|Stretch:||Highway 129 to Canyon Park Dr|
|Flows:||8” Low, 16-18” Optimal, >20” High, >26” Very High, but there is no online gauge. We had 22" and 3,100 cfs and dropping at Lookout Creek. Check out American Whitewater's current flow gauge.|
|Gradient:||228 fpm average (3/4 of a mile at Stairway is 407 fpm, the “hard section” is 311 fpm average)|
|Put-in:||Pull off at the North and South Fork confluence on Highway 129|
|Take-out:||State Park Access Parking off of Canyon View Rd|
|Shuttle:||7.8 miles (15 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Winter and Spring, rain|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #97 and in A Wet State's contribution to World Kayak's Video Guide|
Arguably the best creeking in the South East… though as this is only the 26th run in the region, don’t take my word for it, but rather go and find out for yourself. But of my 26 runs in the area to date… I have seen nothing that compares. The quality of the slides, ledges, falls, and of course the boulder gardens are very high. And all the while, the canyon is tight, the forest intimidating, and the walls rise high leaving you a feeling of being in a remote canyon in Chile.
The run starts off with some mellow slides that gradually steepen and progress in difficulty until you get to Fishbowl. From this point on, the run is game-on. The next half mile is full of large bedrock drops that pack some mean holes at higher flows. As big and intimidating as this section looks, it is significantly easier than the section below, the mile of creek as the canyon walls retract, and you face all the boulders that have fallen into the river over the past million years. This section is one continuous boulder garden, non-stop moves to keep you on your toes, and holes that are eager to take you for a ride requiring precise attacks and boof strokes. Your first time down, you will be gripped… playing follow the leader, catching eddies left and right in the middle of large rapids, only to peel back out chasing your leads tail, trying to keep within eyesight to ensure you know where to go. But despite the relentless pace of the river, as you paddle through the last rapid, Omega, the canyon relents and you are finally able to catch your breath, you will be left exhilarated with the buzz of adrenaline still pulsing through your heart.
So far, the only flow I have run it creek at is 22”. This is a high side of good flow. Above 24 inches or so it takes a step up again to be the less commonly run high flows, with locals pushing the limits up into the 30”s. The low flow is a bit more hazy, some folks say 8” is still good… but man I can’t imagine that. I think most consider ~12 inches to be getting on the low slide of still being worth it, and the consensus is that 16-19” are the ideal flows.
Over the past few days I have been getting asked about my thoughts on how hard the run was… I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for lower water, and that I wasn’t scared on the river. I was. We scouted and went slow which helped of course which helped to keep it safe. With ever moving wood, your first lap of the day needs to be slower in order to keep it safe. But with all that said, I still think this is in the top 5 for hardest day runs I have done. Not including overnights (which have their own other aspects which induce stress and increase difficulty). So yea, this run is just as hard as South Branch, or Upper Middle Cosumnes… if you venture here , be prepared!
- The first mile has a bunch of fun slides, ledges and boogie. They were class III to IV but all good to go. If you have trouble here… time to walk back to the car.
- Wood Portage (IV). In 2015 there was a mandatory wood portage that we did on the right. The log jam was rather big. We drove right onto a outcropping of rock to then slide down.
Edward Scissorhands (IV+). The river bends right and you want to be driving left to get up and over a small shelf and slide down the far left and over a ledge.
Surreal Pillow (V). Sneak far right in a small micro channel or portage easily on the left. Below the river goes down a cool section with a cliff dropping straight down to the water along the right bank and some huge rocks to navigate through. Catch an eddy on the right before dropping into Fishbowl.
Fishbowl (V to V+). At our flow, this rapid looked horrible. The hole was just huge. And to make matters worse the left line was blocked by a tree. Basically, just down plug down the middle. Right had the most outflow. Most of us seal launched in on the right around the rapid.
Snakepit (IV+). Just below is a rapid that isn’t overly hard but has a bad undercut in the right channel. You can scout on the right. Either drive right to left into the small cave to exit or you can go down the main flow to the right channel, just stay off the right wall.
Knocking on Heavens Door (IV+ to V-). This one gets a half step bump because Stairway to Heaven is just downstream with only a few micro eddies between the bottom of it and the lip of Stairway. The line was down the right, but take the shoulder boof on the left side of the channel. This lands in a big curler that then sends you down a slide and through a hole… which I took a little surf in due to not being far enough left on the shoulder boof. Got the heart going for sure.
- Stairway to Heaven (V to V+). Scout from one of the micro eddies on the left, earlier is better. Enter left of center with little speed and make sure you never sit up right as you land several drops onto slabs. Slide down left of center if possible. Below, make sure to catch an eddy as the river pushes down a right channel which is sieved out. Recently someone put some climbing bolts in so now the portage is really not that bad at all. Not for class V standards at least.
Cosmic Trigger (V). Assuming you caught an eddy and didn’t go down the sieved out channel below Stairway, you would instead exit the pool on the far left. This starts with a small boof before entering a slide than bends left, you want to drive right and boof far right, like a foot off the wall. It is a tough boof and plugs are common. Eddy out and scout the next drop on the right.
