by Kate Stepan

Thursday dawned cold and overcast in Asheville, North Carolina, though nearby creeks still raged from rain that has fallen almost steadily since Monday.

"We're getting lit up for sure," says Bryan Owen, who works for Astral Buoyancy in Asheville, on Wednesday. "A lot of things are too high today, I think tomorrow things will probably come back down."

Promising news for area weekend warriors, many of whom watched from their office computers as rivers in North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia turned green (runnable) and even blue (above maximum recommended flow) on the American Whitewater river flow gauge Web site. The Nolichucky in Tennessee swelled to 16,000 cfs, about six times its normal flow for this time of year, while the Cheat in West Virginia hit 21,000 cfs and the New River Dries, a Fayetteville, W.V., surf spot topped out at 9 feet on the locals' gauge.

The rinsing has not come without carnage. With the August death of Isaac Ludwig on the Road Prong River in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park fresh on the region's mind, two kayakers inadvertently spent the night on Georgia’s flooded Conasauga Creek in the Chattahoochee National Forest after pulling out with the gauge raging at more than 10 feet (AW recommends between five and eight).

But boaters in these parts worship rain, and there's been precious little of it lately. 2007 started well but soon dried out, and much of the Southeast has been plagued by drought since. "It's been especially dry," says Shane Benedict, a boat designer for Liquidlogic Kayaks in Greensboro, North Carolina, near the Green River Narrows. "It's sort of like breathing fresh air."

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