Big Brush Creek
|Stretch:||Bowater Rd to Old Union Rd|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to V|
|Flows:||~1.25 to ~2.5' on the take-out gauge. 2.05 dropping to 1.75 was basically an optimum flow. Look for +1" of rain in past 24 hrs. (Note, some friends tried to run it at 1' but got to put in and declared it too scrappy, too low)|
|Gradient:||102 fpm average from mile 2.1 to 7.5, max of 177 fpm from miles 4.3 to 5.8|
|Put-in:||Access at bridge on Bowater Rd|
|Take-out:||Bridge on Old Union Rd|
|Shuttle:||13.4 miles, (20 minutes one-way, some good dirt road)|
|Season:||Fall to Spring, Rain fed|
Wow, what a classic! I had heard good things about this creek, but it is so rarely done, even by Chattanoogans that I really did not know what to believe. AW rates it as class III-V, Kirk rates it as IV-V. I think for what most people will do with the run it felt more like a class IV-IV+ run with three or so V- to V+ rapids that can all be easily portaged. We had 2.05' dropping to 1.75' during our run, which I felt was a perfect flow.
So what do expect? The run starts off with nice class II and III rapids, though stay on your toes for the first surprise ledge which packs a good hole that can be boofed far right easily. Rapids pick up as you enter some short slides and then climax in a long slide that ends with a large hole on the right. There was an eddy at the lip on the left that you can boat scout into. More boogie and then another short slide that packs a hole. Below here, things start coming at you faster and harder, as the boulders begin to collect midstream. Not far below is the first burly ledge hole that is absolutely ugly on right and should be scouted. More fantastic boogie leads you to the steepest mile, which is unmissable as you will get to a rapid which has so many large boulders it seems like it could be a mandatory portage from above. Diane took one of the main channels left to right and then found a little slot for us to exit more straight forwardly and with less exposure. Below, a tricky ledge awaits you a short ways downstream... and then you arrive at the big drops. The first rapid is marked with X's on the left trees at the entrance. Eddy out and portage left, or, you can portage low on the right around the crux of the rapid which is just a massive sieve pile. We then put back in on the right and ran Hallway to Hell which is a cool slot move standing 8 feet tall. A short ways downstream is another sticky hole that we scouted and ran left again, before getting to the largest of the occasionally run rapids. The top half is fine, and the bottom half looks good from in the boat, but scout, because below the pinch the river drops into a very large hole that is backed up by a nasty pile of rocks, and full of sieves in the runout. We ran the lead in on the right and caught an eddy and portaged the bottom. A few more boogie rapids, and some excellent scenery later you get to the third big rapid. This one offers and big boof and slot move and is likely the biggest rapid that most people will run on the run. Below is another move sorta like Hallway to Hell by smaller and less consequential. The last big rapid comes at you quickly below and was full of rocks, so we walked on the right, seal launching in after a 5 foot walk. Below, the boogie just keeps on going with some excellent cruisy rapids, ledges, and boulder gardens. It is a fantastic way to finish the day as it then deposits you into the valley just a short ways before the take-out.
So, with that all said, it is just a classic day. Not too many runs in the SE offer this length and this consistent level of gradient and difficulty. It took us 4 hours with scouting and photos, but I really don't see how it could be much less than 3 hours unless you know the run well and run everything. But, that is what a great day should be, not a 30 minute run... but a several hour run. And those runs are in short supply here in the SE... so, add this to your list if you are looking for some class IV-IV+ to spend your day figuring out.
- The first 2 miles or so moves quick and is just boogie. A beautiful cliff on the left wall tells you you are coming to the first class III move of the day.
- Boof (III to III+). An easy boof off the right shore clears you of the rather large ledge hole.
Boogie (II+ to III-) continues...
- Long Slide (III+ to IV-). A long slide can be run anywhere at the top and then chokes down for a final step which should be run left of center or far left if flows are high. On the right, there is a pretty stout hole. Easy to avoid though.
Bigger Boulders (III). You get to a spot that has some bigger boulders signaling you are getting closer to the steep section. There was a small but sticky ledge in here that we ran on the right.
- Off Angle Ramp (III to III+). An easy enough rapid but it is worth checking before you leap as it is a bit blind from above. The left had a good size hole, so we went left to right down the right side of the ramp to avoid it.
Nasty Hole (IV to P). A low flow apparently this one is nasty and run left to right and wants to push you under the right rocks. At our flow, the right was a terrible looking hole and instead you wanted to boof left around the hole mess. It was pretty straight forward, but the stickiness of the rock for sure added a variable that we didn't account for and almost slid back into the hole on accident.
Boogie (IV- to IV). The boogie steps up in difficulty and boasts a few sticky holes. But overall, it is fantastic!
- Character Change (IV). The character changes suddenly with a rapid that is full of large boulders and what looks from above to be a river with no exit channels. There was a channel middle heading hard right that went, or a small crack to sneak on down the right.
