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My favorite things about the Big Laurel river is the scenic views of the gorge and the remote feels in and out of the BL and on the French Broad river from the confluence of the two then down to Hot Springs.

This run is also a great hike down from the Big Laurel store along the creek and back up or all the way out and then up the tracks to Stackhouse that is the FB9 section takeout. I’ve seen a few paddlers run the big Laurel then walk back up the tracks to Stackhouse to shorten the time on the river paddling down to Hot Springs.

A word of caution about the Big Laurel is a well known is a seive located in Stairstep rapid left of center in the first larger drop a paddler arrives at about a mile down from put in at the Big Laurel. This hazard is inconspicuous so run this creek with someone who knows it well. Another element worth mentioning is this like many other streams and rivers everywhere is it can flash quickly so be aware of your conditions. The window of runability for me here is 0” to 15” but I’d like to run it higher as I hear it is really fun at two feet but big! Also wood hazards come and go on this river so be alert. The section of the French Broad River below the confluence has two rapids that can be challenging as well so consult the American Whitewater link and read up.

I was able to paddle a new Gnarvana medium recently here on the Big Laurel then down to Hot Springs at 0”. I just picked up the boat and was headed to The French Broad section 9 but found the BL in at 0” so we set shuttle and put on. Again this is a favorite and in a new boat so I was excited. Everyone loves this new JK creeker so I knew it would be great and I wasn’t disappointed.

I am 5’11” and 215lbs and this medium for me is right in my wheelhouse. I’ve always liked 80 gallons for a creekboat and the move up around the industry to 90 gallon creek boats works for me. I’ve also paddled the large Nirvana and Karma but definitely settled best at the mediums. For me giving up my Nirvana was sad but this new Gnarvana is nimble while locking in when it is needed. Stable, stable, stable, also a quality with primary stability being most apparent to me. Bow on the surface through everything got my attention real quick. I loved paddling it.

Another thing worth mentioning besides design is the easiness of outfitting in every JK let alone this new creeker. The seat moves back and forth so easy and so does the bulkhead. Shims go in or come out quick. It is awesome how quick you can jump right in and go. I own and have owned many other kayaks from the early 90s to today and this escapes almost every single one of them besides JK. It’s great to see such an important essential part of kayaking made so simple!

Try this boat out! If your around 215 give the medium serious consideration but over that maybe a large should be your target!