This section has been dewatered, although runs after heavy local rain from flow coming down White Oak Creek and during periodic "bypass flow releases" by Duke Energy. This link http://www.duke-energy.com/lakes/nantahala/nan-scheduled-flow-releases.asp has a list of releases in the Nantahala area. This will give you the power generation schedule for the Nantahala power station(s). On the right side of the page is "Nantahala Release Bypass Schedule for 2017" and presumably will be updated for future years. Click on it and you will get a pdf file of the scheduled release dates and times. Just in case here is the link to the PDF for 2018 https://lakes.duke-energy.com/pdfs/2018/Nant%20Bypass%20Schedule%202018.pdf
If you go to the USGS gauge Nantahala River near Hewitt and click on the gauge number, you will get a graph of the recent flow history. This gauge is below the power plants (there are two) and thus includes the flow from them. It is easier to convert the graph to a table to follow the numbers. You can do this by clicking on the appropriate buttons on the graph page. At night when the power plants are usually shut down, you will typically see a flow of 50-100 cfs (depending on recent rains) coming from White Oak Creek and a few smaller feeder creeks. . During the day (typically 9am - 5pm, but sometimes longer or shorter) the power plants will add about 630 cfs, so you will see a little over 700 cfs on the Hewitt gauge. Scheduled bypass flows are 250 or 350 cfs, this flow will be added to the ~ 700 baseline and you will have around 950 cfs or 1050 cfs at the Hewitt gauge. If it is after the time of day when the power plants shut down, the bypass flow added to the natural flow will be somewhere between 320 and 500 cfs and this is enough to paddle.
During periods of fairly heavy rain there will often be enough natural flow coming down White Oak to provide sufficient flow to run the Upper Nantahala and Cascades. If it's at a time when the power plants are running, look for over 950 cfs; if the power plants are shut down, then 300 or so is enough.
The beauty with this section is that there are many pull offs so you can choose your own run. If the level is lower than 600cfs, a great run is to go from the fourth bridge to the third bridge. It is a .9 mile long and focuses on the meat of the run. It is feasible to do 3-4 laps on this section with a quick and easy shuttle. After the first mile, you will find that the gradient tapers off and there are two big rapids left before it becomes mostly wave trains to the take out.
To check Duke Energy releases, please go to the following page and click on the message next to Nantahala Lake.
Here are a few helpful guidelines you can use.
250-300 cfs: Good first timers' creeking introduction, class III
300-600 cfs: Fun, padded level with eddies, holes avoidable, continuous class III+
600-1000+ cfs: Suggest that you have good class IV river skills, a solid roll and rescue skills. The eddies disappear and this section is continuous with some mean holes. It resembles class IV more than III at this point. Some have said that this level resembles Lower Big Creek.
|NANTAHALA RIVER NEAR HEWITT, NC|
|usgs-03505550||900 - 2000 cfs||III+(IV)||00h59m||90.5 cfs (too low)|
Reports give the public a chance to report on river conditions throughout the country as well as log the history of a river.