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.
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.
Big boof opportunity: approach a little right of center with a little left angle and go for the boof.
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.
Word is that the Forest Service is requiring that permits be filled out prior to a run, as with the Chattooga. The form is the same - I don't know if forms are being made available at the takeout or if you have to go to the kiosk at the Hwy 76 parking lot for Chattooga (which would be a major inconvenience). Indicate the level on the form.
The Chattooga River is the WRONG gage to use as an indicater for Overflow Creek. A much more accurate gage is the USGS Cullasaja River at SR 1620. Here's how the levels correlate so far:
When Cullasaja is 225 cfs Overflow is around Low (about 0.9)
When Cullasaja is 310 cfs Overflow is around medium (about 1.5)
When Cullasaja is 500 cfs Overflow is high. (about 2.0)
I have an Excel 2000 spreadsheet that predicts the levels for Overflow Creek and several other rivers in the southeast. If you'd like a copy of this spreadsheet e-mail me at H2Olevelcheck@boatingbeta.com and I will send it to you. I only check this address weekly, so pardon me if I don't get back to you right away.
Paddle Safe - Rob Maxwell
I have a couple of overflow videos on my site
Just thought I would expand on the directions to the river for all of those interested. Please feel free to correct my mistakes.
From SC take Hwy 28 North. Turn Left onto Warwoman Rd. Then turn Right onto Overflow Creek Rd. The first bridge you come to will cross over Overflow Creek. This is where the guage is for Overflow and is the take out for the creek. To get to the put in continue on Overflow Creek Rd and turn Right onto 83-B. Follow 83-B (keeping to your right at every junction) until it dead ends. You will see the culvert that the water comes through. The put in is just below the first waterfall that you see from the parking area. (At least it was for me that day!)
Thanks to all who cleared the road last weekend which made my trip possible. It was my first time down the river and wouldn't have been possible w/o your help!
From: Socemdog (email@example.com)
Subject: Re: Re: Big Creek (Chatooga Watershed)
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Strickland wrote:
>Oops, sorry Craig. You asked for specific information, not a history lesson.
But it's the best that I could do. I haven't been back!
Actually, you haven't been back, because you found Overflow! ( pppttttuppp! )
Your history is actually pretty good, for such an old geezer as yourself. Have
you been taking some vitamins or sumthin?
I'll try to remember my version - to be possibly corrected by the actual
Not long after you ran Big Creek, Ken, Alan Singley entered West Fork
history. He had hiked Overflow, Holcomb, and Big Creeks a good deal by then
- as well as the north fork Chatooga Sections 1, Zero, Double Zero, and
Minus 1, and even Scotsman's Branch. One fine day, I believe in 1975, or maybe
1976, he dropped his boating and camping gear off at the culvert bridge, now
famous as the Overflow put-in, drove his truck to the West Fork bridge, and
hiked back up to spend the night. The next afternoon, about 5 miles and 8 or
9 portages later, Alan emerged with wondrous tales of a fantastic whitewater
run, with the improbable name of Overflow Creek. The fact that he *soloed*
the exploratory doesn't surprise anyone who knows Alan.
Alan's spectacular, if somewhat unbelievable, tales fascinated everyone, but
failed to gain him a partner for another descent. Undaunted, Alan proceeded
on another *solo* run, this time with 5 or 6 portages. Finally he convinced
another boater to accompany him, none other than Robert Harrison, an open
boater of some renown. Alan and Robert survived, but, alas, Robert's Old Town
Tripper was finished, thanks to Pinball. If I recall, Robert made about 7
portages on that trip. Should have been eight. Robert's account of that
descent convinced everyone that Alan Singley was not only crazy, but a menace
to society in general, and to paddlers in particular. It was truly amazing to
watch Robert's face as he told us of - the Terror That Was Overflow. This
sufficiently warned everyone, so again Alan could find nobody to paddle
Overflow with him. So, typically, he made the 4th descent solo, this time
with 4 portages. This was sometime in 1977.
That year Diane and I moved to Highlands, NC, situated on top of the ridge that
separates Overflow Creek from the Cullasaja River. I was glad to get
re-acquainted with Alan, who previously had introduced me to the Watauga. One
fall afternoon, Alan and I were settin' around jus' doin' nuthin' (that's how
it is said up there), and he casually mentioned that I ought to 'take a look
at' Overflow. Before I knew it, we were crashing through the rhododendrons
with our boats, just downstream of the culvert. We put in on this beautiful
little gurgling creek, in incredibly beautiful surrounding, and then Alan took
off, with me in tow. I can't tell you how many times I followed this young
giant, sitting up high in his C-1, down some unforgettable adventure into the
unknown, but this was to be the most memorable of them all!
About a mile later, my head was spinning after running some of the most
incredible rapids I had ever done. We pulled into an eddy, for the first time
since the put-in, and Alan said "what do you think?" I was nearly speechless,
but his next sentence struck me dumb! "We're starting to get close to the big
drops, so stay close." "Big drops?" I stammered, "What have we been running
for the last mile?" He said nothing, but smiled and peeled out. I got really
nervous when he eddied out in a few yards, and said "this is a pretty good one
- just stay right and you'll be fine". Then he took off, and disappeared
over the edge. I thought I'd seen him for the last time. I scrambled out
onto a rock and looked at the horizon line, expecting traces of wreckage, and
finally saw the tip of his paddle waving. Not wanting to be left, I swallowed
hard and . . .
It was unreal! I asked Alan how many times he had run that 15 foot falls, and
when he said "Once - today", I knew the name of that drop immediately - Blind
The rest of the run was like a dream - a whitewater dream. Singley's Falls
waited for another day, and we stayed permanently away from Gravity and the
Great Marginal Monster.