Big Bang (IV+). A straight forward, but consequential 18 footer. The landings in the middle and left of the right channel are shallow. So you want to go off the right side of the small launch flake moving right to find the deep water.
Revelations (V). Just downstream you enter the lead in to Revelations. Scout early via the eddies on the right. As you approach the crux of the drop there is a lead in ramping hole that tail stood us, you can also boof left around this. Then you drive left over a five foot boof moving hard left (the boof itself is on the right or middle, but take it heading hard left). Then land and make sure you get at least to the middle, if not the far left. The right drops over the 10 foot drop into a bad pocket. The left has flakes that kick you out and clear of the hole.
Boof (IV). Below was a cool boof over a 6 foot ledge that we ran left of center.
Momentary Lapse of Reasoning (V- to V). Some people caught an eddy on the left at the lip, but Nate suggested going direct to maintain speed which I also agree is the better approach. The river bends left and approaches a step drop. At the lip, the flow drops over a a tight right turn and descends some twelve feet. At low flows this can create a crack, At good flow just boof the peak of the water. Below is a small double drop.
Armageddon (V). One of the more well-known drops of the run, this drop packs plenty of consequence in its gradient. Early 2015 we had to portage some wood in the lead in rapid. It was pretty obvious, and that part of the rapid was junky anyways. From there, ferry across to start in the river left eddy above the lip. Ferry to the right eddy where you can properly drive to the far left. From the eddy, ferry behind a large rock and boof far left into a small 1.5 boat eddy. Whatever you do, do not go down the far left channel, it is sieved and full of wood. Instead, ferry out 5 feet into the middle channel and slide down the left side of the small channel into a hole. Then eddy out far left immediately again. The exit is down the far right, enter right early and grind a rock to boof and stay right, below there are a few small ledges to navigate, just stay right and you are done with the rapid.
- Daniel’s Creek enters on the left and nearly doubles the flow. This is now entering what to me felt like the crux section. The next mile is one nonstop boulder garden with some large holes and a few tough cruxes to make. There was so much going on that I will not be able to give a play by play. And perhaps not all of the moves are class V, but damn this section felt way harder than anything upstream. With the size of the rapids, the nature of the boulders, and the lack of pools, a swim in here would be really bad.
Pillow Eddy (V-). A cool rapid that we entered by driving far left into a micro eddy on the left shore. Then ferried out in front of a pillow on the left shore and entered some nice slides with fluffy holes.
Boof Right (IV+ to V-). The next tier was a fun section of hole bashing that led a flake boof that you wanted to hit on the right side of the flake.
Pinball (IV+). After banging down the right we moved across the main flow moving far left into a small channel to exit far left. This one doesn’t appear large and doesn’t have a large horizon, the danger is a channel on the right which you don’t want to go into.
Gargoyle (V-). I remember entering it and trying to stay relatively left, but most of us got pushed right for the very large bottom hole. We were able to boof through it ok, but man it would suck to get stuck in that one.
Woody (IV+ to V-). This section had some holes with some wood. First we went far left under a tree where a good size hole was waiting, stay left and seam the outflow. Downstream 100 yards was another large ledge with a large tree in it, keep power and drive left. Or sneak around it to the right. Beatings have occurred here.
Omega (V). So we were told, half of the river goes into a sieve at the bottom on the left. I scouted, confirmed and noted the line did not look hard. Just boof down the middle, not too far left to avoid pitoning, and then ride the curlers and holes and stay right or paddle away from the left once the holes cease (there are like 20-30 feet between the holes and the sieve). What Reber, Lane, and I did not note is that at this flow if you over achieve to the right you could end up being pulled/sucked into a cave, sieve thing at the top on the right. As I braced against both sides of it, my stern starting to suck down I thought for sure it was over. Luckily, my stern disengaged and I shoved back into the curlers frantically trying to brace my way through so I could actively paddle away from the sieve.
- The paddle out starts abruptly below, just class III to take-out.
For more details on the run, see the AW write-up or even better, the Walden's Ridge write-up...
Take-out: Take highway 59 South for 7.6 miles from highway 24. Take exit 11 toward Trenton and turn left onto GA-136 off the off ramp. To follow this, turn right on S Main st after 0.3 miles, and follow for 0.1 miles before turning left to stay on GA-136 (Lafayette St.) again. Follow GA-136 for 1.3 miles before turning left at Canyon Park Dr which is marked by big estate signs on either side of the road. Take the first right after 0.4 miles to stay on Canyon Park Dr and then look for the State Park parking access on the right.
Put-in: Go back out to GA-136 and turn left, climbing up Lookout Mountain. After 5.5 miles turn left on GA-189 and follow for 1.6 miles. You will see a turn-out on the left just before the confluence of the North and South Forks of the creek. Park here. There may be rocks blocking the turn out, the owner is cool… the rocks are there people someone was stealing his rocks. Feel free to move (and put back) or drive around the rocks.
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