|Difficulty:||Class III to IV|
|Flows:||200 cfs (very low) to ~1,500 cfs (~1.4' to 6'). Check out American Whitewater's current flow gauge.|
|Put-in:||Turnouts just above the bridge upstream of Bald River Falls|
|Take-out:||Bridge just downstream of Bald River Falls|
|Shuttle:||2.1 miles (5 minutes one way)|
|Season:||Winter/Spring from rain (with occasional runs in Summer and Fall when storms permit)|
|Featured in Video A Wet State #97|
|Written:||© 2014, 2015|
The Tellico is a classic and a staple of the Tennessee boating community. Each winter, once it gets charged it tends to run (at some level) of just about the entire season. My first day here was a desperation day. I hadn't boated in 3 weeks and was about to head off on 2 weeks of business trips followed by a trip home to California for the holidays. With my desire to get 50 new runs this year my window was closing, so #49 was a very low (1.4') Tellico day in the morning prior to a Thanksgiving feast with friends.
At the very low flow I thought the run was fun, certainly better than nothing and surprisingly not as abusive as I would have thought. We ran 3 laps which gave the day a worthwhile feel. At this low flow I would say that Baby is perhaps one of the best first time waterfalls to run. A friendly lip allows for good speed and boofing. At the low flow the recovery pool also exists.
I have been told though at the higher flows Baby Falls can generate a large boil and has been the site of some bad swims at the flows around 1,000 cfs. At these flows the more common line is on the far right edge rather than the main spout in the middle. Hopefully one of these days I can update this with first-hand knowledge.
Update: I got back in here now several times. Most recently at 2.85' on the online gauge (810 cfs). I was anticipating that the river would feel full and holes would become powerful etc. Baby's definitely had more of boil in the landing, but the rest actually felt a little scrappy. I have heard around 4' it starts to become a little meaner. But yea, I was surprised that with 4x the water of my first descent that it still felt rather low. Good to know though, it handles its water really well!
Note: If the water is up and you have the time, continuing down through the Middle Tellico section is a great way to extend the day with 4-5 more miles of class II+ to III.
- Dirty S (III-). Just below the bridge, there is a congested drop that can be run straight down the right channel between rocks or you can cut right.
Top Ledge (III- to III). The first ledge had a fun point to boof left of center.
- Junky (III-).Not far downstream is another drop which can be run far left or right. Not overly clean either way...
- Middle Ledge (III-). Middle ledge was straight from a pool. We ran right of center off a nice kicker which set easy boofs. At the low flow we also ran it backwards. With more water there is also a left channel line, hug the right side of the left channel for another nice boof. Landing is shallow there so more water is better.
- Entry Drop (III-). One small rapid is just above, run that with the flow. That leads to the entry drop which is just above Baby Falls. Run this right moving left across the center. The drop is a slide that hits rock on the right, even on the left you skip over a shallow rock which has a small hole below it, because of that, after you drive left, as you start sliding, straighten out as it is better to be straight than to flip just 50 feet above Baby Falls.
Baby Falls (III+ to IV-). We entered far right and moved back to the left to boof the main spout of water. There is also a line on the far right that is the high water line. Portage on river left if so inclined. The falls is maybe 10 feet tall.
Diaper Wiper (III+). Immediately below is Diaper Wiper, a slide rapid with one pin spot in the middle. Most people either run down the right or far left. The far left has a nice eddy half way down to catch and peel out of.
Boogie (II+). Below, the river gets to be a bit manky. We generally go left and then move right in the first rapid below. From there, it is more obvious where to go.
- Bald River enters on the left with its spectacular Bald River Falls. If you are warm and want another waterfall, you can climb up to the shelf 10 feet up and peel out to run the bottom part of it. Nice photo op.
Bald River Rapid (III-). Just after the Bald River enters you enter another rapid that is a little bigger then the rest of the boogie that fills this part. The key is the folding waves at the bottom. It is best to have some right to left across the bottom of the drop so you can get through the first curler, then turn right to immediatly hit the second curler. Flips in one of these curlers is not uncommon.
- Jared's Knees (IV). The river saves its hardest for last. This is a long multi move rapid with some great boofs. We started left and then ended up running down a ramp. With more water there is a good boof to exit on the far left, but at the low flow I preferred moving back to the far right to exit. The take-out bridge is then in-sight. At high flow, be mindful of the bottom hole as swims there are common. It is important to get some of the rock to boof off of rather than hugging the left shore.
For more details on the run, see the AW write-up...
Take-out: From the town of Tellico Plains, take TN-165 4.5 miles east up river. When the river tries to bend away from the river, turn right on River Rd to continue traveling upriver on the smaller two lane road. Follow this 5.2 miles and park just past the bridge that crosses the river.
Put-in: Continue up River Rd for 2.1 miles until you cross the next bridge crossing the river (not the Bald River, but Tellico). 100 yards upriver there are a few turnouts that provide nice access to the river.
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