|Stretch:||Billingsley Creek Rd to Overflow Creek Rd|
|Difficulty:||Class V- to V|
|Flows:||No gauge (1' to 2' on the take-out bridge gauge). Look for ~2-4 ft on American Whitewater's gauge.|
|Gradient:||125 fpm average (124, 95, 194, 157, 58)|
|Put-in:||At the end of Billingsley Creek Rd|
|Take-out:||At the Bridge over the West Fork of the Chattooga on Overflow Creek Rd|
|Shuttle:||7.1 miles. All on dirt road. 25 minutes one way|
|Season:||Winter and Spring, rain (and occasionally off of thunderstorms)|
|Featured in A Wet State #109 and in A Wet State's contribution to World Kayak's Video Guide|
When I first created A Wet State and began collecting videos to share on it... back in the day when YouTube was in its infancy... and videos couldn't be shared on facebook etc, I got an Overflow video from someone which stood out to me and looked like a great run. That impression grew over the years as I saw more video come out. So when I found out that I was going to be moving to the South East, Overflow Creek was high on my list of runs to get on.
A few things that surprised me about the run. First, did you know that the put-in is a mere 650 ft from North Carolina? No joke. Second, I wasn't aware prior that although the run is called Overflow Creek, the two biggest rapids actually occur downstream of a tri-confluence where the river takes on the name, West Fork of the Chattooga. Finally third, despite its very steep feel, the run is a mere 125 ft per mile of gradient. Certainly sections are steeper. From Blind Falls down and from the Tri-confluence down. But even those aren't as steep as you would think.
Ok, so some thoughts... the day started off waking up at 6 am in Knoxville, meeting up with Steve and Tom before trekking out to Georgia for a 10:30 am meet time with Zach and Katie Dean. Several groups had the same idea in their mind along with the same meet time so the river was not empty by any means as 12 or so people all made progress down the river at the same time. Surprisingly this actually worked out. Although at our healthy flow of 1.7 splashing to 1.8 eddies weren't overly plentiful, with several people who knew the run we were able to hop down what eddies there were and safely make progress.
My favorite section of the river was with Blind Falls, Gravity, and Singley's. This is just a top notch section of bedrock that put a smile on all our faces. Don't be surprised if your first time you get minimal (or no) beta for Singley's as that is a tradition for first timers. We at least got the "stay left and watch the cave on the right" info which I think is the right amount of info for the drop. The Tri-confluence is a cool feature which I have only seen a few times prior. Each creek impressively drops in before then raging downstream to the lip of Marginal Monster. Once through the next 3 rapids the river eases off and has one more significant drop before the paddle out. First time down you can easily spend 3 or 4 hours with scouts. Once you know the lines people bomb it in 45 minutes without effort.
At the 1.7 flow I thought this river was a fun class V day. Not terrifying, but not "easy" either. I am actually a bit shocked at how easy American Whitewater rates some of the rapids. Twilight class III+?!? Man, it was IV+ our day I would say! Any rapid with a thin line and a cave for consequences after a busy lead in that surfed and snapped one in our groups paddle is not class III+! I guess at low flows it is much mellower. I have heard that minimum is around 1 foot. Good first time flows is in the 1.3 to 1.4 flow. Over 2 is considered high and often results in some interesting stories.
- After the initial drop at put-in, which most people put-in below, the first mile or so is mellow so you get a chance to warm up.
- Hemlock Falls (IV to IV+). Drop tiered drop with each tier maybe 8-10 feet tall. Run both tiers right. There is a mean pocket on the left between the two. I think this rapid is easier when flows are lower.
- Seven Car Pile-up (III to IV-). An S-turning rapid run down the left. Below the river turns back to boogie for a bit.
- First Falls (AKA "Pee Week") (III+ to IV). Comparing ratings to sites like AW I am beginning to see a trend. I think this run must be much easier at lower flow. This drop is a broken ledge with several juts to knock to off angle. At the bottom is a sticky ledge that gave me a little ride. I really don't think it was III+ at our flow.
- Roundabout (IV). A really fun drop comes as the canyon tightens around you. At the apex of the constriction the river has a nice wave to boof off of left of center before the river makes a 90 degree turn left and drops through a few nice folding seems before the walls pull back away and deposit you in a nice pool below.
