To start with, the Steamers are very happy to neither be injured nor sitting in jail. On Thursday we did in fact complete 17 laps on Dukes Creek near Helen, Georgia. Our put-in was the Forest Service road for Ravens Cliff Falls. If you drive past the Ravens Cliff trail-head there is a parking area on the left side of the road. The creek is only about 20 feet from the car and there is an established trail to the creek. Our take-out was the confluence of the two creeks at the base of the falls. There is a boardwalk here on the river left with a trail that goes to the Dukes Creek Recreational area. Instead of following the trail to the recreational area you can continue straight and end up back at the put-in. I am guessing the river distance from put-in to take-out at .6-.7 miles. The hike back up is maybe .8-1 mile. There are 9 major drops in this section. My topo map has 40 foot contour intervals, but shows this to be around 220 feet of gradient. If someone has more accurate tvf for this run please let us know. The prize for Georgia is potentially at stake and we want to make sure the tvf is accurate.
How did we end up here?
I paddled this section in the fall of 1993. I couldn't find anyone crazy enough to go with me, so I went by myself. My girlfriend took photos. I ran everything except for the last two rapids. During the next few years I paddled Dukes three times. Around 1995 large strainers choked up the big waterfalls and I stopped going. I hiked this section again around 2001 and the strainers were still there.
This past Wednesday Bowman and I drove to Dukes to see if it had cleaned up. We spent the day climbing every drop and swimming every landing spot. We removed 8 small to medium trees. The estimated flow was 30 cfs. At this point I knew everything would go except for the last big drop at the boardwalk. Returning home we got Townsend and Jonathan fired up. They were skeptical, where would 30cfs be enough? Dukes is where.
Thursday morning Bowman picked me up at 5:00 a.m. and we made the drive. We arrived before sunrise and geared up. Around 7:45 we put on for run #1. The first quarter mile is very shallow. You wheelchair as much as you paddle. I was getting discouraged until we ran the first big drop. It is a nice slide with a huge boof. Afterwards, the shallows returned. A few minutes later and we were at the lip of the steepest shit I have ever paddled. I have no idea how I survived paddling this stuff by myself 14 years ago. The second rapid is a fun 6-8 foot slide. Below it you eddy out and run the first almost vertical waterfall. It is probably 18 feet tall. You have to land precisely at the bottom or your day will be over.
Rapid #4 is a huge 30-foot vertical drop with a rolling lip. You land in basically a giant pothole. The depth is only five feet unless you charge far left. Here the depth is eight feet. If you screw this up and piton you will probably break your legs. Also, blown skirts from the landing completely screw you. The next drop is an awesome 8-10 foot boof on the right. Once you complete these drops you can eddy right and try to stop your racing heart. Then, you realize the hard rapids are next.
Rapid #6 starts out shallow on the far right. As you slide down an eight-foot entrance move you hit an eddy and have to make a right-angle turn to the left. If you miss this turn you will experience true pain. After making the turn, which you have one stroke and one second to complete, you drive left and rail-slide down a steep 20-foot drop. If you go too far left you will launch off a 15-foot vertical drop and land on a boulder. If you survive this rapid catch the one-boat eddy on the right. Missing this eddy might be the last mistake you make.
Now you are two rapids from the take-out. This second to last rapid is simply sick. I had never fired it up before and really did not plan on it. Bowman took one look at it and said it was his. He styled it. Then I realized I was going to have to do it. I haven't felt sick above a drop in a long time, but this made me want to hurl. You have to enter in a far right slot. Missing the slot will be very bad. You then drop off a six-foot shelf which forces you to point right. If you point right you will vertically pin, spin around and run the nastiest shit ever backwards. So, make sure you cut left with every ounce of energy you have.
In the the next rapid, fun begins. You slide and bounce through a narrow s-turn zig-zaggy thing and then you have two strokes to make the boof of your life. You must keep your downriver angle as you launch through a slot and fly 20 feet to the pool below. If you get pushed right you will be in serious pain. This rapid is now without a doubt the most challenging and rewarding rapid I know of. The next big rapid lands on a rock and we portaged it every time. If this creek had enough water for this last rapid to go, it would not matter because you would never make it that far in the trip. Below the big drop is a really fun fast-paced slide. It is only class III or so.
The first lap took an hour on the water and 20 minutes to hike at a fast pace back to the put-in. The fastest lap was 16 minutes on the water and 18 minutes hiking. We averaged 45-minute laps. We finished at dark. As far as the water level goes 30 cfs is what we had, 35-40 would be ideal and 50+ would be like the Green at 800%. If it looks runnable at the put-in it is definitely too high.
As you look at these photos you may think you want to go fire it up. Please use extreme caution with Dukes Creek. It will put you in a wheelchair if you are not on your A game. Plus, hiking off trail is strictly enforced with a possible $500 fine and all scouting and portaging will certainly be considered off-trail hiking. And, if the rangers see kayakers here, they will freak out! Paddling this craziness should only be done if you're very comfy with runs like the Raven's Fork and Lower Cullasaja (and I mean running it all). Evacuating an injured paddler from this canyon would be a nightmare. Dukes has been an amazing secret for many years. Please do not make us regret sharing this with you!
If anyone knows of someone who has paddled this section before 1993 please let us know. Otherwise, we hope to name a few of the drops in honor of Stan.
Is there not a gauge?
myself and a friend went down and ran all of the drops including the boardwalk waterfall and had sweet lines all on video. we did not see any rangers but it was raining and we may have just got lucky. i know im stupid. it was on april 2nd 2009
some photos at http://stanleysteamers07.blogspot.com/
I'm not doubting your claim, but I am in awe of this account. I realize that you may not want to post pictures of yourself violating State Park regulations, but is there anywhere that I can see your run down Psycho Creek? Email me at danjocash at gmail dot com.
How did you hike back to the put in? down the forest service road? or through the woods?
This run is VERY off limits. You can go to jail if you are caught on the run.
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.
Third Drop with Second in the Background
Third Small Drop
Second Big Drop-Hole
Second Big Drop-End
Second Big Drop-Middle
Second Big Drop-Front
Second Small Drop
Second Big Drop
first Big Drop-Front
First Big Drop-Front
First Big Drop-Above
Dukes Creek Small First Drop
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