Hiwassee River (Dries)
|Stretch:||Wolf Creek to Appalachian Powerhouse|
|Difficulty:||Class III to IV|
|Flows:||1,000 cfs to ?,000 (I have seen video at 8,000 and looked ok). Check out TWA current and predicted flows.|
|Gradient:||27.2 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Upstream of Wolf Creek|
|Shuttle:||21.5 miles (1 hour15 minutes one way)|
|Season:||When the dam spills or releases, rare.|
This less than commonly flowing run is run at a whole range of levels. We had a healthy side of medium flow of 5,100 cfs. At this flow, I found the first rapid to be class IV+ with several others being big water class III to IV. Big water is tough to rate... some of the rapids were not all that hard, just moving around holes, however if you are not used to big water then it is easy to catch an edge on a boil, on a cross current, or in a folding wave. Being upside down or out of your boat on this run is not idea due to the forest of trees that is growing in the river bed. I have seen video of the run at lower flows, and I think the trees actually become more of a hazard. At the high flow, a lot of the small ones were under water along with bushes and brush.
Other than the fact that the dam only occasionally releases water, the other downside of this run is that it is in the middle of nowhere, and has a long shuttle. I mean, from Knoxville it is ~2 hours to take-out. Then the shuttle is over an hour long one way... into the woods. So at the end of the day, you have at least 3 hours of driving to do to get your put in car and then head home. All for a 4.7 miles run, which at 5,100 cfs took less than 40 minutes without even trying to go fast. And due to the nature of the trees and shoreline, it isn't like you could go a whole lot slower even if you wanted to as eddies were not plentiful. Because of that, I was glad we had a shuttle driver for sure that day. And it is also because of which, that despite the fact that the run was fun and worthwhile, I won't be rushing back to do it again while the powerhouse is under repair for the next month or two.
- Hollywood Bowl (IV to IV+). At 5,100 cfs I would say this rapid is IV+. There were several ledges that were legit and several holes from top to bottom that you had to actively avoid. Unlike at lower flow though, at the high flow the bottom hole was more benign. There was a line down the left in the trees in the lead in, but this set you up for the exit nicely. I decided to venture out to the middle and went to the right of a small rock outcropping. I then worked back left to exit. Jim entered on the other side of the rock and worked right. At the high flows, you really didn't want to be too far right at the top. Scout from the train tracks on the hike in.
- Wu (III to IV+). I wonder if there was an easier way to do this rapid. From the top as we floated in it looked like down the left would avoid a large midriver hole. As we got closer we saw that just downstream of it was another large hole on the left meaning a very tight zag was required between the two holes. I wonder if we could have stayed far right throughout...
This mellow out with an occasional fun wave train...
Trees (III). One rapid in here was hard mainly just because of the trees. We entered far left, ducking a branch. This was a bit blind from above but appeared to have the best shots at a clean exit. We were right. It ended up just being a fluffy wave train.
- The Narrows (III to IV-). Intimidating! The river constricts and tightens until the walls of the river are only 100 feet apart... which is narrow for 5,100 cfs. Down the left is a tongue with swirly water leading up to it. The main thing is just do not be far right. The river must have some weird things going on under the surface, because seemingly out of nowhere the river explodes in a boil rising 10 feet against the right wall. It is mindless to avoid... just make sure you do!
- Maze (III+ to IV). Just downstream the river enters a long rapid. We started right, then worked all the way right before working all the way back left. Each time to avoid a hole. At the bottom there was a large hole for just about the entire right half of the river. Lane and Jim decided to probe the horizon line and found it passable. I chickened-out out in front of the group and ferried all the way left to avoid it.
- Zig Zag (III). The last rapid looked like it was going to have a good size hole at the bottom but ended up having more room than it appeared. The river moved right then left, pushing you out to the right. We cut across the current to end left... though in hindsight you could just run down the current.
Below is a quick but woody paddle out...
Take-out: Just south of Delano on US-411 take TN-30E. As you approach the town of Reliance, turn left on TN-315 and cross the Hiwassee. Immediately on the other side of the bridge, turn right on Childers Creek Rd. Follow this for 0.3 miles to a right onto Powerhouse Rd. Follow this to the end at the river 3.2 miles later.
Put-in: go back out to TN-30 and head east for 1.6 miles to the left turn for Lost Creek Rd. This is mostly dirt. Follow it 11 miles to a left turn to stay on the dirt road. In another 1.7 miles continue straight to stay on the road (left here takes you to the actual powerhouse). In 2.2 more miles you will hit Wolf Creek. There is a steep trail to the river. We walked up the train tracks a third of a mile to put-in above Hollywood Bowl.
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