Cain Creek / North Chickamauga
|Stretch:||Barker Camp to Bowater|
|Difficulty:||Class IV to IV+|
|Flows:||.5’ to 1.5’ at Put-in, 600-100 at take-out. Current AWA gauge|
|Gradient:||106 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Near Barker Camp Road|
|Shuttle:||14 Miles (30 minutes one-way – rough dirt road)|
|Season:||Winter and Spring off of Rain|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #57|
Another business trip to Huntsville, Alabama allowed me to mix some business with pleasure. With the meeting schedule for Tuesday, I choose to fly across the country Friday night rather than Monday, allowing for 3 days of boating prior to the meeting. With steady rain falling for the previous few weeks in the Walden’s Ridge area, the rivers were charged and a good time was assured. The first day, on four hours of sleep, we headed 30 minutes north of Chattanooga for day on Cain Creek which then runs out on the North Chickamauga (Chick).
Meeting at 10, I were joined by Jim Janney, Steve Sanburn and friends from Knoxville, Daniel Rucker, Phil Branch and friends from Rossville, and Kat Levitt (Big thanks to Kat and David Levitt for loaning me a Villain to use for the three days of boating) and friends from Chattanooga. The group quickly grew to over 20 people. Somehow, although it was crowded, the river allowed for the large number of paddlers despite its micro creek feel at the top.
After only a mile or so of warm up, you get to you the start of the goods. A few slides and small falls lead to “Mandatory Portage” which has undercuts on either side of a hole. Despite its name, it is a fun rapid to run though I did flip and got pushed into the undercut left, cutting up my knuckles pretty good before rolling up off the wall. Downstream you quickly get to the Vortex gorge which is the whole reason (in my mind) for doing the run. A series of fun drops sandwiched between lush cliffs is truly a special place to take a moment to soak in the scenery. Downstream, the drops continue for a short ways before letting up down to the confluence with the North Chick. From there, the rapids are mostly class III-IV with a few standout sections of class IV including the Chick Falls. Always be on your toes as this section is notorious for holes and piton rocks. All in all, the run is very worth doing if you are in the area. Also, it tends to hold water pretty well after rains so it is a common run for those living in the area.
Thanks to Daniel Rucker for his contribution of photos...
And for more info, see the Walden's Ridge page...
- A half mile of fun boogie with a few small slides and falls leads to an obvious horizon line of a boulder choke.
Mandatory Portage (IV to IV+). Despite its name, it is not a mandatory portage. Run down the hole and avoid the undercut on the right which as well as on the left.
- Big Splat (IV+). First off, just upstream of Big Splat is a sievy boulder garden that we snuck center then right down. Big Splat is the top of the Vortex Gorge. It is a 8 foot ledge that lands on a slab of rock. Get your nose up and expect an impact.
Vortex (IV+ to V). The best and most challenging rapid of the run. Slide down the center rock, try not to slam the wall, and then boof through the holes below. The exit ledge is also very sticky and best run right. Portage is on the right and requires team work.
Drainpipe (IV+). Just on the other side of the pool below the vortex Gorge exit, is this large and fairly manky rapid. Run the lead in and catch the eddies on the left. From there, you will see a small channel against the left wall with a rock dividing the river in the middle. Fade off the rock, boofing down the left channel. You then land in a cool caverned out cliffed out pool. It gets mellower for a while below here.
- Rockhouse Amphitheater is on the left, an excellent medium water put in when the Vortext gorge is too low. Below, some excellant class III to IV- boogie continues.
- The North Chick enters on the right. Less than a half mile of fun boogie leads to the falls.
- North Chick Falls (IV to IV+). A fun slide leads to a choice, drive left and run the vertical ledge or run down the middle of the two tiered drop. Downstream starts a really fun section of boogie, full of slides, holes and ledges.
- Pre V-Slot and V-Slot (IV to IV+). The boulder garden gets more congested, we boofed down the far right side of the lead in. The main V-Slot can become a large undercut hole at higher flows. At our lowish flow there was a nice boof around it on the left. For those so included, you can scout left.
- Cyclops (IV to IV+). Not sure where the mileage for this rapid is, but it is somewhere in here. The lead in is fun class III-IV which leads to an eddy on the left. The bottom move is to drive right at the bottom ledge as the middle lands in a hole with a rock in it and has beat many boaters. At high water you can just go far left up and over the ledge that is dry at lower flows.
Boogie continues with class III-IV rapids right up until the end.
- Bowling Alley (III to IV). The last set of rapids comes right at the end. At extremly low flows, people hike up and run just these rapids. The entrance move is the trickiest and is a slot on the left with a folding seam. Below, it is read and run boogie.
Take-out: 14 miles north of Chattanooga on Highway 27/29 take Thrasher Pike to the left. Turn right in a few hundred yards on Dayton Pike. In less than a mile turn left on Montlake Rd and follow for 1.2 miles to the road dropping down to the left to the river.
Put-in: Continue on Montlake Rd for 4.3 miles. Turn left on Poe Road and continue another 6.3 miles. Turn left on Grant Rd and quickly turn left again at Barker Camp Rd. Follow for ~2 miles to the gate. Park just before the gate, this is the start of the hike. The hike is maybe a half mile plus or minus and all downhill.
View Cain Creek / North Chick in a larger map
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