Another year, another great Week of Rivers with the Carolina Canoe Club. Got in a few new runs, not as many as I had hoped but really happy to have gotten on the Little in the Smokies. Always is good to get to see old friends and make new ones. I was happy the initial big rain that flooded out Smokey Mountain Meadows didn’t prevent WOR from happening, though am disappointed it wasn’t a bit wetter.
|7.1.18||Little, Sinks to Elbow||458cfs||6mi|
|7.2.18||Big Laurel Creek||3in||8.3mi|
|7.3.18||Chattooga, Section 4||2.15ft/964cfs||6mi|
|7.6.18||Tellico Ledges / Middle||215cfs||4.25mi|
|Upper / Middle Ocoee||1600cfs release, stick gauge at beginning of middle said 3ft, a guide estimated 3000cfs||5.6mi|
Most of the highlights of my week were the new runs. In addition to those, I did manage a couple really nice runs on rivers I had already seen. Managed to get both the Tellico and Ocoee in the same day. Just barely made it to the Ocoee with enough time, but the late start worked out good. Got to see it above normal release levels and it felt to have a bit more of a Gauley feel to it.
Little: Sinks to Elbow
It was truly a treat to get on this run, which was one that has been on my list for a few years. On a previous Week of Rivers I attempted to organize a trip out to it, but ended up spending an hour in the morning trying to contact the Park Service only to determine the road was closed. This year everything lined up and a trip was launched and it was well worth it. The area is very scenic and worth the trip just to check it out. The rapids are arranged such that the difficult ones are at the beginning and end, and it calms down in the middle.
You start off at Sinks, which ends up being one of the most difficult rapids on the run. When we got there I had decided to walk up to run the lead in rapids, which are decently stout on their own. They add some good obstacles to mess you up before you even get to the main event. We wandered around scouting out everything. The whole time I was on the fence as to if I’d run it. While preparing, another boater from our area, Tim, showed up and he had just finished up his run. He told us that the move here was to throw a delayed boof and not to pencil in. To which my thought was, “my boat has one move, and this is pencil in.”
After some deliberation I decided I’d run it and a couple others were going to join me. As the instigator, I had the honor of running it first. Lined everything up, went down the chute, waited for my time, and pulled. Ended up getting down without any problems, and somehow managed to have the best line of our crew.
The pace keeps up for a little bit after sinks and the overall feel of the river is decently tight class IV creek for a little. There’s some nice gradient and some good boogie. Eventually you get to a spot where you come close to the road and then as the river veers away the intensity increases again. You work your way through a boulder garden of nice difficulty that will keep you on your toes. After this things calm down for a little, moving more towards the class 3ish realm. They start to pick up again, with a really nice smear boof. Then when you get to the end you come to the Elbow
When you get to the Elbow, you cannot quite see into the crux of the rapid from the water. We had met a local at the put in and he had lead us down. Our group was a little large and had split in two. We caught up to everyone at the Elbow. He told us a line and David and I decided to run with only that info and what we could see. While we ran it successfully, neither of us had a clean line as we did not get far enough to the left. I was flipped by the reactionary coming off the wall and washed past the undercut.
Big Laurel Creek
The rain that almost flooded out Smokey Mountain Meadows provided a little bit of a treat in the remaining flows that we found. I had the chance to get on Big Laurel, a nice class 3 intro to creeking kind of run that dumps you into the French Broad a little above the two good rapids. Other’s had run this on Saturday when I was driving down and I had heard good things from them. During the morning meeting I stepped up and announced a trip. There was overwhelming response and our group had to split up. Big Laurel has a number of good fun drops that can provide challenge to those stepping it up or new and fun for everyone else. Until you get to the French Broad it’s in a nice little canyon through the woods. We had an excellent crew, all of which had no issues with the run, though there was one gear malfunction. We even managed to pick up a swimmer from another group and get them down the rest of the run without any swims.
Chattooga, Section 4
While Section 4 is one I’ve run many times before, the quality of the run and scenery is so high, I cannot resist. Though the lake paddle out always makes me have second thoughts. Most times I have paddled it, the level has been around 1.6ft. Last year I had the opportunity to run it around 2ft and the level was great. This year the Chattooga watershed got a bunch of rain while we were there and I was able to run it at 2.15ft, the highest I’ve seen it at.
I have to say that somewhere in the 2ish range is the sweet spot. Both that time and this were great. Everything was padded nicely, especially Corkscrew. At this level the line is very nice and you just float over everything. A nice sneak opens up far right at Crack in the Rock. I have much thanks to the photographer I was talking to at Corkscrew for telling me about it. I decided to run Sock em Dog, and unfortunately didn’t have a great line. At this level the boof starts disappearing, and places you in a big hole. I botched things a little and went down a little notch, landing right in the hole. Got a good working and swam out of it.
In an earlier Week of Rivers, some had gone to the Noli at lower water and reported it to be lame. Due to this and it’s distance, I had not prioritized going to it. A few years passed and they went back at better levels and discovered it to be good. This year it presented me with the chance to see it for myself. I found it to be a wonderful run and definitely worth the current campaign to get it designated Wild and Scenic. It’s a spectacular part of the country.