Nantahala River (Lower)
|Stretch:||Power Plant to NOC|
|Difficulty:||Class II+ (III & IV+).|
|Flows:||450 to ?,0,000 cfs . Current USGS gauge.|
|Put-in:||8.1 miles, 10 minutes one way|
|Take-out:||NOC at the Playwave… or 200 yards downstream|
|Shuttle:||Dam release, scheduled daily from March to October, but occurs year round|
|Season:||Dam release, scheduled daily from March to October, but occurs year round|
I have done the Cascades and the Upper section of this river dozens of times. But, I have never motivated myself nor my friends to continue down into this class II section after so it was left untouched by me. However, this past week my friend Maria Noakes passed away while kayaking on the Cheoah, and as she had long connections with NOC, the memorial was held there which also included a memorial paddled down this section. So, I found myself paddling the river with some 100 other grieving paddlers.
This run is a great teaching ground. There are great eddies and currents to hone your skills on, there are a couple nice boofs, and then of course there is Nantahalla Falls which is the big class III at the end. What more could you want for an instructional river? Then to boot, at take-out is a wonderful playspot which was home to the World Championships a few years ago. For those of you who simply cannot be bothered to suit up for anything less than class IV, worry not, for just below the playspot and the normal take-out is a infrequently run class IV that is a large step harder and more consequential than the Falls. I would scout from the take-out before dropping into it as it may surprise you at how steep, rocky, and fast it is once at river level.
- This run is full of essentially boogie. I put in at the lower down park the day I did it. There is one rapid in this section that you want to stay on the inside of the bend.
- Ferebee Park: is an alternate put-in for those wanting a shorter day.
- Gravel Bar (II). As you go along the huge gravel factory, there is a small rapid with a nice wave train to run down the middle.
A few other rapids are in here… but my apologies, class II is just not that memorable for me. There are maybe 3 others that are similar to Gravel Bar.
- Bump (II+). You will know you are here because there is a sign on a tree on the left shore stating “Bump.” The rapid is mellow if you go down the right. The “bump” is a small ledge hole that is sorta sticky. Still, it is a great place to practice boofing holes if you are so inclined, but it is also super easy to avoid if not.
- Nantahalla Falls (III). This rapid is a step harder than anything else on the run, and the first thing I would characterize as a rapid. There are two holes offset, the first blocking the right two thirds of the river and the second bigger one blocking the left two thirds of the river. The mellow line is to start left of center, go around the top hole which is stickier than people think, do this move with right momentum and then drive hard right. This keeps you out of both holes. But, some people spin out or don’t give the clearance on the top hole so all sorts of things happen. You can also just run straight down the gut if you have a boof, this avoids the first hole and then lines you up for the second hole’s meat. That was my line. Was great fun.
Optional Take-out: Some choose to take out on the right just below at the parking area, or on the left at the top of the NOC Park area.
- NOC Wave (II+). As you paddle along the NOC park, you get to a nice wave and the site of the 2014 World Freestyle Championships. It is a steeper rapid than the IIs upstream, so many novice boaters take out above it.
- Worser Wesser (IV+). This rapid can be scouted from the dirt road below NOC along the train tracks. Note, it is much steeper than it looks. It is for sure super shallow, there are rumors of rebar in it too. We started right of center which slides down to a kicker over a good size hole which brings in off angle water from the left. Balance yourself. This then drops onto a slide that leads to an exploding wave at the bottom. The whole thing is shallow, so stay upright. Also, don’t venture here unless you are well experienced. Thanks. A small beach access is on the left 100 yards downstream that leads to a trail back up to the road.
For a lot of photos of this run, see the AW write-up...
Take-out: Google your way to “Nantahala Outdoor Center, West Highway 19, Bryson City, NC.” From Knoxville, I come in via 129 to 74 from the south, from Ashville you would come via 74 from the north. Take-out is at their facility.
Put-in: To get to put in, head upriver on Highway 19. In 5.3 miles Ferebee Park will be on your right. This is an optional put-in. Or, continue up for another 2.6 miles and turn left on Wayah Rd, it is super obvious as it has a nice parking lot and lots of restrooms. You can park right there and put-in.
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