Big Laurel Creek

A word or two – then directions follow:

Understand this is a creeky run with a tight gorge area and some significant rapids.  There is trail along the left bank.  Scout if at all in doubt, a couple of areas/rapids it can  be difficult to pull out once committed particularly at higher levels,  portage if you need to.

There are a number of rapids that demand attention and good skills, especially at high levels (but don’t under estimate at lower levels either).  One rapid in partiuclar has a feature in it called “Suddy Hole”  – Suddy Hole is a death trap, and in fact from above appears to be a large tongue of flow down a high ledge,  for those who do not know it or scout it appears to be the right place to be and it is absolutely not,  make sure you know where it is and stay away.  There is tricky drop above Suddy hole, so you must clear this drop and get away from the main flow toward Suddy hole imediately.  Do not take this warning about Suddy hole lightly – it is serious!!!!!!

If you run Big Laurel you must also be prepared to run the French Broad from just below Stackhouse at is confluence with Big Laurel to Hot Springs.  You must seriously not only consider the level of Big Laurel but also the French Broad when considering you capability to do this run.  The French Broad part will require paddling Windy Flats,  the Kayaker ledge section (which can be portaged or run the other side of the island to avoid the ledge), Frank Bell’s (or run the other side of the island at Frank Bell’s rapid which is not as technical),  plus the remaining rapids on the paddle out to Hot Springs.

Normally Big Laurel only runs when the French Broad is high,  so you must know when either is going to be just to high and you should not do the run. Also as noted if the French Broad is runable but kayaker ledge and Frank Bells are to big there are alternate runs on opposite sided of the islands at both,  plus you can portage at kayaker ledge on the right (watch out for the posion ivy).  

Put in:

From I-40 – To get to the put in you will go I40 to Asheville NC and then take I240 at Asheville to Hyw70/19/23/25 north which is also I-26 (they are all one road off of I240) toward Weaverville.  Take Weaverville exit #19A (2nd Weaverville exit – go under the underpass) and turn right onto hyw25 going north/west toward Marshall and Hot Springs

From I-26 Going north toward Asheville NC – continue on I-26 which combine with I-240 to Hyw70/19/23/25 north which is also I-26 (they are all one road off of I-240) toward Weaverville. Take Weaverville exit #19A (2nd Weaverville exit – go under the overpass) and turn right onto hyw25 going north/west toward Marshall and Hot Springs. (continue below “From Hyw 25 going toward Marshall and Hot Springs“)

From I-26 North of Mars Hill (which is just north of Weaverville) basically coming from the direction of Erwin Tn. – Go south on I-26 (also know as hyw’s 19/23) to the Mars Hill exit #11 turning left at the end of the ramp on hyw 213 going west toward Mar Hill.  Pass through Mar Hill town and College and keep going on hyw 213 until you come to hyw 25, take the 1st ramp to the right and turn right onto hyw 25 going north/west toward Marshall and Hot Springs. (continue below “From Hyw 25 going toward Marshall and Hot Springs“)

From Hyw 25 going toward Marshall and Hot Springs – go for quite a few miles eventually it become 2 lane – keep going its still quite a ways.   Along the way you will pass the NOC outpost on your left, USA raft on you right, keep going,  eventually you will go down a long steep hill to a bottom and as you near the bottom there will be a large creek following the road on your left.  At the bottom just before you come to an intersection you will see a large gravel area along the road by the creek to your left,  this is the parking area for the put in.  The intersection just past the parking area is where hyw 25 makes a left turn and imediately crosses Big Laurel Creek.  Just on the other side of the bridge over Big Laurel to the left is the “Steady Eddy Cafe/Coffee shop”.  If you stand in the parking lot of the Steady Eddy and look across the creek under the bridge you will see the river gauge. (FYI – this area is know as Hurricane NC)

You can enter the river going down the bank from the parking area but the easiest access is across the bridge on the side opposite (right) the Steady Eddy (be careful even though its not as steep as along the parking area it is still easy to slide, slip, and fall going down beside the bridge even here.

 Take-out:

Hot Springs on the French Broad  Paddling Big Laurel Creek pretty much dictates that you run the section of the French Broad from its confluence with Big Laurel below Stackhouse to Hot Springs take out.  As Big Laurel normally only runs when the French Broad is high, it is important you know not only what Big Laurel is running but also what the French Broad is running as part of your decision to do this run,  you must be prepared and capable of running both at their applicable levels.

To get to the take out at Hot Spring – get back to Hyw 25 from the put in parking area and make the turn left toward Hot Springs going over the bridge and past the Steady Eddy and continue on the hyw toward Hot Springs.  Just before you cross the bridge over the French Broad at Hot Springs take the road to the right and go just down to the next road and turn left and go under the bridge over the French Broad.  Park to the right in the dirt parking areas.

Note: the only alternative to paddling out and down the French Broad, is to get out at or just before the confluence and bush-whack up stream along the bank to Stackhouse take-out as noted in directions for the French Broad which I am told is 1/2-1 mile upstream – I am also told this is not a fun or easy manuver.  Some people have been know to walk the railroad bed up-stream to Stackhouse take-out however this is not recommended and can be hazardous,  as this is a heavy frieght line railbed with very frequent, long, and fast fright trains traveling it,  the railroad also frowns on people using the tracks to hike out.