Rocky (Cape Fear Trib) - 2: Lower- Chatham Church Rd to Deep River confluence

Rocky (Cape Fear Trib), North Carolina, US


2: Lower- Chatham Church Rd to Deep River confluence (Lower Rocky River)

Usual Difficulty II+(III) (varies with level)
Length 4.2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 18 fpm
Max Gradient 40 fpm

Big Ledge

Big Ledge
Photo of Morgan by Garrick Taylor taken 08/28/08 @ 9 inches on visual g

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-02101726 200 - 1200 cfs II+(III) 00h21m 271 cfs (running)

River Description

This is a nice run to try when the Lower Haw is at flood.  It is a bit harder than the Middle Haw and a bit easier than the Lower Haw.  At good flow levels there is one class III ledge and bunch of class I to II+ rapids along this stretch.  There are lots of small play features - bring the playboat if you have one.

Before starting, check out the run from the 15/501 bridge over the Rocky River.  This bridge is about 7 miles south of Pittsboro.  After crossing the bridge, turn into the drive on the left and park on the old road right of way that parallels 15/501.  You can then use the bridge to take a look at the river.  If you see a lot of rocks downstream from the bridge, it is probably too low.  The class III ledge can be seen upstream from the 15/501 bridge in the distance.  There is also a visual gauge on the river right downstream bridge support.  There is a goat trail down to the river you can use to look at the visual gauge.  A good minimum is probably -6 inches.  The run is fun at 6 inches to 1 foot. At 2 feet, bank sweepers are common and the river washes into the trees in numerous places. There are lots of great play features at around 2.5 feet. Many of the small features probably start to wash out above 3 feet.

The put-in is where Chatham Church Road crosses the Rocky River.  This is a one-lane dirt road with a steel trestle bridge, with decent pullouts on both sides.  Access trail is river-left.  The takeout is just before the Rocky River confluences with the Deep River, in TLC's White Pine Preserve.  You have to hike about 10 minutes up a well-maintained trail to the parking lot.

From the put-in there is about 2/3 a mile of flatwater for a nice warm-up.  You will see a small deck/dock on the left and then the river bends to the right.  Just after the bend, class I rapids begin.  It starts with some pretty mild ledges.  There are some small waves to surf just to warm up a bit.  After a few ledges, there is a larger rapid.  This rapid is a 4-5 foot ledge.  On river right it is a broken ledge of 2 or 3 drops depending on the spot chosen.  On the river left it is a single drop with a fairly sticky hole at the bottom.  At higher flows, this one can rip the paddle out of your hands and thrash you a bit.  In the middle there are a couple of nice slots with a two stage drop that are fun.  Pick your line - a nice recovery pool awaits below to pick up the pieces if needed.

Once you eddy out below the rapid, you can spend some time playing a small wave near the middle of the river.  After you finish playing, a couple more rapids await before crossing below the 15/501 bridge.  After crossing under 15/501, there are a few straight-forward rapids.  The river bends to the left and the class I-II rapids continue.  There are a few playspots but nothing too interesting.  The second stretch of flat water begins near where the river makes a bend to the right. At about mile 2.5 in this section, there is a larger creek entering on river left (look for a duck blind) across the river from a private picnic area.  Look closely and you'll see a 3-4' waterfall 100 yards upstream.  A nice place to paddle into to appreciate the moment.

After about 1/2 mile of flatwater, the river bends around to the right and the rapids start again.  From this point, the gradient picks up a bit and the rapids are pretty constant to the takeout.  The right side of the river begins to drop through a small gorge.  It is very pretty in the spring when the mountain laurel and rhododendron are in bloom.

In this last section there are several nice class II+ ledges and rock gardens.  There are a bunch of places to surf and play your way down the river.  Somewhere around mile 3.1, a small island splits the river for a short distance and there is one ledge that begins to form a hole above 1.5 feet.  After a bit over a mile of fun, the last rapid is a wavetrain. Pay attention and you'll notice a small power line passing over head, white pines growing on the bluffs, then one more small rapid. After this rapid, when the river is running you normally hit the backwater from the Deep River.  Once in the flat water, move to river right and look for a small creek (after TLC's property corner) along with trail markers.  You can take out here and follow the trail up to the parking lot. 


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-11-04 02:45:39


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Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
1.0Knucklebuster LedgeIIIPlayspot Photo
1.0Round 2IIPlayspot
2.8Unnamed LedgeIPlayspot
3.0Roundhouse CutII+Playspot Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Knucklebuster Ledge (Class III, Mile 1.0)

Big Ledge

Big Ledge
Photo of Morgan by Garrick Taylor taken 08/28/08 @ 9 inches on visual g

Formerly referred to as the "Big Ledge".  The left side is side surfable but will pound you around if you get lazy.  It is pretty sticky above 2 feet on the paddler gauge and you need to try to work to river left in order to flush out, but beware of the logjam below.  Any flipping will generally result in the rapid attempting to rip your paddle loose and banging your hands along the rocky bottom.  Easier lines mid-channel and river right. There is a surf spot center-right at levels from -3" to 1.5'. Above 2 feet this is a fun wave, but it is hard to catch.

Round 2 (Class II, Mile 1.0)

This surfing ledge is just below Knucklebuster and seems to just get better with higher flows.  Decent eddy service on river-left.

Unnamed Ledge (Class I, Mile 2.8)

Yet to be named.  Good side surfing ledge.

Roundhouse Cut (Class II+, Mile 3.0)

Nice ledge rapid

Nice ledge rapid
Photo of Casey by Garrick Taylor taken 08/28/08 @ 9 inches on visual g

This jumble of boulders creates multiple lines with personalities that change with flow ranges.  At lower ranges, there's limited options and a slot.  Medium flows create a counterclockwise weak whirlpool in the main rapid, which is fun to ride if you're expecting it.  This washes out at higher flows but the water gets squirrelly and play gets interesting.  There's one or two boof lines with at least one rock to cut your knuckle on (Cory T. 2015).

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