||Big Laurel Creek, NC
US 25/70 Bridge to Hot Springs
||Painted on the river left wall underneath the US 25/70
bridge at the put-in. The old beta on levels was that -6"
was the minimum, 1'-3' ideal, and anything over 4' scary.
There have been reports that the two floods in August 2001 changed
the interpretations, however, and that the level cutoffs are all
about 6" less than they used to be.
The Big Laurel is generally runnable when Ivy
Creek is over 300 cfs. An alternate -- pre-world wide web
-- rule of thumb is that the Big Laurel is good to go when the
difference between the French Broad's flow at Newport, TN and
Asheville is over 2,000 cfs. To find out what the French Broad
at Asheville and at Newport is running, call the TVA at 800-238-2264
or click here: TVA
||Great introduction to creeking
||Beautiful, heavily forested gorge
|Distance from Downtown
Asheville (to take-out):
||3.7 miles on Big Laurel, 3.3 miles on French
Broad, Section 9 (III (IV-))
||Heidi Domeisen reports running several
sections of the Big Laurel upstream of the usual put-in; if
the Big Laurel is over 3', consider paddling Spring Creek instead
||US 25/70 Bridge at Hurricane, NC
||Hot Springs, NC (alternate: walk .82
miles upstream on the railroad tracks to Stackhouse)
|Directions from Asheville
||35 minutes. Head north out of
Asheville on US 19/23. Take the US 25/70 (Marshall) exit.
Follow US25/70 21 miles to the sharp left-hand turn to cross the
bridge over the Big Laurel. The road continues to Hot Springs,
the usual take-out.
Directions to the alternate take-out at Stackhouse: Head
north out of Asheville on US 19/23. Take the US 25/70
(Marshall) exit. Follow US 25/70 19 miles to State Road
1139/1319 (Stackhouse Road; note that this turn precedes the
turn to cross the bridge at the put-in by about 2 miles). Look
for it on your left shortly after you pass USA Raft. Turn left
and follow Stackhouse Road downhill all the way to the river.
||8 minutes each way. Follow US 25/70
all the way to the outskirts of Hot Springs. Just before crossing
the bridge into town, turn right, then left to go under the bridge
and upstream to the rafting outpost parking area. Park, then
retrace your steps back to the US 25/70 bridge.
|Other access points:
||A trail follows the run on river left all
the way to the French Broad.
||There are camping and lodging
opportunities aplenty in Hot Springs. My family and I like the
Bluff USFS Campground (828-622-3202; open the Rocky
Bluff file with the free adobe
acrobat reader). Open May 1 to October 31, this campground
has a short nature trail running alongside Spring Creek. To
get there, take NC 209 South three miles out of town, heading toward
the put-in for Spring Creek. Campsites cost $8 a night.
To learn more, check out Gorp's
Rocky Bluff page. Other campgrounds include the Hot
Springs Campground, conveniently located on the river and the
USFS's Silvermine Group Campground (828-622-3202).
There are many, many rustic bed and breakfasts in Hot Springs.
I know several paddlers who have been married at The
Duckett House, for example, and another couple who were married
Patch but had their reception at the Rock House. The most
unique bed and breakfast, however, has to be Elmer Hall's Sunnybank
Inn (828-622-7206). Extremely popular with AT through
hikers, a stay at Elmer's includes a family-style vegetarian dinner
and breakfast and a chance to converse with an extremely eclectic
assortment of guests. In a former life Elmer was a Methodist
minister at Duke University; his library is extensive.
Most find the Sunnybank Inn through word of mouth. Here are
some of those words: Google
Search on Elmer and the Sunnybank Inn. And for the two of
you who are chomping at the bit for pricier accommodations, here are
a couple additional
Hot Springs lodging options.
||52 fpm on the Big Laurel; 21 on the French Broad
34, 65, 70, 24 fpm over last 0.67 miles
||83 fpm (over 0.48 miles)
||Maximum half Mile:
Whitewater's Big Laurel Creek Page
||Bob and David Benner's Carolina
Whitewater: A Canoeist's Guide to the Western Carolinas
Springs Spa's Map to Hot Springs
Laurel Photo Archive
Guess how Hot Springs got its name! Consider reserving
yourself a tub at the Hot
Springs Spa (828-622-7676 or 800-462-0933; see the price
list in the preceding link). The most private tubs are numbers 5
& 6. Most paddlers take out at the rafting outpost on
river right 1/3 mile upstream, but if you timed it right you could
paddle directly to the tubs on river left. Retrieve the bottle
of wine from the truck, change out of your river clothes in a
changing room, shower, and relax in a hot tub. What could be
finer? You can even reserve a massage!
Do a Google
Search on Hot Springs and you'll get a lot of interesting hits.
I've found the Sherpa
Guide to Hot Springs useful, and Hot
Spring's history interesting reading. Consider timing a
trip to the French Broad to coincide with the annual French
Broad River Festival.
This is a great run for intermediate paddlers seeking to run
their first creek. The most dangerous spot is Suddy Hole, a
nasty hole on the river-right side of fan-shaped river wide ledge.
Run this ledge a little right of center, but far away from the hole
on the right side of the fan.
Some paddlers elect to walk up their boats upstream to Stackhouse
after the Big Laurel's confluence with Section 9 of the French
Broad. Those electing to paddle the French Broad to Hot
Springs will find themselves entering the larger river at the head
of the long, flat, relatively shallow section known as Windy Flats.
After Windy Flats the excitement factor picks up in the form of
Section 9's two most interesting drops, Kayaker's Ledge (III at all
but high levels) and Frank Bell's (IV- at all but high levels).
Both rapids are easily snuck: they occur in the channels on
the river right sides of large islands. Run the left sides of
the islands and you'll miss them entirely. This won't be
necessary, however, for paddlers who have successfully navigated the
The island on whose right side Kayaker's Ledge forms is about 130
steep feet high and occurs at a sharp right hand bend in the river.
Scout Kayaker's Ledge before running it -- it creates an obvious
horizon line. The pair of small islands on whose right sides
Frank Bell's Rapid forms are located about a half mile below
Kayaker's Ledge and about a quarter mile below the last of the
series of small islands below the main island at Kayaker's Ledge.
There is a great ender spot at the bottom of Frank Bell's, a good
enough spot that in the days when enders were king we'd sometimes
walk our boats the 2/3rds of a mile up the railroad tracks from the
end of the road on the river left side of the river just to do them.
If memory serves, 1,000 cfs was the optimum ender level.