Big Laurel Creek bumps its way to the French Broad River and scoops out a series of pools just right for a family trip. At the top is a basin scaled for the little dippers. About one-half mile farther down is a good looking pool with a nice sand beach and two-thirds of a mile farther on is a steep, deep place with a famous rope swing that’ll make kids over 12 go nuts…but that’s on the following page.
Paddlers call the middle spot Suddy Hole. It’s a head-high drop, below which is a hydraulic that boaters consider dangerous at higher levels. Best safety rule is that, if you see lots of foam in the water, from which the feature likely gets its name, then stay out. Another good measure of safety is look for a small beach downstream. It’s a crescent of sand at the top of a quiet pool, one of the few streamside places on Big Laurel where you can stretch out.
The creek drains 130 square miles and residents may not be too discriminating about what they toss into the creek. I found more than a couple of auto parts that’d floated downstream and a week earlier a local environmental group had collected more than one dozen bags of trash in the three miles between the highway and the confluence with the French Broad. Nevertheless, it’s a venerable summer gathering place and none of the locals I spoke to expressed concern about the healthfulness of the water.
The walk in is mild, most of it along an old rail grade that closely parallels the creek.