This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III+(V)
Length 10 Miles
Flow Range 3.50 - 5.50 FT
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 3.08 [FT] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 05/19/2013 9:16 pm

River Description

This is an absolutely beautiful and pristine float through the northwest corner of the park. If you are looking for gnar, then this run isn't for you. If you are looking for a long wilderness float with a stretch of class II-III+(V) action in the middle, then this is for you. A trail parallels the stream for the majority of its course, though in many spots the stream ventures quite far from it and the walls can prove difficult to ascend. The trail is on river right and continues all the way to the takeout via the Little Bottoms Trail. The run is mostly class II, but around 3.5 miles in, you exit the limestone and phyllite of the Cades Cove window and enter the Cades Sandstone's massive bedrock gorge. For the next 2.5 miles, there is good whitewater and great scenery. After a nice 8 foot sliding ledge on the right, notice the walls closing in and the rock exposures.

This is a premonition of Abrams Falls about a third of a mile ahead, which is a 22-24 foot drop (considering Baby Falls is 13 and Potters 17 feet). The left third and right third land on rocks, but the entrance is not overly tricky and isn't as difficult as LaMance over on the plateau. Still, 100% confidence is required, as a poor line could result in serious injury like a broken back, legs, or face. Given that, the sweet spot is sizable and the middle of the drop is clean, sporting one of the best drops in its size range to be found anywhere around. Scout, set safety, and portage on the right, lowering down the rock face and then walking the goat trail to the right and down a 10 foot step to the base of the falls.

After putting back in, there is 1.5 to 2 miles of quality bedrock rapids and walled in gorge action. This stretch has a similar feel to Conasauga and Coker Creek, with grabby but fun bedrock rapids with chunk here and there. This run is easier than both. A constriction below a long class 3 set called "Boulder Drop" should be scouted on the left. There is a line on the right, center and left. The best rapid is Sidewinder, a 200 yard long series of bedrock slides that start immediately after an island. After this there is more action against the sheer wall on the right, and then some more rapids down to the Rabbit Creek confluence on river left. After the confluence rapid, the creek amps down to class 2 again, with an occasional class 3 ledge. In another 2 miles, after passing campsite 17 on the right, the pace slows considerably with swift current but only occasional rapids. Watch for logjams here. The last mile is quite flat and slow.

This run is notable for its scenic value, aesthetics, and wilderness feel. This special place has a wild untouched feel, as most streams in the area have roads slicing through their depths. This trip is worth every minute of the hour each way shuttle, though if it is during a high use period, the road through Cades Cove can be painfully slow. If your priority is solitude, and adrenaline is not your sole purpose, then this trip is for you.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - Mile - 0
Putin at the Abrams Falls trailhead at the far west corner of Cades Cove. If it feels too low the first stretch, it is and you can hike back out on the trail on river right.


Class - III Mile - 3.2
This 10 foot sloping ledge indicates the approach to the Falls is close

Abrams Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 3.5
The big drop on the run, and a serious one. If you aren't proficient at big drops, you might want to skip this one. Portage/scout right.

Boulder Sluice

Class - III+ Mile - 4
A constriction of boulders blocks the river, and a quick scout is prudent. There are 3 lines, left, middle, right. Right is a whale tale type drop, middle a slot line, and left an s turn move


Class - III+ Mile - 4.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A long and winding bedrock slide.


Class - Mile - 10
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Takeout here below the campground, or continue another 8 miles to the lake and paddle 2 miles of flatwater to Hwy 129.


default user thumbnail
Matt Jackson
1 year ago

Large log in the falls as of 2/13/2019. One other mandatory portage early on, would've been more if water was lower. Fun creek

default user thumbnail
Alex Zendel
6 years ago

We paddled this stretch today. The Little was between 4.1 and 4.2 feet. A big storm had rolled through yesterday. The Little peaked at 7.5 feet and The Tellico peaked at 9.6 feet. The Tellico isn't a good indicator for flows in Abrams, but I'm posting its flow just to illustrate how out of control yesterday was. Check out the photo of my run at the falls in May 2013 - when the Little was at 3.9. The rock that's protruding from the lip of the falls river left of my line was underwater today. The hole at the bottom of the falls looked potentially lethal if you ran anywhere left of right of center. Matt Devoe (OC-1) was the only one in our group to run the falls today and he had an absolutely beautiful line. He boofed hard off a flake on the right and said the landing was soft. We had three wood portages today -- there were none in 2013. The last big rapid on the run (Sidewinder?) was fluffy and pushy, but manageable. But it was undoubtedly solid class IV today- with waves breaking over my head. The rapid upstream (Boulder Sluice?) was also juicy but manageable. Some rainfall history: There had been 3.3 inches at Newfound Gap about 32 hours before we put on. And about 1.9 inches at the Cades Cover rain gauge ( in the same time frame. Git u some Abrams. The long ass shuttle is worth it, but it's best when the falls isn't so scary looking

default user thumbnail
8 years ago

Paddled the lower section on March 10, 2012...campground to lake. For those folks wondering about how this section might look after last year's April tornadoes, thought I'd mention that the lower section was remarkably clear, in spite of the tornado clearly running very close and/or on both sides of the creek in several spots. From what I saw on the lower section, most of the knocked-down trees were blown down parallel to the creek bed, rather than perpendicular.

Gage Descriptions

Look for the Little to be at least 3.5 feet. Cutoff is up to you. Lots of wide bedrock rapids, so more water is better.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports







Thomas O'Keefe


Kirk Eddlemon


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1199618 03/14/11 BradR
1202213 05/19/13 Thomas O'Keefe photo changed
1191509 03/30/08 Kirk Eddlemon n/a