Noli Gorge paddlers ready for shuttle.  Photo by Dawn Berglund

Saturday, August 30, 2014, was the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts annual first timer’s trip on the Nolichucky River.  We had a hot and humid day with partly cloudy skies and temps in the high 80′s/ low 90′s for our river trips.  The river flow was a low 400 CFS on the Embreeville Gauge which made for a technical & tricky level for some of our Gorge first timers and returning paddlers.  We organized both a Nolichucky Gorge trip (Class III at this level) lead by several of our top gun APE’s and a Lower Nolichucky River trip (Class II) lead by Debbie Briscoe.

The Noli Gorge trip participates met up at USA Raft at the take-out to load up all of our boats on one of USA’s buses for a shuttle up to the put-in in Poplar, NC.  The group managed to load up all 29 boats on top of the bus and get rolling toward the put-in in less than an hour with all our gear!  An impressive feat by itself!  We had 29 total participates on the Gorge trip with 12 first timers (28 completed the run).  The gorge boaters split into 3 smaller groups at the put-in and paired up experience gorge boaters (Big Thanks to: Jeremy Gass, Ryan Shealy, Jennifer Bradley, Andrea Ramsey, Jamison Evans & Justin Tipton) to show lines and set safety for our first timers.  There were several swims, broaches, boat pins, a hike out from “On the Rocks” back to the put-in, a couple of scary moments and even a kayak wrapped around a rock from a pin at “Rooster Tail” during the trip, but thanks to good preparedness and safety from our leaders 97% of the paddlers in our group made it to the take-out after a rather slow and challenging day.  So the trip was not our best on the river, but it was somewhat expected with the low level.  We think the biggest take-away tip from all the incidents that went down during this trip is paddlers who want to take on the mighty Noli Gorge (despite the level) need to have good sense of how to complete a combat roll and have class III boat control skills to finish this run with style.  Overall many paddlers on the trip still said they had a good time, so it was good to know we had met our objective for many!

Noli Gorge paddlers at the put-in.  Photo by Wesley R. Bradley

The Lower Noli trip had a great turn out too despite the low level and holiday weekend!  Debbie led a group of 14 paddlers with 7 first timers on a run from the USA Raft Outpost to the parking area take-out near the Sawmill below Devil’s Looking Glass Rapid.  Good times were had by all on the Lower trip!  However we did have two paddlers, who were not part of the group, get in trouble by wrapping their recreational open kayak around a rock in the rapid above Chestoa.  A few of our APE’s aided them in rescue recovery of their craft and thankfully no one sustained harm from the incident.

Lower Noli paddlers at the put-in.  Photo by Dawn Berglund

After we got off the river and many lessons were learned the hard way, we met back up at the USA Raft Outpost to have a picnic dinner catered by Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.  We all enjoyed some tasty fried chicken and fixings for the main course!  Some APE’s members brought some really good snacks and desserts to share with the rest of the group too!  After the meal many stayed around for fellowship and river tales to top off the day!

Jack D Nelson’s SUP view of  the APE’s Noli Gorge 1st Timers Trip in this video:

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