Shore Boof (IV- to IV). A small ledge with a rock in the middle seemed like it should be easy enough, but the rock was sticky and instead of boofing us kicked us onto our heads. Instead, go far right and try to smear boof. Going far left puts a bad undercut in play.
Boogie (IV). A really nice section of boogie comes up. I remember the upper part having a hard right to left move after a blind entrance. The lower part was a long multi tiered rapid with some large hydraulics to boof or go around which then lead to the top of the first biiiig rapid.
- Portage (V+/P). This portage is marked with "x" on several trees on the left shore (2021). Apparently it has been run, not sure where. The river goes into a pile of large sieves. Maybe if the far right crack wasn't full of wood you could go there. You have two choices, portage left on the old road grade which also pretty much locks you into walking Hallway to Hell, or you can portage right and put back in above Hallway. We portaged pretty low, hoping from rock to rock at times to put back in.
Hallway to Hell (IV to V). Our flow made this rapid as easy as possible I think. It is basically the runout of the portage above, so you will miss it if you portage the previous rapid on the left. It is very hard to scout as the boulder on the shore is shear, tall, and huge. But, you can get a glimpse from in the boat at the lip. The line is center driving a little right, not too much as the water bounces off the steeply angled right shore boulder. The hazard is the left shore is a massive boulder with a lot of water going under it. As I said, our flow was perfect and the right wall had enough padding to not reject you and allowed you easy, controlled, access to the outflow well away from the undercut.
- : Powerful Hole (III+ to IV). A powerful hole was straight forward enough down the left with a delayed boof. I am mainly adding it here because it is just 100 yards above the next rapid, which is a likely portage (partially anyways).
Pinch into Rocks (V to V+). It's a big rapid. Scout and/or portage on the right. From above, the rapid looks big, you can see some entry ledges and then the river pinches down. Below, it looks like it may be small but in fact, after the pinch there is a large, backed-up hole that then goes over large boulders which I am sure is just a messy sieve pile. The run out, has a sieved out right shore to boot. I think the line would be down the pinch driving hard left to miss the hole and have a clear run out. It is a big move though, so none of us did it. Instead, we ran down the entrance on the right and hit a sweet 5 foot boof before eddying out to portage.
Boogie (III to IV). A fun rapid or two of boogie...
- A Good Class V (V- to V). Finally, a good, clean, fun class V rapid. Scout this one on the right. The top is a 7 or 8 foot tall shoulder boof in the right channel. I opted to plop over the ledge in the middle to take out the risk in the lower portion as I did not scout and went off of verbal. Below, the river constricted into a rock pile, there was a slopping boof in the center that you wanted to hit coming back to the right to drop into a good clean exit channel. Careful in the run out as the left shore was sieved out. Update 2023: Jim Janney mentioned after a run that he thinks this changed, or they lost water to the karst, but there was a sieve in play on the line in the middle. So, it sounds like it is worth scouting fully now.
Exit Boof (III+ to IV-). Similar to Hallway, this is basically the runout. Run far right against the wall for a pretty mellow plop and drop boof. Note the center channel looks good from above but is a terrible omega shapped (worse than U) slot that looks like it could be a terrible pin. So avoid that at all costs.
Shelf (III). A small horizon line not far downstream is a mellow sliding ledge.
- Junky Class V (IV+ to V-). The majority of the flow went into a pile of rocks and made a right turn against a sieved out shore. There was a small pinch to boof far right that looked too tight from the shore scout but from below looked more doable. We had already portaged right before seeing that from below it looked better.
Boogie (IV). The next mile and a half is full of super high quality boogie rapids. I don't really have rapid by rapid descriptions, but man this section may have been the highlight as we stayed in the boat the whole way. A few times the river got into big boulders, we went far left each time. The long rapids were fantastic though, and there was still a hole or two here to bring you back to reality if you aren't on your toes.
- Boogie (II). Then suddenly it pops out and is mellow. Just like that. One more quick float of a mile deposits you at take-out.
Take-out: From Dunlap TN in the Sequatchie Valley, head north on Hwy-127 to TN-111/TN-8. Just past the highway, turn left onto Old State Hwy 8. Take this for about 1.2 miles to where it bends right and becomes Old Union Rd. After another 2.7 miles you get to the bridge over the creek. There was shoulder parking for a single car on the far side on the left. The bridge gauge is also on that side.
Put-in: Head back towards Hwy 8, at the bend take the right turn to quickly hit the new TN-8. Turn right and climb the plateau. Follow this for 7.5 miles. Turn right onto McCarver Loop Rd. In 0.7 miles Stay right at a fork onto Take Hill Rd. In 0.2 miles turn right onto the dirt road (good shape, minivan had no issue), Bowater Rd. Follow this for 3.9 miles to the bridge over the creek. Plenty of room for parking on the far side of the bridge.
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