The upper paunch isn't exactly a destination run, but it does have a few nice rapids, some good boogie water and pleasant scenery. Typical to the area, it has several undercuts and sieves in the streambed, one of which is normally a portage. The class IV on this run is brief and not terribly difficult, but there are a few spots to watch out for. Most of this stretch is heavily forested and there are many nice cliffs that appear. Toward the end of the run the O&W Scenic Railway parallels the creek as you float through the Barthell mining museum. Shortly below Barthell there will be a nice rapid with surfing waves and cables that go across the river, take out just past the cables on the left and walk up to the road.
Look for around 1" of rain. Maybe less when the ground is wet. The drainage area is about 40 mi. sq., so it holds for a few days after big rain. There is a paddlers gage on the downstream face of the river left bridge pier. Look for something over 12" as a good low level, with 22" being a nice busy medium. Not sure what the upper limit is. Watch out for the hole at Squeaker at high water.
Follow 742 out of Stearns toward Blue Heron in the BSF National Park. A few miles out of town the road will wind down a hill and cross the Roaring Paunch Creek at a concrete bridge. This is the put-in and the location of the gage. To find the take-out, continue on 742 another 4.5 miles into the park and then down the hill. At the bottom of the grade you will see a road that turns right to the Barthell mining museum, park at this intersection. Parking is limited at the put-in and the take-out but there are many parking spaces on the side of the road past the take-out.
The Big South Fork is an indicator as to whether or not water is flowing in the area. Look for about an inch of rain in Stearns, KY and Oneida, TN and be sure to check the paddler's gage under the 742 bridge. I have ran this as low as 5" on the stick gage, but that is a little low for fun. At 22", it's good action. Anything from 12" to 30" is probably a good range. When reading the stick gage, be sure to use the scale on the left, which measures up from the bottom.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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