Power Plant to Wesser (Lower Nantahala)
Difficulty: Class II+ (III) for normal flows
Length: 8 Miles
The Nantahala, or "Nanty", is a classic whitewater river. Many paddlers in the southeast start paddling here. The Nanty is fun, splashy river, with wave trains and fun play spots. It is great river to develop your comfort and boat control skills. Most of the rapids are class II+, with the exception of the Nantahala Falls, which is a benchmark Class III.
Before you paddle the Nanty you will need to get a Forest Service permit. Just swing by the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and you can purchase a day pass ($1) or a season permit ($5). There are two primary put-ins for the Nanty. To do the full 8 mile run you will put in by the Power Plant. There is a nice parking area and put-in. If you want a shorter run (5 miles) you can put in at Ferebee Park. You will still hit all of the named rapids except Patton's run. The standard take out is at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. They have parking, showers, gear, food, and beer. The water in the Nantahala is cold year-round, because it is drawn from the bottom of a lake.
American Whitewater is one of the best sources for finding information about a new river and current river conditions. Here is the AW page for the Nantahala.
Gauge Name : Nantahala River Near Hewitt, NC Gauge ID: usgs-03505550
Flow on the Nantahala is controlled by Duke Power. They release water each day for power generation. The normal release is around 700cfs. There are also planned releases on the Cascades and the Upper Nantahala which will increase the flow on the Lower Nantahala. Though the season, Duke releases water each morning, it usually reaches the NOC by noon. You can check the level using the Gauge: Nantahala River Near Hewitt, NC
There are over 20 named rapids along the Nantahala. We are only going to talk about a few of them here. American Whitewater has a more complete rundown of Nantahala
Patton's Run (Class II+): This is the first significant rapid after the put-in. This a long rapid that should be run down the right side. The river will try to push you into the rocky section on the left. There is a nice wave train at the bottom.
Delabar's Rock (Class II+): This is just around the bend from Ferebee Landing Park (the shorter put-in). The easiest line through this section is to stay on the right side of the river. This takes Delabar's Rock completely out of play. The classic line is to go down the left side of the river. The wave train on the approach is a larger than river right. Delabar's Rock comes into play at the bottom of the run. You will see two rocks, one along the shore and one slightly upstream and 10'-15' from shore. You can run either side of the rock, but the traditional line goes to the right of the rock. The challenge of this rapid for new boaters is to maintain boat control and position thorough the wave train as you approach the rock. The current will be pushing toward the rock. If you don't maintain positive boat control, there is good chance you will hit Delabar's Rock. You can eddy out to the left below the second rock.
Quarry Rapid (Class II+): At Quarry the river takes a sharp right turn and narrows down. The gradient through this section also increases as the river turns back to the left. The result is on of the biggest wave trains on the river. There are plenty of spots along both banks to eddy out. This is a fun section of the river and a great place to practice catching eddies and peeling out.
Surf Rapid (Class II): As you might have guessed Surf Rapid is a nice standing wave and a great place to practice your surfing skills. There is also a great little beach on river right. It's a great place to stop have snack and watch some surfing.
The Bump (Class II+): Similar to Delabar's, this is another wave train leading to mid-river hole. The Bump is located center left on the river. There is large yellow road sign proclaiming "Bump" hanging directly over it. If you stay to river right you can avoid the bump completely. If you want to run The Bump you skirt it on the left or the right. It is possible to punch as well. If you decide to push it remember hit it straight with momentum, lean forward and paddle! Like Delabar's, this rapid is all about the control on your approach. The take out to scout the Nantahala Falls is just around the bend after The Bump.
The Nantahala Falls (Lesser Wesser) (Class III): This is a benchmark Class III rapid, and is many boater's first class III. The rapid has a long approach with several wave trains and easy to avoid holes. The classic line for the approach is to run down the left bank. Just above the Falls on river left is a long eddy called "Truckstop". Most kayakers catch Truckstop to set up for the Falls. There are several lines though the Falls. We are only going to focus on the classic line, which is a left to right move across the Falls. Sounds easy right? Let's take a closer look. At the top of the Falls there is a large hole. You will want to approach and enter the rapid just to left of the hole. You should just skirt the hole, your right arm should be over the edge of the hole. As you approach the entrance your boat should be aimed to the right. As you pass the hole your boat will have turned to the right. You now need to straighten your boat out and exit on the bottom right side of the Falls. If you miss the turn, the key to succesfully running the falls is to get your boat straight and punch through the bottom hole with a slight left boat angle.