Newton Tilson and Doug Benton first spilled the beans to me on this one. Their word was of a super tight creek that poured into the soon-to-be-watered West Fork. One day we headed over to have a look. The lower section looked pretty wild, a hyper-technical, boulder-clogged slalom course with the occasional slide thrown in. Further up we found that the gradient was lost in chunks on large slides. Then we saw the drop, a huge multi-tiered falls that looked doable. But there was not enough water that day so we waited. Finally a storm soaked the AWFS guages with 2 to 3 inches of rain overnight. Dough Benton, Noah Fraser and I got to the creek to find it low, but figured it was worth a go. We drove up about 2 miles from the confluence to a gate at the monster falls, then walked another half mile or so, at a point where the creek flattened out before plunging into the first steep gorge. Boulder clogs and tight slides populated this mostly runnable section. Estimated gradient is 660 ft/mile for the first 0.66 mile. Here are the photos of the first section:
The gorge ended with the monster drop. Hard to tell how big but a guess is 80 to 90 feet. Probably an over-estimate but what the heck. We walked around the first tier, of about 20 feet, as it seemed there was not enough water to get left and clear the rock shelf at the bottom. Noah and I decided to give it a go on the remaining 60 feet. The two cruxes were to deal with the poorly placed rock at the bottom of the third tier and then get center or left on the last vertical to avoid the boulder pile on bottom right. Well I pitoned the third tier rock dead on. I was pinned for a few seconds before wiggling free. I started drifting right but managed to whip the boat around, surf the hydraulic to the left of the rock and scoot down the slide. The air off of the last drop was massive. Noah had a relatively "uneventful" run. His line on the third tier was perfect, landing just to the left of the piton rock and scooting down the 15 foot slide and then off of the 20 foot vertical. Next time, with more water, we would want to give the top drop a go, and run the bottom drop down the center or left. Here are the photos of the falls. Video is linked down below.
The river flattens out a bit before portaging Onion Cliff Falls. Had a look but the margin of error was not good. Further down was the 2nd biggest drop we ran, a long 30 degree slide that dropped about 40 feet. Noah ran first, taking a center line. He deflected gracefully off the middle boulder. Doug and I took a left line, with mixed results. See the video. More slides followed followed by another lull in the action. Further down the gradient picked up and the creek became an intense technical run. There were manky drops mixed in with easy fun slides and everything in between. We finally got to the confluence at dark, exhausted, elated, and in disbelief of this incredible creek. Here are pics of the slides and lower gorge.
Upper Tuckasegee, 1979 (Above Tanasee reservoir). In my early paddling days, I heard a tale from Bob Miller of a film of an epic day on a creek somewhere in the mountains. The participants were Danny Pyatt and Kim Hunter of the Carolina Canoe Club. Bob told of a giant sliding falls that curved to the right and of Danny and Kim attempting some of the drops. Turns out the tale was true. In 2001 Risa and Kevin Colburn got me involved in researching the headwaters of the Tuckasegee for the relicensing proceedings. On a hunch I found and contacted Danny to learn more about this film. Danny informed me that it was an upper section of the Tuckasegee and he graciously sent me the film. Here is the video (Window Media Player, 6.3 Mb). Turns out the run is in the beautiful Panthertown Valley, above any of the dams on the Tuck . See the American Whitewater page for section 0 for more information.
See below for photos and video of a run we made in 2002.
Upper Tuckasegee, January, 2002 (Above Tanasee reservoir, very low water day).
More videos of the Upper Tuck.
Cascades of the Nantahala, August, 2000. (Thanks to Sarah and Christy for taking the pics.)
Linville Gorge (Thanks to Dennis Huntley for his Linville photos.)
In 1989 David Benner, RB Binegar and I did a one day descent of Linville Gorge. David wrote an excellent article for River Runner magazine, a link to the PDF file is here. The run took us almost 13 hours. Today it is done in 4 to 6 hours. And it still has not been run in a squirt boat. Other than that Dave gives a great account of the river. A couple of friends of David and RB whose names escape me (Jerry and ?) managed to video some of our run above and below Sandy Flats.
I will have more footage from Dennis Huntley of more recent runs on the lower section up sooner or later.
In the summer of 1991 the generation statin would not go so we had releases on the Upper Green. Dennis Huntley shot the video below, some from his helmet cam.
In the summer of 1999, we headed down the Narrows with two first-timers, Chris Mann and Derek Watson. Things were going slow and around Chief we started losing water as the tail end of the release had caught up with us. Below are three videos chronicling the carnage that ensued. The first highlights Zwicks and Chief, at the latter of which we had some scary lines due to the low water. If you are wondering why we did not abort the runs of Chief, this was before the fatality had occurred (in 2000) and we just did not know better. The second video highlights a substantially sub-100% level at Gorilla of which Glenn Tatum styles the drop. I followed and after getting squirreled in the outflow of the notch and failing to punch the hydraulic I executed the "megaton", aka a big piton (that's right, no launch pad that day, just a pesky hydraulic at the lip of the main drop). I should have walked that day, usually I do walk Gorilla, what was I thinking! So surviving that the third video highlights are Rapid Transit, Groove Tube and the hike out for the valiant videographers. Enjoy.
Cheoah Test Releases July, 2000.
I've received a pile of documents on the Cheoah relicensing project, however the one received today (5/19/04) looks fairly promising, particularly starting on pages 81 and 112. See the following PDF file (13.4 Mb): Tapoco Hydroelectric Project Relicensing Settlement Agreement. Looks good, way to go American Whitewater and all of the other parties involved!
Below are some great video sent to me by Dennis Huntley which I formatted for the web and added music for your viewing pleasure. There are two parts, each has low and higher bandwidth version.
Ó 2001 Alex Harvey