-08-05 20:06:07