Overflow Creek - USFS Road 86B to Overflow Creek Road Bridge

Overflow Creek, Georgia, US


USFS Road 86B to Overflow Creek Road Bridge

Usual Difficulty IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 124 fpm
Max Gradient 320 fpm

Photo: Singley's Falls at moderate flow, courtesy of Ken Strickland.

Photo: Singley's Falls at moderate flow, courtesy of Ken Strickland.

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02176930 2.00 - 4.00 ft IV-V(V+) 00h24m ~ 0.99 ft (too low)

River Description

Overflow Creek is a beautiful stream in the upper West Fork of the Chattooga watershed, originating in the Osage Mtn. and Blue Valley Overlook areas seen from Hwy 106 near Highlands, N.C. It is a fairly difficult Class IV-V(V+) creek with some big drops and beautiful scenery. The difficulty level increases with higher water, becoming pushy with large holes.

Overflow is narrow below the putin and there are often many trees and limbs in the river,so be vigilant after a major rain event for new wood. The first 1.5 miles are low-volume Class II-III before Clear Creek comes in on the left and adds flow and width. Volume picks up considerably again at Three Forks (where Holcomb, Big and Overflow Creeks converge and become the West Fork of the Chattooga) - this is an exceptionally beautiful area. There are many sizeable rapids, such as Hemlock Falls, First Fall or "Pee Wee", Roundabout, Blind Falls, Gravity Falls, Singley's Falls, Marginal Monster, Pinball and Swiss Cheese. The "Big Three" in difficulty are considered to be Gravity, Marginal and Pinball - though Singley's Falls has the greatest verticality (but not as demanding). Technically, the West Fork of the Chattooga begins at Three Forks, where Wild and Scenic protection is also extended 1/4 mile in all directions from the river. The Three-Forks trail begins about halfway up the shuttle road on the right, marked by a large engraved boulder - this trail will meet the river near Swiss Cheese, with a spur going off left to Holcomb Cr. It also continues West to Rabun Bald's summit.

Take-out and Put-In are easily accessed by Forest Service Rd. 86-B and 86 which is now signed as "Overflow Creek Road" off of Warwoman Rd which either ends or begins on Hwy 28 depending on where you're driving from. Warwoman Rd has it's other end in Clayton GA by the Burger King.
From the take-out bridge, drive up 7.0 miles bearing right twice along the way to the Put-In - just past a culvert, with a short trail descending after the berm. The gravel road will cross a sizeable creek about halfway up,this is not Overflow, it is Holcomb Creek - it's a popular camping spot, so slow down a bit here. The gauge is located on river right underneath the take-out bridge on a piling support; a little goat-path leads to it. Be sure to park at take-out and put-in with enough room for other vehicles to pass. I have never heard of any break-in problems here, though we once found the burnt-out shell of a stolen truck. The placid stretch below the takeout bridge occasionally sees trout-fishing activity, though in 14 years of paddling Overflow we have yet to ever encounter anyone fishing above it at boatable flows.
Overflow has a rich history in the evolution of steep creeking in the Southeast beginning with Alan Singley's solo first descent in 1978, and has been a touchstone of many a southern creekboater, so much so that Perception named a creekboat after this creek. Footage appears in many videos, most famously in Wayne Gentry's iconic debut effort  "Southern Fried Creeking" and is well documented in video clips.. Use the Burrell's Ford level guide (subtract 1.0 ft from this reading to approximate Overflow's level) and the AFWS rain gauge for Highlands to determine if it's running, which can be an art as much as a science sometimes.
Overflow runs off faster than in the past, due to clearcutting in the watershed according to Clemson forestry students. Several Overflow veterans believe the gauge area was scoured by hurricane floods in 2004 and now reads about 0.1-0.2 lower than in the past.
The Highlands Biological Station used to be a reliable source of up-to-the-hour rain gauging, but they no longer give this info by phone.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-02-14 03:46:58


