Tellico River (Upper Upper)
|Stretch:||Fish Hatchery to Bridge above Bald River|
|Difficulty:||Class II to III- (IV-)|
|Flows:||Look for Tellico to be 3’+ (The big rapids were perfect at 4.2'). USGS's Tellico gauge.|
|Gradient:||83 fpm average (the steep section is 216 fpm for 0.25 miles)|
|Take-out:||Bridge on River Rd, normal “Upper AKA Ledges” Put-in|
|Shuttle:||7.3 miles, (15 minutes one-way)|
|Season:||Fall, Winter, and Spring from rain|
|Featured in A Wet State #150|
I saw the ledges half way through this run while driving up to the Bald River put in a few days ago. I was surprised to find some solid rapids up here, as I expected all the tougher stuff to in the classic ledges section downriver. I mean, why wouldn’t people drive up there more often to at least park and huck those falls. Just a couple minutes up the run for two more great rapids… it seemed like an obvious choice to me.
So, there is a run here. From the Hatchery to the normal Upper put in is a 7.15 miles. AW calls that the Upper run, though everyone else calls the Ledges the Upper run. Overall, the Tellico is just weird the way that AW breaks it all up. Regardless, I am calling this the Upper Upper. And for the record, I didn’t do the whole run, I just parked and hiked a few laps on the hardest rapids of the run. The rest of the run is roadside and is class II with maybe II+ or III-. But overall, much easier than these crux rapids.
Perhaps the reason people don’t do section often is that you need higher water to make it more entertaining. At the low flows that we run the Tellico at often, this section would be scrappy for sure. We had 4.2’ on the gauge and I thought that was a great flow for the big rapid. It felt like a 1.9’ Jared’s Knee level… in fact that is just an overall great comparison. If you like Jared’s Knee… you might think of coming up and running this sometime. Plus, if the water is nice, you can run the Upper Upper Upper as well.
- Boogie (II- to III-). OK, so I didn’t run it, but from the road I didn’t see anything of note. A few small ledges. Mostly just long class II- rapids. That is all this run had other than the big section downstream.
- Green Cove community on the right.
- Picks Up (II+). The river tightened up and began racing faster down. This is the lead in to the hard section.
- #1 (III+ to IV-). The first rapid had two main parts. The top part was most fun on the left, where fast water dropped you through a small but sticky hole just above a 5 foot uniform pour over ledge. We went through the hole and boofed the ledge. There was another line far right if you were timid on the harder move. Downstream, the river split a bit and either channel was fine, as it rockily stepped down over one more ledge. More water would have done this move well.
#2 (III+ to IV-). The second bigger rapid comes immediately after. We saw a fun line on the left, which had a small stepdown slide to the lip of a larger non-vertical lip. On the first lap we slide down the tongue through the bottom but on the second lap we boofed the edge on the right side of the tongue. Both were fun lines.
Boogie (II). Boogie continues downstream. I really didn’t see much action down there.
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 7.2 miles and park just past the bridge that crosses the river.
Put-in: Continue upriver for 7.3 miles to the Fish Hatchery, park near there to access the river. Or, to park and hike laps for the steeper section, drive up for only 3.4 miles and park at the spot on the right, walking up the third of a mile from there.
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