Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sandstone Steeps and Tennessee Canyonlands

When pressed to describe their impression of creeking in the southeast, Most paddlers who don't reside here conjure up an image of Asheville, NC, Gorilla on the Green, the mythical gorge of the Raven Fork, and the big slides on the Toxaway.  It's true that Asheville has a good lead on the top creeks in the south as far as bigness and overall quality, but there is a whole other world on the west side of the divide, with an uncountable amount of isolated sandstone canyons just stocked full of stout whitewater.  

If Western North Carolina is the place to cut and keep your teeth sharp on class V, and run some of the biggest the east has to offer, then the Sandstone ridges and tablelands in Tennessee and dipping into North Alabama and North Georgia are the places to run free and wild when it rains, with over 50 class V canyons spread out over the region, most of which do not see regular use.  When winter and spring rains hit the area between Fort Payne, AL and Wartburg, TN this is THE place to be in the south.

Following is a pictorial sampling of a handful of these creeks.  It would take 20 diligent years of boating and living in the Tennessee Valley to try and see every corner of all the worthwhile creeks in the area, and there is no one person who has done them all.  But we gave it our best shot this season and got on scores of new creeks.  So here are some classics, some exploratory type runs, and some soon to be classics.  Whether you run them or not, they are there, pumping with intense whitewater every so often.  If you ever get bored with the region you usually boat in, there is a whole new world over here.  

First good slide on Henderson

Smokin' Steve, getting his spine tapped

It's this good.

Caleb, coming together with his plan on Spoonman.

One of the great disappointments that can occur in a boater's life:  wood in Fire Escape

Henderson is grade A creeking.

Early morning runs have a real mystique on Walden Ridge.

Sean contemplating breakfast on the Tiny Piney

Me, hoping mine doesn't come back up.

Sean skipping breakfast.

A poor conveyance of the grandeur of Aircraft Carrier

Whites Creek is a true surfers dream.

Bad-ass Caver Jeff Moore trying for once NOT to go deep.

The Mayor of Whites Creek, Kemper Begley.

Casey Cutter, one of many school teacher / whitewater junkies in Knoxville.

Andy Dodson on McGill Creek at a proper level.  

If I hadn't just told you, you never would have guessed that Andy just dropped this side falls coming in.  The water was cranking this day.

Tons of great boogie on McGill.

Classic drop on McGill

Stacked up moves on this big rapid.  The holes were hungry this day.

The Son of Dod on the same, wondering, "How would Vonnegut run this drop?"

Random clean waterfall near the end.  Celebration was had by all.  

The standout half-day mission on Walden Ridge, Falling Water Creek.

Caleb coming in to the Dragon's Lair

Same drop.


And in three seconds he rose again.

Dod be with you.

Hair of the Dragon is a drop that you're glad you ran, but aren't sure you'll run again.  This is the top half.

Pastor Daniel Talley, a man of few words, and many sick boofs, shredding Mullens Creek.

Nathan McDade

Mullens Creek has the cleanest water on Walden Ridge, and couldn't seem further from Chattanooga, though it is only 10 miles away as the crow flies.

Mo dropping as McDade looks on.

Doesn't this run look great?

Little Brush Creek flows into the Sequatchie Valley.  With the shortest shuttle around, this run delivers solid class V action from beginning to end.

Goldilocks wetting them curls.

The level was just right.

Steve Krajewski embodying a little perfection for our viewing pleasure.

Tricky slots amidst subtle hazards are the name of the game on Little Brush.

Smoking Steve finishing up Krispy Kreme.  This thing was a sight to behold, and required conviction in the face of artery clogged doom.

Random action

The space rudder.

Looking west across the Sequatchie Valley, one of the more distinctive landforms in Tennessee.

Little Brush breaking through the plateau and into the Sequatchie.  There are four other substantial watersheds that do this, all creating their own unique whitewater playgrounds as they drop to the pastoral valley below.

Looking towards the southern end of the valley, where the classic Pocket Creek run lies.

If the fresh angles on some of these forgotten creeks have you breaking out your maps, be sure to watch for the new guidebook for Tennessee, which is currently being developed.  The new standard in guidebook production is finally coming to this area!

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