First Boaters on Georgia’s Overflow Creek Recall the Extreme White Water Experience

overflow creek
Overflow Creek rapids. Photo by American Whitewater

Overflow Creek holds a special place in creek-boating lore. The following post about the first runs on Overflow was made by Robin Sayler to Ken Strickland on an American Whitewater discussion  forum.

Overflow Creek Remembered by Robin Sayler

Not long after you ran Big Creek, Ken, Alan Singley entered West Fork history. He had hiked Overflow, Holcomb, and Big Creeks a good deal by then as well as the North Fork Chattooga Sections I, Zero, Double Zero, and Minus 1, and even Scotsman’s Branch. One fine day, I believe in 1975, or maybe 1976, he dropped his boating and camping gear off at the culvert bridge, now famous as the Overflow put-in, drove his truck to the West Fork bridge, and hiked back up to spend the night. The next afternoon, about 5 miles and eight or nine portages later,

Alan emerged with wondrous tales of a fantastic whitewater run, with the improbable name of Overflow Creek. The fact that he soloed the exploratory doesn’t surprise anyone who knows Alan.

Alan’s spectacular, if somewhat unbelievable, tales fascinated everyone, but failed to gain him a partner for another descent. Undaunted, Alan proceeded on another solo run, this time with five or six portages. Finally he convinced another boater to accompany him, none other than Robert Harrison, an open boater of some renown. Alan and Robert survived, but, alas, Robert’s Old Town Tripper was finished, thanks to Pinball. If I recall, Robert made about seven portages on that trip. Should have been eight. Robert’s account of that descent convinced everyone that Alan Singley was not only crazy, but a menace to society in general, and to paddlers in particular. It was truly amazing to watch Robert’s face as he told us of the Terror That Was Overflow. This sufficiently warned everyone, so again Alan couldn’t find anybody to paddle Overflow Creek with him. So, typically, he made the fourth descent solo, this time with four portages. This was sometime in 1977.

Alan Singley Finds an Overflow Creek Partner

That year Diane and I moved to Highlands, North Carolina, situated on top of the ridge that separates Overflow Creek from the Cullasaja River. I was glad to get reacquainted with Alan, who previously had introduced me to the Watauga. One fall afternoon, Alan and I were settin’ around jus’ doin’ nuthin’ (that’s how it’s said up there), and he casually mentioned that I ought to “take a look at” Overflow. Before I knew it, we were crashing through the rhododendrons with our boats, just downstream of the culvert. We put in on this beautiful little gurgling creek, in incredibly beautiful surroundings, and then Alan took off, with me in tow. I can’t tell

you how many times I followed this young giant, sitting up high in his C-l, down some unforgettable adventure into the unknown, but this was to be the most memorable of them all!

About a mile later, my head was spinning after running some of the most incredible rapids I had ever done. We pulled into an eddy, for the first time since the put-in, and Alan said “what do you think?” I was nearly speechless, but his next sentence struck me dumb!

“We’re starting to get close to the big drops, so stay close.” “Big drops?” I stammered, “What have we been running for the last mile?” He said nothing, but smiled and peeled our. I got really nervous when he eddied out in a few yards, and said “this is a pretty good one-just stay right and you’ll be fine.” Then he took off, and disappeared over the edge. I thought I’d seen him for the last time. I scrambled out onto a rock and looked at the horizon line, expecting traces of wreckage, and finally saw the tip of his paddle waving. Not wanting to be left, I swallowed hard and …

It was unreal! I asked Alan how many times he had run that 15-foot falls, and when he said “Once-today,” I knew the name of that drop immediately – Blind Falls. The rest of the run was like a dream-a whitewater dream. Singley’s Falls waited for another day, and we stayed permanently away from Gravity and the Great Marginal Monster.

Then you entered the picture, Ken, and now the whole world knows! Well, maybe it’s not just your fault.Anyway, Overflow is too special not to share.”

Boater Bo Eakens Adds a Postscript Based on His Own Trip

“It was the summer of 1978 and the Chattooga had just gotten the big rain. Several of us

working for NOC and Southeastern had all our trips canceled – even Section III was too high for a trip that day. We had all heard about Overflow from the locals, knew there were a few drops still unrun, and decided we’d give it a shot … By the time we got to the take-out all the Hollowforms had about 6 inches to 1 foot of the nose pointed towards Heaven. John Kennedy went through the hole at the bottom of Marginal and we watched as his stern seams blew out on both sides. The nose of my Slipper and John Regan’s Sauna would require some minimal repairs also …

This Overflow Creek experience is adapted from Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia by Suzanne Welander and Bob Sehlinger and published here in cooperation with Menasha Ridge Press. Canoeing and Kayaking Georgia covers thousands of miles of Georgia waterways from whitewater to wilderness swamps and everything in between. It’s an indispensable guide to anyone interested in paddling Georgia’s rivers and streams. Order directly from Menasha Ridge Press. See a comprehensive list of other Menasha outdoor publications indexed by title, author, category, and region.

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