Bald River, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|TELLICO RIVER AT TELLICO PLAINS, TN|
|usgs-03518500||3.50 - 4.50 ft||II-IV(V)||01h04m||1.55 ft (too low)|
Bald River is a tight creek complete with numerous strainers and jagged rocks in the streambed.
This creek is hardly ever run, the shuttle is long, and hiking back to your car is not really an
option (unless you're in for a half day of hiking).
Boaters running this creek should absolutely know where Bald River Falls is and allow plenty of time to get out so they do not wash into and over it!
There is a very obvious picnic area on river right with lots of flatwater to provide ample time to get out. Do not continue past this point. In doing so you can wash over Bald River Falls.
Bald River consists of a couple class IV/V rapids with tons of class I-II in between. This is an all-day venture, but what a beautiful trip!
PLEASE NOTE there is a pile of trees (beaver dam) that block the entire river about midway through the trip. This pileup could be run on river-right at high water but the safest choice is to portage. At higher flows one could be pushed into this pile-up quickly, so be careful. Be on the lookout on river right for lots of trees that are in the process of being downed by beavers. Just around the next bend is the major pile-up, take action accordingly.
Gran Torino (aka Fluke) (III+)
Shallow Falls (III+)
Suislide Falls (aka Buying the Farm) (V)
Kahuna (aka The Big One) (III)
With a put-in at Forest Service Road 126 bridge, Bald River brings you quickly to a class II jumble leading to Gran Torino, a 3-4 foot ledge that bumps another 10 yards down into a sizeable, river-wide hole. This hole isn't anything at normal flows, but at high water levels it gets really nasty. Torino can be scouted by getting out on river left when you encounter the class II lead in. Gran Torino can be run down the middle, or river left, which requires some effort.
For the next several miles you encounter class II riffles and rock jumbles, strainers, and beaver dams. There is nothing major to speak of, but use caution at higher water levels.
Just when it seems there is nothing else on this river, a major horizon line appears and Bald River drops out of sight amidst a roar of water. Take out on river right and use the trail to scout Shallow Falls and Suislide. Shallow Falls had a tree blocking the river left line as of Feb. 2002, so you must bump down the right side. Going vertical off the falls will probably result in a good piton, so try and land a little flat.
A short pool after Shallow Falls brings you to Suislide, one of the nastiest-looking waterfall/slides/sluices you'll see. Suislide is a 25-30 ft slide, consisting of three ledges that form one big falls. River right against the reportedly undercut wall is the best line, but getting over there is tricky. A big rock blocks the entrance, requiring you to ferry over to the eddy behind this rock, just at the lip of the falls, with no room to spare. This also makes getting a good launch off the first ledge nearly impossible, since you have room for about one good paddle stroke when you leave the eddy. Suislide is a class V rapid, please scout carefully and portage on river right if necessary.
A short pool exists below Suislide to recover your breath (and maybe your gear.) Looking back up at Suislide and Shallow Falls forms one impressive sight.
Just after this pool is Doe rapid, as it resembles the river of the same name in east Tennessee. You can run Doe towards a large rock on river left, dropping into a groove just in front of it while making a 90 degree right turn to finish the rapid, or take a middle line and drop over the series of ledges to the bottom of the rapid.
After Doe there is nothing significant, until you encounter another small horizon line. This is Jumble, a pile of rocks that offers no clean line. Dropping over the first small ledge at higher flows can produce backenders, just enough to get you off the line you had in mind. Just left of center is the recommended route. River right has exposed rocks, and a pinning situtation can occur on river left.
After Jumble, a couple class II rapids will bring you to flatwater and a picnic area on river right. Take out here and hike your boats down the trail to the road. The next two rapids are waterfalls, just above Bald River Falls. Kahuna is the first of the two, and the only one that can possibly be run safely. Not taking out after Kahuna, or washing into the next waterfall after Kahuna will flush you over Bald River Falls!
Please use caution here, and take out at the picnic area.
If you have any other questions or comments, please email me.
When this river was written up, we could not find anyone who had ran it and had little information to go on. Thanks to the website below you can see that some boaters discovered the joys of Bald River long before we did. For more information please click on the link below:
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|6.0||Bald River Falls|
3 foot ledge that bumps another 10 yards down into a sizeable, river-wide hole. This hole isn't anything at normal flows, but at high water levels it gets really nasty.
River-wide slide, can be run on left or right side but watch for wood. Trail on river right makes scouting easy.
A very narrow 25-30 foot sluice on river right that lands in a good pool. Scout from river right, good piton and/or pin potential here.
Run river left for a technical challenge or the middle line for an easy drop.
Easy two drop rapid, consisting of a 2' ledge followed by a short pool before dropping over a broken 6' ledge into a rocky washout.
Two-tiered slide with large pool. However, the unrunnable Bald River Falls is just a few yards downstream. If you do not take out after Kahuna and run over the next ledge downstream you WILL wash over Bald River Falls. This is a class III drop but will have serious consequences if you forget where you are or accidentally wash over the next ledge and into Bald River Falls.
80' waterfall. Unrunnable on river left, river right would be nearly impossible and lands into an extremely shallow pool with lots of rocks. Please use caution when running the rapids above this waterfall, if you get washed into Bald River Falls it will almost certainly end in extremely serious injury or death.
The lower river left tier (about 20' drop) can be run by hiking up to the ledge from below the falls and dropping into the pool below.