Morgan Creek, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||333 fpm|
|Max Gradient||655 fpm|
Morgan Creek is the steepest stream on the plateau for its relatively large watershed size. There is a 3/4 mile stretch that drops an average of 700 feet per mile. The run is littered with unrunnable and severely marginal drops, and there have been some really close calls on this creek. Don't run anything blind on this one at all. The creek takes only a few miles to drop the entire plateau from top to bottom, and the cataracts contained withing the North Pole Gulch are gigantic, enchanting, and terrifying to contemplate. Though the run is considered a portage fest, and that it most certainly is, there are around 12-15 excellent rapids found on the run, some of which are the best in the southeast. Just try to keep that in perspective while grovelling along the side of the gorge, while trying not to fall in the many sieves that fill the creek.
The run starts small, but after 0.3 miles, Tigues Creek enters on the left, more than doubling the flow. This is the time to be heads up for Snow Falls, a necessary portage unless the water is really high. After the river turns sharply to the right and the walls enclose, the creek drops 15 feet onto a slab of rock. The portage is on the right, shortly above the entrance slide. If you find yourself running it, you will want to launch the lip as far left as humanly possible to avoid a painfull landing in the least. After puting back in, run a manky ledge on the left and then work back right through a few more ledges and mank gardens.
Next is a gigantic pile of boulders that creates a possible first portage. The right side drops off a beautiful 20 foot boof into a big rock, the center slot is choked with wood, and there is a far left slot that occasionally sees some action, though things are often shifting in there after big flows. The easiest way to portage is to get out on the logs in the center of the creek and walk down the middle boulder and seal launch 10 feet in. This is the quickest and cleanest way to get by.
The very next drop is a classic, with a tight entrance on the right wall. Boof left, as there is wood and an undercut on the right wall, and then get ready to fall down to the left about 15 feet on a moderately steep slab slide. At low water the only way may be to angle perp to the right.
Below here get out on the left and start the first of 2 huge portages. There are other small walks on the run, but this is the first of 2 clearly magnanimous portages, and just a warm up for the other big one further downstream. Walking on the left is much easier than the right here. Once the gradient seems to subside down to normal class 5 plateau tilt, get back in after scouting and run the first nice little class 4 double drop. This spits you out right above the next ultra classic drop.
This drop looks really nasty at first, but it will warm up to you over time. The line is down the center, riding an 8 foot tongue under a log into the rapid. Keep it downstream here, as the boils and sieves keep things unpredictable. Then drive hard to the left side of the flow to avoid a sieve on the right that wouldn't necc. kill you, but wouldn't be fun either. Here you bang through between the left wall and a pin rock and then are channelized into a slot for the final 10 foot boof. This is a boof to behold.
Up next is Decapitation Falls. Here the creek heads towards the increasingly vertical left wall that has been developing and disappears over a sizable drop, and the entrance is obstructed. Run center or left in the entrance, and then drive left over the 12-14 foot sliding drop into a mini canyon. Beware that running this drop commits you to the next class 5 drop, and it is difficult to even scout from the mini canyon. You have to run it once in the canyon. This drop is an 8 foot drop that has a clap halfway down that throws a little left. Drive right with all you got and keep it straight in the landing as the slot is tight. If you mess up here and end up in the left sieve, that could be the end. Don't mess this one up. If there is any doubt, skip the classic Decap Falls and portage. What's one more. But if you are good to go on the creek, the move will be no big deal.
Right after the sieve rapid is Double Boof. This might be the best double boof on the planet. Run down the right through a constriction and then off a shoulder on the right with a left stroke, turning right and then pulling another lefty off the second boof. Perfect.
After Double Boof, it is imperative to get out immediately on the right and portage Toilet Bowl, aka If It Wasn't For That Rock. This drop has been run once on accident, and not only did the victim narrowly escape with his life after several underwater moments, he incurred a good dose of PTSD also. Toile Bowl drops down to the left wall in a similar fashion as Decap Falls, but there is a huge boulder the whole creek drops under, and there is a toilet bowl in there as well. The drop is also double the height at around 25 feet. Don't mistake this for a runnable rapid. Walk on the right, and put in the canyon 50 feet downstream.
