A very useful stick gauge is located across Hwy 107 from Thorpe Powerhouse. It is located underneath the upstream side of the metal bridge, bolted to a boulder next to the bridge's foundation on river-right and facing downstream. The gauge measures level in feet and tenths of a foot. Much of the river feels like class III with a few class IVs when the water is bouncing between 2.6ft and 3ft on the stick. The river's class IV rapids remain class IV down to 2.4ft or even 2.2ft. However, 2.4ft makes the river's class II/III slides very scrapey, and turns its class III rapids into mostly class II+. Running the harder stretches is not advised for typical class III boaters when water is hitting 3ft on the gauge. The first two rapids of the class IV mini gorge (The Crux and Center Boof) are frightening at 3ft and higher. However, the last two rapids (which merge into one at 3ft) are stiff but manageable class IV as high as 3.3ft, and the Two Mile Runout is a class III+ romp at 3.3ft. Scheduled releases are intended to be 250cfs, which corresponds to water bouncing between 2.4ft and 2.6ft on the stick gauge across from Thorpe Powerhouse.
Duke Energy links messages about unscheduled and scheduled releases into the WFT gorge on its "Nantahala Lake Levels" page (http://www.duke-energy.com/lakes/nantahala/nantahala-lake-levels.asp). Just look in the last column of Lake Glenville's row. If there's a date, click it to open a page that has announcements about releases from the lake into the WFT gorge.
Two web pages can be used together for a usually reliable "online" way to know if there's water in the WFT gorge::
a. USGS 03508050 TUCKASEGEE RIVER AT SR 1172 NR CULLOWHEE, NC
b. Duke Energy's Power Generation Schedule on EFT and WFT:
There is probably water in the WFT gorge if *any one* of the four following conditions is met.
1. At least 250cfs at the SR1172 gauge (link "a" above) AND *no* power generation on the WFT or EFT (link "b" above).
2. At least 500cfs at the SR1172 gauge (link "a" above) AND power generation on the WFT but not on the EFT (link "b" above).
3. At least 750cfs at the SR1172 gauge (link "a" above) AND power generation on the EFT but not on the WFT (link "b" above).
4. At least 1000cfs or more at the SR1172 gauge (link "a" above) AND power generation on both forks (link "b" above).
These "rules-of-thumb" are based on three facts:
1) Power generation on WFT through the Thorpe Diversion Pipe adds around 250cfs at the SR 1172 gauge.
2) Power generation on EFT through Cedar Cliff's powerhouse adds around 500cfs at the SR 1172 gauge.
3) Releases through Thorpe Dam's gate are typically close to 250cfs.
Two glitches in these "rules-of-thumb" I can think of are 1) the rare circumstance when Duke opens Cedar Cliff Dam's flood gate, adding more water to EFT than the electricity-generating release, and 2) when Duke reports releases into WFT (link B) that aren't through the Thorpe Diversion Pipe.
Normally, Thorpe Dam releases no water to the streambed. There has been no fish flow or minimum release since construction of the dam in 1940-41 by ALCOA. There have been occasional spills during heavy rain periods, but these have been quite rare, sometimes 10 years apart. Since there are no gauges, there are no streamflow records for this reach since construction of the dam.
Reports give the public a chance to report on river conditions throughout the country as well as log the history of a river.