Nantahala River (Cascades)
|Stretch:||Old River Rd to Bridge on Wahay Rd|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to V|
|Distance:||0.25 to 0.85 miles|
|Flows:||250-~1,000. (400 felt optimum, 300 felt rather boney). Current USGS gauge which you need to subtrack ~600. Endless River Adventures also posts the release schedule here|
|Gradient:||214 fpm for 0.55 miles, then 146 fpm|
|Put-in:||Access at Old River Rd, or as you hike laps at Horns of God|
|Take-out:||Just below Chinese Feet if you hike your laps, or below at the bridge access|
|Shuttle:||0.25 miles (5 minute hike) or 0.5 miles with car.|
|Season:||Fall/Winter/Spring (rain) and dam releases during the summer|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #94|
Well… the first write up as a inhabitant of the South East. I have no doubt that me continuing to do the website may ruffle a few feathers… as a non-local what right do I have to write descriptions of the local rivers. Especially with websites like BoatingBeta and American Whitewater out there providing content. Hopefully, folks will understand, A Wet State started as my own journal of my river experiences that I maintained for several years prior to making the information public. Once it was public, folks seemed to think it was useful so I continued to share it… but still in the core of it, the website is my own journal that I will always be able to refer back to… either for my own refresher prior to heading back to a river or years from now when I want to reminisce on my past experience. So it is with that in mind that I continue to forge ahead and post write ups of my new location while I am here. I apologize if I step on any toes, it is not my intention.
So this section was different than my expectations in two ways. It was better… and shorter. The rapids with 400 cfs really were fun, once you had the lines dialed you could just run from the top to bottom with no eddies in less than 5 minutes with one big rapid after the other. And with the ability to walk just a few minutes back up to Horns of God, each lap in quick succession will leave you smiling… though only moderately giving you enough time to have caught your breath from the previous hike to the top!
I look forward to going back this fall during the all day higher release when I will have more time to take better photos and maybe shoot a little video. I think with the right angles this run could look really cool.
So, we were to have a 250 release but thanks to a little rain the night before it bumped to 250. At 400 I thought the run felt ideal. Nice and padded… and junk yard was easy down the middle. As the flow dropped on us, our last lap was around 300 cfs and I thought that all the rapids started to get a little scrappy and Junk Yard was absolute crap! I have heard (and can imagine) as flows get up into 600 cfs and above (people run it at 1,000 cfs) the holes start to get super mean and it turns into one long rapid. Sounds like a stout fun run!
- Horns of God (IV+). Be careful of the hole just below the entrance. We entered right and either boofed the hole or went to the right just around it. The main line is between the horns, which ramps to a boof. You can also run far left the hole way down, riding the curler seam back to the middle through the main drop. Below is another ledge that you can boof over.
- Big Kahuna (V). This long rapid should be scouted from the road prior to your first run down. Several sticky holes feed to a large ledge, and just below the river drops into Junk Yard which would suck to swim through. The rapid starts with a long lead in that we ran down the middle, just boofing around some small holes and rocks. Then a last minute eddy on the left at the lip of the main drop appears. From there, the first step is a steep slide that was clean down the middle. I found moving left too early ended up with me hitting a rock in the first wave. Instead I wanted in the middle until after the first wave and then I would drive left fast and hard for the river wide hole that is bigger than it looks from the road. Aim for the far left wall. Once through that stay left and either boof the ledge far left or right. After the big hole I mentioned a second ago, there are several more big holes on the right that can cause problems if you slide over to the middle. With that said, there is also an easier line that is down the far right the whole way… but I didn’t run it so I don’t know the specifics.
- Junk Yard (IV+). Just below Big Kahuna the river drops into a nasty rapid. At the higher flows you could run straight down the middle. At lower flow it was a junky pile that we banged down the middle and then to the right of. The run out is also consequential as it is a slide into a hole. If you are straight and get your nose up it is no problem. If you aren’t don’t it can surf you bad.
Chinese Feet (IV to IV+). A two step rapid with several lines. We ran down the right, boofing the first ledge on the right but with left angle off of the flake. The bottom drop is where ever, just don’t end up eddied out at the base of the inflow from the left as it is a bit of a pocket. The left line was easier looking down into an eddy on the left and through. There is also a middle boof directly in front of a log hazard that we did not run.
If you are walking your shuttle you hop out here and walk back up to the Horns of God.
- The runout was class III to IV-and was regrettable as the flow dropped down to 300 cfs. At 400 I am sure it is fun… at the 250 summer releases it seems you are begging for a broken boat!
For more details on the run, see the AW write-up...
Take-out: Just south of Nantahala, NC on Highway 74/19 take Wayah Rd to follow the Nantahala River up the valley. In 3.4 miles you will see a parking just before a bridge over the river. This is the take-out. Be aware parking is limited.
Put-in: Continue up Wayah another 0.8 miles to Old River Road and turn down this. Park wherever there is room.
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