Then you entered the picture, Ken, and now the whole world knows! Well, maybe
its not just your fault. Anyway, Overflow is too special not to share.
So that's what I know of the history. Or maybe I just imagined it. Either
way, it's really quite, uhh, well . . ( pppttttuppp! )
Ken, was the first run we did together on Overflow before or after that
ill-fated Section Zero run? (Is the statue of limitations up yet?)
Socemdog@aol.com Robin D. Sayler Meldrim, Ga.
Be careful the Forest Service is checking permits on Overflow regularly now and they had a roadblock set up at 28 and Burrells Ford at 3 pm on a Sunday targeting boaters with cool beverages.
We ran yesterday. Put on at 1.8 and took off at 2.1. The correlation with burrell's ford is not exact. According to that guage overflow should have peaked around 1.6 (but we physically saw it at 2.1). I suppose it's okay for a general idea of what is going on at overflow but not totally accurate. Also, I have heard a lot of people from different groups say that the bridge guage is reading lower than it used to.... like 1ft now is closer to what 1.2 used to be. I can't confirm this but have heard it from several different people.
From: Bo Eakens (jreakens@HiWAAY.net)
Subject: Re: Big Creek (Chatooga Watershed)
View this article only
Socemdog <email@example.com> wrote:
: The rest of the run was like a dream - a whitewater dream. Singley's Falls
: waited for another day, and we stayed permanently away from Gravity and the
: Great Marginal Monster.
It was the summer of 1978 and the Chatooga had just got the big rain. Several
of us working for NOC and Southeastern had all our trips cancelled, even
Section 3 was too high for a trip that day. We had all heard about Overflow
from the locals, knew there were a few drops still unrun and decided we'd give
it a shot. I'm bad with names and don't remember all the SE boaters but this
was probably the biggest group to hit Overflow up to this point. Some of the
folks with us were John Kennedy in a Mark V, John Regan in a Sauna, Les
Bechtel in a 14' Phoenix baot ??, myself in a Slipper, Chis Spelius in an
NOC saftey boat - a Hallowform, Bill Baxter and Gary Duven both in NOC safety
boats also and I have pretty much forgot all the others but believe Jim
Schelander was also along for the ride and we must not forget Rex Shawberg who
gave us all the scare of our lives at Marginal Monster.
I believe this was the first trip that all the drops were run on Overflow and
the West Fork. We had some great lines and some not so great lines but had
a great group and some great fun. I actually have some great slides and
pictures I haven't looked at in years. My favorite is the one of Les running
Blind Falls in that 14'+ boat. This guy was unbelieveable and now the owner
of Canyons Inc out in Idaho if you ever want a great trip down the Middle
Fork of the Salmon.
By the time we got to the take out all the Hollowforms had about 6" to 1' of
the nose pointed towards Heaven. John Kennedy went through the hole at
the bottom of Marginal and we watched as his stern seams blew out on both
sides. The nose of my Slipper and John Regan's Sauna also would require some
minimal repairs also.
Rex Shauberg had the crash of the day at Marginal. He ran the first drop and
got a little back ender that took him away from the left side of the next drop
and sent him towards the right and the undercut, which at that time had some
tree debris in it. I've got some pictures of Rex while this was happening but
there wasn't much any of us could do to help him until he got away from the
undercut. He, of course, was fine but gave us a good scare.
I'm just curious if any of these earlier posters to this thread were on this
trip with us? Sorry, but I was never great with names when I don't spend a lot
of time with someone. This trip is one of several of my fondest memories of
paddling and Overflow/West Fork will always be a Southern Classic run to me.
The next day it was section 4 at 5'+. A really great break from raft guiding
in the summer of 1978. May get some of those pics to a scanner and post a URL
for anyone who'd like to see some of the pics at a later time. -Bo
A permit is required for Overflow. There is now a USFS information board and permit box at the put-in (as of 1/2/07; it wasn't there on 12/2/06).
A good correlation to the level at Overflow is the Burrell's Ford automated gauge on the Upper Chattooga, only a ridge or so away. Subtract 1.0 ft from this reading and it will approximate Overflow's level.
At 0.9 ft it's a minimal, boney run, 2.0 ft is rather juicy. Know the run very well above 2.0 ft. 3.0 ft is the highest intentional run that I've heard of, and the gentleman involved has more runs here than anyone I know (Snuffy). Mass hike-outs at varying locations have occured when it flashed to over 4.5 ft.
Click on Macon Co. for additional Highlands real-time rainfall totals info on this AFWS site:
Generally, 2+ or more inches of rain is needed to get Overflow going, with multiple inches in the summer; less rain if the region has been saturated recently. The Hwy 76 level can be unreliable, as water can be long gone when it's all the way down to Sec 4. If Hwy 76 reading is 2.5ft and headed straight up though, that's a good sign!
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Dennis Huntley at Singley's
Hugh at Hemlock
Hugh at Singleys
Hugh at Gravity
(RM) Singley's Slot - Robert
(RM) Singley's Slot
(RM) Roundabout - Milt's Barge
(RM) Roundabout - Geoff
Bottom drop of Roundabout
Top drop of Roundabout
Running The Put-In Rapid
Right Line Singley's
Overflow at 2.0-1.5
(RM) Put-In Rapid
(RM) Put-In Culvert
(RM) Boof above Igor & Marginal
(RM) Singleys Falls Tradition
(RM) Pee Wee from below
(RM) Hemlock Falls
Spotlight On Singley's
Nice Line at Marginal
Marginal Monster - Right Line
Marginal Monster - Center Line
Singley's From Above
Twilight - Don't need no stinkin' creek boat
(RM) Singley's Falls
(RM) Pee Wee
(RM) Gravity - Right Line
(RM) Gravity - Left Line
Photo: Singley's Falls at moderate flow, courtesy of Ken Strickland.
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