|Stretch:||Barnard Rd to the French Broad River|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to IV+|
|Flows:||No guage, but Big Laurel at 2’ and rising is a good sign. We had 2” of very recent rain.|
|Gradient:||313 fpm average for 0.62 mi. Less than half that after.|
|Put-in:||Barnard Rd Bridge|
|Take-out:||French Broad Section 9 put-in, Barnard rd bridge over the French Broad|
|Shuttle:||1.1 miles plus 0.75 miles of walking|
|Season:||Fall, Winter, and Spring from heavy rain.|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #145|
We got rain, we had a friend of a friend from California who was game to boat, we just needed a plan. With the plentiful and widespread rain, I wanted to choose a region where we could get a few runs in a day in. I was sorta thinking of the Tellico tribs, but then while flipping through Kirk’s book I found Brush Creek, which had Big Laurel, Spring Creek, and of course the French Broad all super nearby. Brush is the hardest to hit as it is a micro creek at best, so we made the plan to head straight there in hopes of catching it as everything began to spike. As we drove, we were happy to see all of the nearby gauges popping hard, which gave us some confidence.
As we drove by Big Laurel, we were pleased to see it at 2.0 ft, but had hoped for more for a chance for Brush to be in. Luckily, just a few minutes later as we drove by Brush, we saw decent water flowing so we began!
The creek is very small. And even though it might be 10 feet wide at times, you will also find that a lot of the times it is only a foot deep too. Micro creeking for sure. The action starts basically immediately with the first steep drop just below the house at put-in. Below, steep bedrock drops continue through the top two thirds of the run. If this is your first time, you will need to have at least one person scout each drop. If you are a class IV/IV+ boater, you will likely want to scout all of them. Once you get to the final falls, the river quickly tapers off, but stay on your toes for wood.
We had what people called “juicy” flows when we posted photo and video. I would have called it low side of medium. But, with more water I would for sure say it is no longer class IV. I would even say at our flow, with none of us knowing it, it had a more class IV+ feel just because we had to scout each horizon. But I will say, the moves were still very easy, the rapids are just of the “big and intimidating” variety rather than the “hard and dangerous.”
This run is considered a classic for the area, and along with Big Laurel and Spring Creeks form the Triple Crown for the area. I thought the creek was good fun for sure, but also sort of a novelty. For a Knoxville comparison, I would compare it to Old Whiteoak Creek on the plateau. Steep, brown, super fun, needs a lot of rain… but short and a little boat abusive. As it was, we got our lap, and went over to get Big Laurel which had popped to 2.7 for a super fun fluffy flow there. And for more info, we got ~1.75” of rain in the previous 24 hours on well saturated ground. Ivy River had risen from nothing to and was still rising at 2,600 when we were on Brush. It would peak at 2,700 cfs.
- Junky Slide (III to IV). After one small rapid that is run down the left as you pass the house on the right, you will get to this rapid. Diane hoped out to scout on the left. There was a small eddy at the lip on the left she signaled us one at a time into. The line was to hug the left shore down a junky slide and then try to not get caught in Roto on the left shore. This then opened up. I hoped out with a rope as it looked to get steep just below. I also hoped for a photo but the bushes were thorned and too thick.
Triple Drop (IV to IV+). The first of the bigger drops, you will know if this run is not for you at this moment. I thought there was a way to scout on the right at the lip of the bottom horizon, so I told Diane the beta for the top and she dropped in. She ended up scrambling into an micro eddy on the left and got out of her boat delicately and gave us a single to go right at the bottom. So, from the top. The top ledge I can imagine gets spicey at high flows, we ran left moving to the right of center for the boof over the hole. This lands in slack water before the final two tiers. The top of the final two tiers slides back to the left, run it far right and land in the current going to the right of the midstream boulder piles. This is a nice cascade into an autoboof. Left was also technically feasible, run the far right of the left channel if you go over there. But it is less clean for sure.
Double Drop (III+ to IV). The next drop had a small slide leading to the lip, run that far right. You can scout on the right at the horizon of the Double Drop. Run right of center down the steep slide, and then the water constricts into a narrow slot and boof over a ledge hole. At our flow, the hole wasn’t too sticky, but I can imagine at high flows that could change as the pinch backs up the entrance slide and makes the ledge slower and taller.
Corner Slide (IV). While I waited for Diane to run the drop above, Kristian ran down and scouted this drop from the right at the lip. He gave us the good to go sign and we went. Just follow the current down the middle and bend right with the water and continue on. The hole at the bottom was basically non-existent.
Boogie (III). A small slide led to a log that we had to catch a tricky eddy in front of to then wiggle behind it. Downstream, there was a small boogie rapid that was just class II but had wood hanging down that caused Diane and Kristian to get kicked left into Roto where they both got tangled in the plant and flipped and lost paddles. Luckily they both sorted themselves out as immediately downstream was the least clean of the big drops.
Undercut Slide (IV to IV+). I get it, it is pretty straight forward once you enter assuming you enter correctly, but man, if you catch an edge you will be in some pain! Scout from the lip on the right. The line is drive right sorta low across the top. Then just slide down, hit the cushion and let it move you back to the right. There is a bit of an undercut on the left at the base, but it is out of play assuming you don’t somehow end up with massive left angle.
Falls (IV to IV+). Yea, it is pretty straight forward with no real hazard. However, there is a small lead in to the lip and it is super shallow. You want to be driving left to avoid the harsh kicker on the right. It is tougher than it looks however. I could see a lot of people trying and failing to get left, subsequently failing to adjust and ending up sidewise, hitting the harsh kicker and barrel rolling down the right. That wouldn’t necessarily be dangerous… but I wouldn’t want to do it. That is why I am sorta inclined to give it the extra + on the rating. But, it is straight forward with a huge margin for error and a friendly deep pool and very little hole at normal flows. So, perhaps IV is warranted.
- Boogie (III to III+). The river gets mellower and turns into sorta manky boulder gardens. Be careful for wood. This continues all the way to take-out.
Take-out: From Hot Springs, NC, take US-70 east for 10.3 miles. Half way through the drive you will cross Big Laurel, you should hope for it to be above 2’ and rising for this to be running. There is also a right turn to stay on US-70 here. Eventually, turn right onto Walnut Drive and quickly turn right onto Barnard Rd after just 0.2 miles. In another 0.2 miles, turn left to stay on Barnard Rd. Follow this 1.8 miles down to the French Broad River. Just before the bridge, turn left and turn into the parking area / river access. From the river, once you hit the railroad bridge just before the confluence, exit the river and walk (illegal) the rail road back to the parking area). It is 0.75 miles of walking.
Put-in: Drive back up towards US-70 for 1.1 miles. The put-in is at the bridge over the river. All the land near here is private. It is best to have a shuttle driver. We used an open area at the top about 200 yards before the bridge, hopefully the locals didn’t mind.
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