A Collection of Raven Fork Photos

Over the past few years, the popularity of and the regularity of runs on the Raven Fork has exploded. With its steep gradient, huge clean drops, relatively easy (but extremely tenuous) access, dialed gauges, and spectacular pristine surroundings, it is no wonder why the Raven Fork has become a favorite Class V fix for so many kayakers in the Southeast. We continue to have access despite more than a few inconsiderate knuckleheads' blunders that keep us walking a fine line regarding the access situation. Let us hope we can still get these goods in the future.

Over the years I've collected a bunch of pictures from the Raven Fork, so here are some of my favorites:
The short, but rutted shuttle has been known to hand out beatings. 4x4 and high clearance is highly recommended.

Joe Barkley dropping into the top drop of the first big rapid, Anaconda.

Mac McGee dropping into the same drop on Anaconda, but viewed from the bottom of the rapid.

Mac finishing out Anaconda.

Daniel on the final slide of Mortal Combat.

Wet Willy.

Nathan Silsbee getting a Wet Willy.

Some stand on that rock to scout Big Boy. However, most just stand in awe of the beauty and power of the drop and the amazing view of the insane gradient below.

Looking at the infamous Big Boy lip.

One of my favorite photos, Chris Gragglemans showing me how to style it on my first trip down the RF. He's so good that the gods highlight his runs with rainbows.

Feeling small at the bottom of Mike Tysons Punchout.

Eric Chance and Stephen McGrady blue angeling Mike Tyson's, with Chance sticking the final 20 footer backwards in true style.

Adam Secrest doing the same with handpaddles. What a beast!

Silsbee posing to show us how to make Mike Tysons look easy.

Mac amidst Mike Tysons. This rapid is a great photo opportunity.

Somebody looking very small in Mike Tysons, so small that I can't tell who it is.

Chris Gragmans about to accelerate at light speed, dropping into Mike Tysons at high water...

And about to fly off the final 20 footer.

Eli Smith dropping in to Harjes' Rapid with truly mystical surroundings.

Saunders in Caveman, experiencing the "best boof in the southeast" for the first time.


Silver Run Falls, Tox Put-in Slide, & more...

With all the Richter-high levels last week, I was lucky enough to get on two and a half new runs.
The first was the Upper West Fork of the Pigeon, which we got on at a good low flow. This run is a good candidate when you are driving around and getting skunked by blown out levels on stuff like the West Fork of the Pigeon and the Big East Fork. I enjoyed this run, although I would have enjoyed it a lot more we didn't have to portage the biggest rapid on the run due to a piece of wood in the bottom drop.

The one I'll call "half" a run was the sweet park and huck Silver Run Falls just upstream of the Whitewater River. The 30' drop is far from straightforward. The entrance is a shallow, bumpy slide that twists through rhododendron and falls off the lip of the drop. Making it even more interesting is the fact that the right side of the falls lands on rocks and the rest of it lands in green water.

We arrived there a little after 9am to find low water, but it definitely looked worth running so Chan Jones and I decided to give 'er. I watched from the top as Chan seal launched on to the shallow slide and stick his line off the lip. Ten minutes later I followed suit, went a little further left than I had wanted, and landed a little over vertical.

Thanks to Jonathon Absher for snapping this sweet pic. By 10:30 I had already run a sweet 30 footer. But I would say that if I were to run it again, I'd want a little more water to make the entrance slide less scrapey.

Well, what's next we asked? We decided to head 15 minutes away to the Toxaway to run the put-in slide at Richter high water.

This is what the Toxaway looks like when the gauge reads +9 inches (normal runnable levels range from -4 inches to 2 inches). The amount of water in the put-in slide transformed it into a full-on hold onto your pants ride. The current was so strong at the normal seal launch spot at the top of the slide that there was no way to get far enough left to avoid the shelf and the hole on river right that you normally go around, so we put in just below the shelf.

At this point in the slide I was probably going the fastest I've ever gone in kayak. It was a wild ride, a lot like energizer but wider and without the concern of crushing an elbow on a wall. Just don't flip over here.

Photo: Chan Jones
At this level, a formidable hydraulic forms at the bottom of the slide so you definitely want to make sure you keep 'er straight and skip well past the recirculation, which is a good 15' in some spots.

The day before the above park and huck missions I was able to squeeze in an Upper and Lower Rocky Broad run in between classes (perfect example of why I love going to school here so much!). It was my first time running the Upper, although I have gone at low water several times to swim around and sunbath with friends. It seemed to be a great level for the Upper section, although it could have used a little more water. The Upper was a nice warm-up stretch for the Lower, even though the two sections are completely different character.

When we paddled past the gauge at the put-in of the Lower, it read 4.6, so I would guess it was a little higher than that while we were on the Upper. This seemed to be a sweet level for the Lower as everything gets more padded out.

Here's Bixby boofing A-frame.

Bixby buttering it up through "The Nipple."

I think this was the point when I realized I needed new paddling shoes. But damn these Keens lasted almost three years of heavy use, including two long trips out west with long hikes into California overnighters! I heard the 5.10 savants are pretty sweet so we'll see how they compare...

Here we have Bixby doing a little submarine resurfacing trick in a nasty hole on the Lower.

And working it out just fine.

Wilensky and I take a drier line.

And here's a photo of Drew Duval boofing Walker Falls from the last time I was on it at lower water a few months back.

And a little high water Green action is always some quality fun when your schedule and water levels don't permit a longer trip on natural flow.

Here's Crankee spankin' the monkey at a healthy 12".

Adriene is barely visible here in the trough, getting ready to go through "speed wave" rather than "speed trap."

Overall it was a quality four days of whitewater and I feel fortunate that I was able to paddle so much good whitewater. The southeast is a fun place to live when it rains. Last week was definitely a reminder of that fact!


Ahhh, My First Toxaway...

I've been waiting for years to get on this South East classic and it finally happened this spring. I've heard dozens of stories from friends and watched so much footage of this epic run, not to mention all the times I've run these rapids in my head (especially thanks to Gragtmans' Toxaway headcam tour on LVM 19, which is still one of my personal favorite LVM segments).

The level was low but still great, something like -3 to -4 inches and everything went super smooth for a Toxaway day. Thanks Adam Bixby, Adam Secrest, and Chan Jones for showing me down!

Chan at the end of the put-in slide.

Adam Secrest about halfway through minigizer (which as of September 25, 2009 cannot be run from the top due to a huge landslide deposited boulder).

Chan about to seal launch into Energizer. This is usually the point in a day of kayaking when I am giving thanks for being alive and crapping my boat at the same time.

Chan amidst the adrenaline-filled high-speed trough ride that is Energizer.

Adam Bixby getting close to the bottom of Energizer...one of the longest, biggest rapids I will ever run.

Wish I had some photos of Wintergreen and Landbridge but we routed them too fast and I was too gripped to think about photos. I had seen enough photos of Wintergreen that I felt comfortable just dropping in blind behind someone else, so 60 seconds after I had run Landbridge I was at the bottom of Wintergreen wondering how it is possible to drop all that gradient that quickly!

Man is blessed to be able to experience this place!