Hiwassee, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||I-II (for normal flows)|
This is one of my all-time favorite sections of river to be found anywhere. It's semi-close proximity to cities like Knoxville, Chattanooga, Asheville, Atlanta, and Nashville make it a popular spot for folks who wish to do a sample of good ole Appalachian whitewater. The put-in is located in Reliance, Tennessee, at the State of Tennessee (public) owned ramp and paved parking lot adjacent to the railroad trestle (this is on the left right before you enter "Hiwassee Outfitters"). The put-in for this reach of the Hiwassee is also the takeout for the "upper" section (Appalachia Powerhouse to Reliance, 5.5 miles/class I-III). There is usually ample parking here except on those busy summer days like the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, etc. There are picnic tables and vault toilets located adjacent to the parking lot. The railroad trestle at the put-in is part of a scenic, sightseeing excursion on tracks once used by the old L&N line, then later CSX.
You have several options for a takeout on this section. Most people use the access ramp at the Gee Creek Campground (part of Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park, Tennessee State Parks). This is located on river right near some islands and is about a half-mile upstream of the 411 bridge. There are usually campers swimming nearby. Another takeout is under the U.S. Highway 411 bridge. There is ample parking at this takeout. If you have more time, then the "Patty Bridge access" is the way to go. This is just past where Patty Road crosses over the Hiwassee. The takeout will be on river left shortly after the bridge. All access locations mentioned above are public access locations.
The Lower Hiwassee is a spectacular section of river for the novice paddler and his/her family. Here, the Hiwassee is extremely clear, with visibility in most all depths ranging from 6" to 15'. It's truly a rarity to have a river this clear, this accessible in today's world. The Hiwassee drain mostly forested land on national forests managed by the United States Forest Service in the Chattahoochee National Forest (in north Georgia), the Nantahala National Forest (in southwestern North Carolina) before entering the Cherokee National Forest in southeast Tennessee. There are roughly 5 class II rapids with scenic class I water in-between. A few rapids may be considered class II+ in difficulty.
The 5 miles of river from the quaint mountain hamlet of Reliance to the Gee Creek Campground access is a superb section for the novice who is perhaps not yet ready to try the upper Hiwassee or the advanced paddler looking to spend quality time with the family on this super scenic and exciting stretch of the Hiwassee. Most any type of kayak or canoe is acceptable for this section of the Hiwassee, however, you may find that more "whitewater friendly" boats will allow for a better time from Reliance to Gee Creek. If you paddle down to Patty Bridge, it is 11 miles from the put-in in Reliance. It is very scenic class I from 411 to Patty, with the river still maintaining its signature clarity and attractive round rock bottom. There are several Native American "fish traps" still in formation from Gee Creek to Patty Bridge. They are easier to see at lower flow.
The gauge for this section is simple. Use the same gauge as the section directly upstream (Hiwassee: Appalachia Powerhouse to Reliance). When TVA releases two (2) generators (the amount needed for paddling the upper), the lower is runnable. It takes the water 2 hours to reach the put-in. It takes it 3.5 hours to reach 411 bridge. I'd recommend waiting until the water was past the put-in (Reliance) by 1 hour to allow for a more enjoyable trip.