Overflow Creek, Georgia, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V(V+) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||124 fpm|
|Max Gradient||320 fpm|
|CHATTOOGA RIVER AT BURRELLS FORD, NR PINE MTN, GA|
|usgs-02176930||2.00 - 4.00 ft||IV-V(V+)||01h08m||~ 1.24 ft (too low)|
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.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|1.2||Seven Car Pile-up||III|
|1.5||First Fall or "Pee Wee"||III+|
|1.8||Roundabout - Top||IV|
|1.8||Roundabout - Bottom||IV|
|2.3||Alan Singley's Falls||5.0|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.