Fast and continuous is the pace as Rock Creek falls off Angel Mountain toward Jellico Creek. This mile long hike-up run has several nice rapids and fun boofs mixed in with some mank. Lots of small drops and not very many eddies. Most of the run is in the III-IV spectrum, with one crux rapid that looks like it is capable of dishing out class V consequences. The gravel road makes hiking, scouting and running laps (and portaging) all pretty manageable.
The approach starts from the trailhead on river left by ferrying across the creek and hiking up the road about 0.3 miles on river right, then ferrying back to river left. Follow the road along the creek, as the road gets away from the water, there is one rapid down there that someone in your group should know about, go scout it or follow somebody. Once the road returns to the creek you will see a nice set of slides and ledges that culminates with a clean 6’ boof. Putin at the top of the slides where the road leaves the creek again.
The slide at the putin leads quickly to the best rapid on the run, which is super classic and reminds me a little bit of El Horendo, so I have been calling it El Classico. (apologies if this has another name already!) This rapid finishes with a sweet boof into one of the largest pools on the creek (not very large). From here, continuous gradient and blind turns lead to another nice slide that finishes with a manky boulder garden and then a large-ish pool in front of a logjam.
The pool in front of the logjam means that the crux rapid is coming up and one needs to either get out or get ready. Here, the creek channels up through one obstructed slot, shaped like an elbow, but tight enough to be named after something else. It probably gets better with more water, but at low-medium flows it looks flippery and pinsome. There is currently wood in the run-out, which is another great reason to walk it.
Below here, a touch more mank and another nice boof or two finish off the bulk of the gradient. When the road crosses from river left to river right, you can carry back up to lap the steepest part or continue on down to the parking lot. Just below this crossing, and plainly visible from the road on the hike up, is the last notable drop on the run, which has an obstruction in the middle that can be easily avoided to the right.
From I-75 take exit #11 and pick up hwy. 92 West and follow this for 8.3 miles. Shortly after crossing Jellico Creek, turn left on Ryan’s Creek Rd. and reset your odometer. 0.6 miles, stay left and cross Jellico Creek, then bear right. This is kind of the main way to go, but now you will be on Old Jellico Creek Rd. Keep on trucking for 6.6 miles and turn right on FS road 492 (gravel) and cross Jellico Creek. After the bridge, bear left and follow the gravel 2.0 miles to the parking area where the road crosses Rock Creek.
It is important to note the following! A half mile before reaching Rock Creek, FS road 492 crosses Shut-In Branch at a low-water ford. The crossing here is relatively low-lying and can become inundated by Jellico Creek, making it impassable. Once again, it is the level in Jellico Creek (not Shut-In Branch) that creates depths that you probably do not want to drive through. (high clearance is a bonus!) If this crossing is too deep to comfortably drive through, the good news is, the creek is probably running and you can just start hiking from here and when you are done on Rock Creek, you can just take Jellico Creek back to the car. The real concern here is driving in and having the water rise while you are boating, only to find yourself flooded in (temporarily) from both sides. Plan accordingly.
This creek gets ran alot in the spring and all of the rapids have names. The III IV rapid in the middle is called Needle Nose. I wouldn't call anything on this run a V.
Gages and Stuff:
The drainage area here is about 6 mi. sq. That’s pretty small, but not completely microscopic. I’d guess that in the winter, when it’s already primed, probably 1” of rain would set it off. In the summer, when it’s dry, you probably want to see 3” or so.
Whistle Creek at Newcomb, TN Clear Fork at Saxton, KY and Cumberland at Williamsburg, KY are 3 of the closest rain gages (to the South and East) and they can be found here:
And here is another Saxton gage that updates every 15minutes:
And the Whitley City gage is slightly further away than the previous three and to the West. It can be found here:
And one more product that lets you zoom in to see exactly where the rain fell can be found here: (This one takes a few hours to update)
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Rock Creek boogie
Boof the mank
Below the classic rapid
The Classic Rapid
Starting the hike up
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