Hazel Creek, North Carolina, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|OCONALUFTEE RIVER AT BIRDTOWN, NC|
|usgs-03512000||650 - 2000 cfs||III-IV(V)||00h22m||~ 727 cfs (running)|
|Upper end very approximate. 500-600 is a minimum for fun pack rafting. Kayakers might prefer at least 1000 cfs. Gage is on a nearby creek in an adjacent watershed. Check to make sure rainfall levels are comparable between watersheds. www.rainpursuit.org.|
It's very secluded with the occasional fisherman or hiker, pristine water quality (some of the cleanest waters you'll ever find), and has some very nice ledges and a few drops. This is an intermediate level run with few consequences at normal levels. There are no class IV's at normal levels and the III's are mostly clean and drop into calm pools every time. As the water rises some holes can be pushed to class IV and lines become more important than ever.
There are very few places to sneak rapids and the general rule is to "go with the flow". Even at normal levels some places are scrappy you'll get a nice workout trying to get through them. The biggest threat on this creek is wood in some very inconvenient spots and the limited access means any rescue is likely more than 6 hours away (You must be shuttled across Fontana lake and hike up several miles to put in generally above the upper falls).
Paddlers have camped at the Proctor campsite near the lake and dragged boats up to do laps and make stops along the way to paddle certain sections a few times. Paddlers have used packrafts or kayaks, at times imploying a nicely balanced cart system.
You can read a packrafting report here and watch the video below, which was filmed at 460cfs on the Oconoluftee gage.