Information on Stepp Cr.

Stepp Cr.

	Rating: III-IV+
	TDCR: 8983
	Location: Take-out is reached by turning north onto County Rd. 8, 
		a gravel road leading from Swain at Hwy. 16 to the low water 
		slab over the EFLB near the Murray Community Center. The turn at
		Swain is about one mile east of the intersection where Hwy.
		21 turns north off of Hwy. 16 to go to Boxley - look for a sign
		that advertizes for "Pottery and Gifts". Follow this
		gravel road for a while until it it forks. Take the rougher
		looking, steep dirt road downhill to the right. Continue
		driving through the beautiful country until the road turns
		left alongside the East Fork of the Little Buffalo R. (a
		possible takeout point for that run). If the water is high,
		the East Fork may be up over the road - please don't block
		the road parking as several folks live down in this valley.
		If the EFLB is not covering the road, there is room for
		parking on the opposite side of the road from the creek
		just before you reach the creek crossing. The best put-in
		for the lower gorge is to drive a bit more than 1.5 miles
		back up the hill and look for the turnout to park in on the
		right (again, don't block the road and irritate the
		landowners!). Carry your boat downhill on the road about a
		third of a mile to the second culvert funneling water
		under the road and then start angling downhill away from
		the road.  It's a steep, tough brushwhack, but it's only
		about a quarter mile long.  With some luck you should reach
		the confluence of Gum Br. and Stepp Cr. (hopefully with all
		of your limbs unbroken!). It's an excellent idea to consult
		a topo map (Murray quad) and explore this little hike
		before the day of your run to work out the logistics.
		IMPORTANT NOTE: a small road near the takeout follows the
		EFLB upstream and crosses Stepp Cr., but this is private
		property and the landowner doesn't want visitors - please
		respect his privacy and DO NOT DRIVE UP THIS ROAD. Thanks!
	Topo Quad(s): Murray, Swain
	Gradient: 150 fpm
	Length: 1.5 mi.
	Season: FLOOD
	Gauge: Stepp Cr. can generally been run with the EFLB at optimal
		levels or higher. If rain is widespread, a level of 6 feet
		or higher on the USGS Buffalo at Boxley gauge can be a good
		indicator. The National Park Service's Swain and Deer rain
		gauges are great indicators for this run. Look for 1 to 2
		inches in a couple of hours. A quick walk up the road that
		follows the EFLB upstream from the takeout will take you to
		the Stepp Cr. confluence. If there's enough water to run
		this last rapid before the EFLB, then there'll be enough
		water to get down the lower gorge. Don't drive up this road
		or walk any farther than the confluence though as it runs
		through private property. 
	Hazards: Continuous severe rapids, undercuts, trees, and sieves.
	Description: The difficult access to Stepp Cr. led to it being first
		run somewhat accidentally on November 29, 2004. Bill
		"Fish" Herring and Ryan Center hiked in with boats
		thinking they would drag down the creek at sub-minimal
		water levels only to be pleasantly suprised. Stepp Creek's
		lower gorge starts at the Gum Br. confluence and the
		action doesn't let up for more than a mile. With a
		relatively large watershed and long, rocky drops, Stepp
		compares to its eastern cousin, Bobtail Cr. Both creeks
		have good rapids even at low levels, and such levels on
		these creeks happen surprisingly often. In fact, not much
		more rainfall is required to run Stepp Cr. than for the
		EFLB itself. At higher water levels, Stepp's gorge 
		ratchets up into the class IV+ range in a hurry. With 
		enough water the nearly continuous, big drops will challenge
		even the most experienced steep creek boater. The first
		drop in the gorge is called "Double Bubble" - a blind
		chute on the right leads to a boulder that can be avoided with
		a hard cut to the left. Those new to the creek may want 
		to scout this drop and possibly several more below it. 
		The water doesn't stop moving for the next quarter mile. 
		Next is "Thighmaster", named for Ryan Center's bruised 
		upper leg after swimming the log-choked river-left 
		sluice on the first descent.  This one can be snuck 
		with a good ferry to the far right slot.  The left 
		side is a Z-shaped slot that features a wicked hole
		that tends to backender anything that passes through it.
		The hole recirculates under the rock on the right and
		then the backwash kicks out into another undercut
		straight ahead.  If it sounds bad, it typically looks 
		and boats even worse!  Scout this one carefully and set
		good bank support on the left before trying the sneak
		or a run of the main slot.  The creekin continues with
		a couple of long drops followed by another slot drop
		into a surging, boxed-in hole.  This is "The Chute"
		and it is another great spot to set a rope.  A short
		pool leads to a ledge hole that is the start of Stepp
		Creek's biggest rapid: "Eight Seconds".  Like riding 
		an angry bull, a good run in this class IV+ drop will 
		take about 8 seconds.  A bad line will take considerably 
		longer trying to escape from holes and pin-rocks!  Runs
		tend to disintegrate here about four or five moves down
		from the top hole.  A number of folks have been thrown
		off the bull and had some rough rides to the bottom.
		The next major drop is called "Pac Man":
		a big boof that kisses the rock is possible on the left or
		take the twisting route through boulders on the right.
		Look back upstream at this one - a very cool looking drop!
		Several more class III+ and IV drops follow, but the pace
		slows down to a more managable speed after Pac Man. The
		scenery is fantastic if you can take your eyes off the
		rapids!  If you can find it, there's even a wonderful
		creek boat ender spot near the bottom of the run - a 
		great way to finish your trip!  When you see a field on 
		your right, the banks are private property, so don't 
		get out of your boat and float through quietly so as 
		to not disturb the landowner who lives there. At the 
		confluence with the EFLB, hang a left through the bushes 
		(it's quite possible to swim here!) and paddle 100 yards 
		to your vehicle. Another run on Stepp is possible (known
		as "doing the two Stepp"), or you can head up the EFLB 
		or over to Thomas Cr. for some more creekin' action! 
		Stepp's lower gorge is a great creek run that has serious 
		hazards, especially when the holes are churning at 
		higher levels - all paddlers need to be able to handle 
		continuous class IV+ water and organize bank support. 
		If you're not prepared, it may give you more excitement 
		than you want!

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