Next are 3 slides in a row that are all excellent. Well, for the most part. The first is a classic bending slide dropping a good bit. Next head against the left cliff through a narrow slot right against the wall for Butt-Cracker. This one is fun, but the claps at the bottom will make you think you just spent $1000 on a new boat. The last slide is good, but a piton rock is concealed right of center in the boil at the bottom. A little left angle wil avoid this rock.
After the mythical slide section, there is a manky class 4-4+ set with the very top drop likely being a portage. Here the top of the drop pitons a slab and then goes under the right wall. Walk around to the right and slide the last bit to center, dropping into the next drop, which is a delicate left to right affair away from a hungry rock. This puts you in some hanging eddies with slots. The left one lands on rock. The right is sometimes a no go, but the center is tight and clean. After threading through this slot, the creek builds some stea, into a 5 foot pourover that is quite sticky. Launch it out and then finish far left.
After the mank garden above, there is a short stretch of low water maneuvering into the second of the 2 huge portages. This must be the one they refer to as the "Mother of all Portages". The first drop is a shallow slide into a pool that I am sure has been run, but the flow goes trucking further on right into a huge cascade/sieve concatenation that would certainly destroy all who enter. Portage mid level on the left for a good ways, and when you start seeing a drop into a corridor right in front of a house sided boulder, you can start dropping down to creek level. Around the corner from this is the first of 2 highly margninal bedrock clapper drops.
The first bedrock clapper drop is about 15 feet onto a slab. The entrance is tight, and it looks like it would hurt. The second drop is below. After a nice s-turn entrance, the creek pulls away from the right wall and drops 15 feet down Red Hot Chile Pepper. This drop has produced wicked carnage, and many will wonder why anyone would run it in the first place. The creek drops 15 feet onto a flat slab and then into bad rocks on either side of the preferred line. Paddlers have broken backs and have also been knocked out, requiring immediate rescue from the ensuing maelstrom shortly downstream. However, many have had good lines on the drop. The right is pretty shallow but doable, and center is at least 1-2 feet deep. No matter which line you take, get a good boof. If these two drops don't look inviting, keep trucking river level on the left, puting in below Red Hot Chile Pepper.
The next drop needs good water to be runnable on the center channel, or a portage is in order. There is another line on the far right wall, though, a tight triple drop with an undercut on the bottom left. This rapid leads right into a nice little low angle slide. Below the slide, grab an eddy on the right above North Pole Falls.
North Pole Falls is a completely clean 17 foot drop. Run right off the right undercut bank and wait for a delayed lip for the boof, or just plug it. The center has a rock, and the left heads right into the last sizable portage, so right is the way to go. Get out on the right and take the easy portage trail around the last big unrunnable cascade. Paddlers have portaged left before and run the last tier, and it is also very easy to portage right and run the last half of the last tier into a nice little juicy rapid to finish. From here there are a handfull of class 4 manky rapids with some dechannelization here and there. The first, after a ride down the left side, is a double ledge rapid with a twisy runout. Boof the first ledge heading right, and then don't run the second one on the left. Scrape down the middle here. Next is a 6 foot ledge that lands on a rock. There is a way to make the transition, but some portage on the left. After these last thrills there is a third of a mile to Richland Creek, where there are less rocks and much more water. The takeout is only 5 minutes downstream once embarking on the rolling waves and push of Richland.
More Spew from local legends:
880 ft total drop. Many portages. Large boulder-garden rapids.