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put-In RapidIV+Putin Hazard Waterfall Photo
1.0Hemlock FallsIVHazard Waterfall Photo
1.2Seven Car Pile-upIIIHazard
1.5First Fall or "Pee Wee"III+Waterfall Photo
1.8Roundabout - TopIVHazard Waterfall Photo
1.8Roundabout - BottomIVHazard Waterfall Photo
2.0Blind FallsIV+Hazard Waterfall Photo
2.1Gravity5.0Hazard Waterfall Photo Video
2.3Alan Singley's Falls5.0Waterfall Photo
2.4Singley's SlotIVWaterfall Photo
2.5TwilightIII+Hazard Waterfall Photo
3.6Marginal Monster5.1Hazard Waterfall Photo Video
3.7Little 7-FootIIIWaterfall
3.8Pinball5.0Hazard Waterfall Photo Video
4.3Swiss CheeseIVWaterfall
4.8Fat LadyIIITakeout

Rapid Descriptions

Put-In Rapid (Class IV+)

(RM) Put-In Rapid

(RM) Put-In Rapid
Photo by Rob Maxwell @ 1.5

Most folks put in below, as shown. It's often run though, and best at higher water - run right of center to exit the bottom slot on right. Exposed ledge in landing zone below 1.3 ft becomes a serious piton hazard. Too far right and a recirculating cave will work you.  Keep your bow up.

Hemlock Falls (Class IV, Mile 1.0)

(RM) Hemlock Falls

(RM) Hemlock Falls
Photo of Phil Malatin and Shannon Nicholson by Rob Maxwell @ 1.5

Double drop of maybe 12 and 9 ft. Eddy above, run center/right center. There's a submerged piton rock center/left at lower water - be careful. Large tree is down across the approach before the eddy - tweeze through the limbs. - see some excellent helmet-cam footage of this and other rapids on Aaron Napoleon's WaterMaps site listed below by Singley's Falls.

Seven Car Pile-up (Class III, Mile 1.2)

Blind, snaky S-turn starting far left. Tuck your elbows here, very narrow. Boats can get stuck if angled left at low water; if you're next in you won't know it - hence the name. This one gets more difficult at lower water levels.

First Fall or "Pee Wee" (Class III+, Mile 1.5)

(RM) Pee Wee from below

(RM) Pee Wee from below
Photo of Phil Malatin by Rob Maxwell @ 1.5

About a 10 ft drop recognizable by large pool above with beautiful tributary waterfall coming down on left. Run center/right at higher water, far right at low.

Roundabout - Top (Class IV, Mile 1.8)

Top drop of Roundabout

Top drop of Roundabout
Photo of Scott McCorvey by Alex Harvey taken 07/10/05 @ 1.6 ft

Constriction rapid through a scenic little mini-gorge. Enter top center, over the mushroom hump, then left on landing. Scout for new wood river left, if you're first down after a big rain. One boater experienced a very serious pin in here under a new log once.

Roundabout - Bottom (Class IV, Mile 1.8)

Bottom drop of Roundabout

Bottom drop of Roundabout
Photo of Matt Bilz by Alex Harvey taken 07/10/05 @ 1.6 ft

Bottom half of Roundabout - big hole develops midway down at 2.0 ft and above. (boater in photo is entering hole which is easy to punch at 1.6 ft)

Blind Falls (Class IV+, Mile 2.0)

Blind Falls

Blind Falls
Photo of Dave Garrity by Dave Smalley taken 12/92 @ 1.2

About an 18 ft drop, not an easy scout but can be had on right; more fun to just run it. Stay away from the left side - bad recirculating hole with cave. Launch center or right of center after picking your way down about 40 yds of Class III approach to horizon line - stay right of the little rooster tail on horizon line. Gravity Falls immediately below.

Gravity (Class 5.0, Mile 2.1)
Click Here For Video


Photo of Milt Aitken by Rob Maxwell taken 09/15/02 @ 1.0 on overflow

Blind drop, eddy right to scout. Two drops of maybe 9 and 12 ft. Can be run center or boofing into left channel and staying left. Pothole on right to be avoided. There have occasionally been small trees in the left boof channel - which are hard to see. It's presently clear.

