Sutton Hole

Contrast that can kill you. Sutton Hole is a deep, slow place in the river where generations of children learned to swim. A short distance below is Woodall Shoals, an undercut slide that’s the only Class 6 drop on the river. It’s 300 yards between the gentle swimming hole above and the body trapping hydraulic below — not like you’ll lose your footing and land directly in the killer rapid. However, such a dangerous feature merits warning.

Sutton Hole, though, is gentle as a lamb. It’s located a little more than 500 feet above where the trail meets the river. Great southwest exposure and a nice point bar, but no vertical element. The little dippers pool is a couple of hundred feet above Sutton Hole. Gentle contours make it easy for entry and exit with little chance they might tip over and wash downstream.

And below the Class 6 rapid is another wide, slow hole. There is a huge expanse of sand which, depending on water levels, may be 100 feet long and 30 feet wide. Rock is broken into lots of slabs, heavily worn, piled up and creating a rapid that fills the pool. Great kid’s spot. Though you can tell this is not always the case. A noontime rainstorm in Highlands, NC can arrive six hours later in a big way. One guide tells of hearing a roar, watching a tree float past, become lodged in the river bottom just as the full force of the flood struck and stood the tree back upright again.

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