- Blind Falls (IV+). What a sweet drop. One of my favorites from the day. The river speeds down into an ever committing state. If you are following someone who knows it or if you know the wood situation is clear, I would suggest not catching the eddy on the right at the lip. Instead start left and drive across the lip to the right and boofing the caldron of a hole at the base of the falls. The drop is maybe 20 feet tall top to bottom.
Gravity (V-). Immediately downstream is this drop. From Blind Falls run the following hole and eddy out immediately right to scout (or portage). The normal line is to boof the center shelf moving left which then deposits you on a small slide that then goes over another shelf. Just be aware that immediately to the left at the base is a small undercut. Also, the danger on this rapid is the tempting right line, which has a pot hole in the middle.
Singley's (IV+). Man it isn't often I find myself rating things consistently harder than AW. Normally it is the contrary. How do they rate a 30 foot falls with an undercut and a deep seem a class IV? Two of us end up running it a fair bit sideways, one ended up plugging and back endering... not class IV stuff. Anyways, just below Gravity take the left channel around an island. As the slide starts stay left. At lower flows I think this is entirely possible as the left side dries out even with healthy flow. The right wall below is undercut.
Twilight (IV to IV+). Immediately below is a rapid that then leads into Twilight. On the lead in you can either boof far right or center, both have nice boofs. Exit through either slot. This then goes into Twilight which we boofed center before working left. The crux is the bottom drop. As the walls constrict there is a finger of rock in the middle, you have to be boofing the left side of it. The right side is 100% certain to send you into a walled out caldron which you will swim from. Ideally you boof the left side of the finger itself. I missed the finger and plugged very deal and went into a huge back ender and flushed clean. Also just a warning, the hole we boofed in the entrance surfed one in our group pretty solid and ended up resulting in a broken paddle. So concentrate on the entrance!
- Bump (IV-). "Similar to 7 Foot Falls on the Chattooga, except about 10 feet tall" was an accurate description that Zach passed along to me.
- The Tri-confluence with Big Creek and Holocomb Creek marks that you are coming to the two biggest drops of the run, so stay on your game!
Igor (IV to IV+). This drop is much easier than other drops like Twilight in my mind... however there are a few stout holes in it that could ruin your day as the rapid flows straight into Marginal downstream. We started by working down the right. Then avoid a hole by either boofing through it or ferrying directly above it. We then drove into the eddy on the left at the huge house sized rock to scout Marginal.
- Marginal (V). This a large drop, bigger than the pictures make it look. The normal line is to drive to the right at the top and eddy out on the wall just below the first tier. Then ferry back out to drive left off the middle of the second tier. This then slides down through a fluffy hole. You then have 100 feet to collect yourself before going left of center (with right angle) through the exit hole which is powerful. Avoid right of center on the bottom hole. At the higher flow people entered middle of the first tier boofing the ledge. One person had to paddle hard to not be pulled into the left pocket on that tier. The walk is pretty easy on the left if you are so inclined. I was!
Little 7 Foot (IV). A super fun boof was just downstream. A large boulder splits the river midstream. You want to boof just off the left side of the boulder.
Pinball (V). Immediately downstream is the last super stout rapid. The normal line is to head down the right the whole way. From the scout on the left the bottom is a bit out of site and looks like it might be a big hole, but in fact is just a wave. You can also sneak down the left which is a class IV- move if you are so inclined!
- Swiss Cheese (IV to IV+). Around the next corner you begin the lead in to Swiss Cheese. You can eddy out on the left at the lip. We then ferried out to the middle so we could then drive left across the drop. You want to move left as the water falls off a shelf to the right. You want to get as far left as you can and then straighten out for the hole. The rocks are not friendly so keep it hairy side up through the hole.
The river then mellows out to class II and III.
- Fat Lady (III). A fun drop to end it with. We drove right to get the meat of the hole. You then round the next corner and see the bridge marking take-out.
Take-out: From Clayton take Rickman Dr left out of town. Follow this briefly before turning right on Warwoman Rd at the T. Follow this for 13.2 miles before turning left onto Overflow Creek Rd. Follow this quickly up 1.3 miles to the bridge over the West Fork of the Chattooga.
Put-in: Continue up Overflow Creek Rd. After 2.6 miles you will stay right at a fork, though the obvious choice the road changes names to Hale Ridge Rd. Another 0.8 miles and you will make a sharp right turn onto Billingsley Cr Rd. This then drops down for 3.7 miles to the culvert over the creek and the end of the road.
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