Alan Singley's Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 2.3)

(RM) Singley's Falls

(RM) Singley's Falls
Photo by Rob Maxwell @ 1.5

Easy Class 5. Sloping 60 deg drop of maybe 30 ft. Approach far left or center. Manky at lower levels, go for big air down the ski mogul rocks on left. Cave on right if you get your bow pointed that way. A well-known hairboater had to return 3 days later to retrieve his boat from under here. Traditional fun to take first-timers down without scouting, then watch their faces from the bottom eddy. Here's a link to some great footage by Shane Benedict of Singley's as well as other rapids: http://www.lvmvideo.com/quicktime/Overflow05.mov And Watermaps has an excellent video done with "Helmet-Cam" of all major rapids: http://www.watermaps.info/

Singley's Slot (Class IV, Mile 2.4)

(RM) Singley's Slot - Robert

(RM) Singley's Slot - Robert
Photo of Robert Bone by Rob Maxwell taken 02/04/06 @ 1.0

Run right over the flake rock, through the slot on right. Two more drops in here spaced about 15 yds apart, ending in the 4th, "Twilight." The whole series rates a solid Class IV, which becomes Class 5 at 2.0 ft. (Does Robert ever actually use his paddle?)

Twilight (Class III+, Mile 2.5)


Photo of Doug Benton by Alex Harvey taken 03/05/08 @ 1.3

4th drop beginning with Singley's Slot, river narrows considerably here -boof over the pyramid rock in center but not right of it - there's a cave back there, thumping cave at high water. Rock may be dry at 1.0 ft or below so boof it a little left. Watch for tree overhead in the exit after landing. At 2.0 ft and above Singley's Slot through Twilight becomes Class 5 as all four drops run together into one large rapid. Here's a shot of the boof off the pyramid rock with drops 2 and 3 of the rapid in the background.

Bump (Class III+, Mile 3.0)

(RM) Boof above Igor & Marginal

(RM) Boof above Igor & Marginal
Photo of Dayna Bryant by Rob Maxwell @ 1.5

Big boof opportunity: approach a little right of center with a little left angle and go for the boof.

Three-Forks (Class II+, Mile 3.3)
Not much of a rapid really, but a very scenic spot: Big Creek is pouring in from left over a large drop and around the boulders right is Holcomb Creek. Savor the scene just before entering Igor. This is a hike-out spot along Holcomb to the 3-Forks trail to FS 86-B if ever needed - like if Overflow flashes up to 4.5 ft, which has happened. The trail continues on the river left side past Big Creek up the ridge to a dead-ended gravel road "Three Forks Road" coming off Hwy 28.

Igor (Class IV+, Mile 3.5)

Class 5 at higher water. About 80 yds of approach leading into Marginal Monster. Sieve/strainer at lower right of this rapid - more of a problem at low flows; at higher flows the left side opens up. Eddies in between drops. Eddy out left of the giant boulder in center at the bottom to scout Marginal. A swim here and you're heading into Marginal, which has happened to a few stunned and wide-eyed individuals - not recommended. 

Marginal Monster (Class 5.1, Mile 3.6)
Click Here For Video

Nice Line at Marginal

Nice Line at Marginal
Photo of Unknown (?) by Jerry Jascomb taken 09/09/04 @ 1.6 ft

The Big Kahuna. Bad keeper hole on top left of first drop, one near-drowning reported. Catch the eddy at top after a hairy ferry. Can be run center over the rock, eddy out then boof the next 10 ft drop, or run right - eddy right and motor across the current left to boof the 10 footer. Undercut right and left here. Last drop has a thumping hole on right, run center or left for best results. Dry line is on the left.

Little 7-Foot (Class III, Mile 3.7)
Below Marginal, approach center then hard left to make a cool 7-foot boof off the flake. Pinball immediately below.

Pinball (Class 5.0, Mile 3.8)
Click Here For Video

(RM) Pinball

(RM) Pinball
Photo of Nate Elliot and Jen Cribbs by Rob Maxwell @ 1.5

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Long, complex rapid with many routes, some of which you may not have intended to run. Very busy rapid, and not a place to flip - head and rib injuries have occured here. Classic line is down the center below the top boulder, or right. A few runs left have been made. Hole at bottom left will flip but not keep you. There's a good video attached. Easy portage left if desired.

Swiss Cheese (Class IV, Mile 4.3)
15 ft drop on left into a diagonal hole. Angle hard right and high for dynamic carve into eddy below the cheese rocks or angle right and head for the bottom. Shallow below - the "cheese grater" has taken skin from many knuckles after flips. Creeky boof slot on far right into eddy if so inclined.

Fat Lady (Class III, Mile 4.8)
It's over when the Fat Lady sings. Right to left move, hole below at higher water can be surprisingly grabby. Drift to the takeout, check the level, go up and run it again.

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