From Streamkeeper Clay Wright:
Snow Falls, Chile Pepper, Decap Falls, "Mother of all Portages", Double Boof, Butt- cracker . . . North Pole is one Seriously steep run! While the many portages break up the action, there are numerous big, technical, high quality rapids; some drops onto rock; whole-river swallowing blockages, and a 17' clean waterfall. Much of the fun comes from finding lines through the huge boulders - both in rapids and when portaging. The video 'Vertical Addiction" was shot here and some of the best rapids didn't show up well due to the absurd gradient and huge rocks. Like "Fire Escape" on Henderson? Little Possum, S. Suck, and Jones in the bag? If you want to go steeper and don't mind hiking rugged terrain then you've got to check out North Pole.
Oh yeah - runnable even when Henderson is kinda low; they run canoes down it, how hard can it
More from Clay: (feb '04)
Morgan Creek Ã¯Â¿Â½ North Pole Doug Wellman and Ron Steward opened it up, A big crew (Woody, Bo, Francis) knocked off most runnable rapids, I ran Snow Falls and a couple other new lines Ã¯Â¿Â½ but it is still a portage-fest. Incredibly steep and around 10-12 fantastic rapids. A few big hits. A few sieve/cascades of mythical proportions.
From Mark Cumnock:
Morgan Creek (aka North Pole)
This bad boy rocks! Another run similar to Brush Creek that runs into Roaring Creek, this one was first run and opened up by Clay Wright, Andy Turner, Ron Steward, Doug Wellman, and Terry Smith. Later a first open boat run was made by Mike Ã¯Â¿Â½LouieÃ¯Â¿Â½ Lewis. This is gradient creekinÃ¯Â¿Â½ at itÃ¯Â¿Â½s best, you become physical with the run, lots of scouting and portaging if you like, most rapids have been run if you donÃ¯Â¿Â½t mind rocks without water. Lots of boofs-slides to make moves down the run. This run is in my top 5. The put-in is hurting from local land owners buying land and it is making access very difficult. I recommend a Kayak Assault for this one also. Have a shuttle bunny and dress at the take-out, avoid the hassle and do a hot put-on the county road. This run can be seen in Wayne GentryÃ¯Â¿Â½s video Ã¯Â¿Â½Vertical AddictionÃ¯Â¿Â½, and was the cornerstone piece for his footage. Very good shots of the run. It can also been seen on our Ã¯Â¿Â½Falling Off WaldenÃ¯Â¿Â½s RidgeÃ¯Â¿Â½. Tracy Clapp shot a lot WayneÃ¯Â¿Â½s footage for that one and Tracy did an excellent job. He is a hell-of-a-boater and an even better cameraman and the video shows it.
From Ben Hays on the Steepcreeks.com website:
North Pole is not what you might call fun. There are many portages, many good drops landing on bad rock, sieves, wood, and must make moves. The creek has been documented on several creeking videos including: Vertical Addiction, Falling Off Waldens Ridge and Local Hero
North Pole comes in on the river right side of Richland just before the take out. The only named rapid you will run on Richland is "Wierdo"
Look for Richland to be running at least "0". Give yourself at least 4 hours to do this one, more if it's your first time down and you want to run the drops. You'll need to spend time scouting. The run contains lots of trash rapids between the good drops, the kinds that are not photogenic and still harness lots of negative potential. The good drops often land on rock as well.
Many people do this run once and say they'll never go back. The portages are numerous but none are too strenuous. Sometimes a good alternative when Suck is the only thing running.
If you put in at the bridge then you will come upon the falls after a brief warm-up. Portage on River Right.
Decapitation (can be portaged river right)
Toilet Bowl (can be portaged right or left)
Red Hot Chile Pepper
- this one's a real crap-shoot! To see what happens when you miss your line on this one click here
North Pole Falls
Generally run just right of middle with a slight angle to the right. This falls has a rock in the landing zone near the center. Many of the rapids have changed as a result of the hurricanes of 2004.
Put-In - Hwy 30 West, get to top of Mtn. go right. Road does a left hook. Tiny bridge - Park here so as to not upset any private land owners. Minimum # of cars should be taken to the top. There is another put-in that requires crossing private property. If you plan on using this put-in please gain permission or consider contacting Daniel Talley. He lives close by boats the creek often and knows the owners.