Bald River is a tight creek complete with numerous strainers and jagged rocks in the streambed. Boaters running this creek should absolutely know where Bald River Falls is. There is a very obvious picnic area on river right with lots of flatwater providing ample time to get out. Do not continue past this point or you risk being swept over Bald River Falls.
The full run consists of a couple class IV/V rapids with tons of class I-II in between, making an all-day adventure, but what a beautiful trip! Or ... as noted in a comment below, you can forego the first two listed falls/rapids and get the best action by just doing a hike-up for the final 3/4ths mile or so.
PLEASE NOTE: There is a pile of trees (beaver dam) which blocks the entire river about midway through the full trip. This pileup could be run on river-right at high water but the safest choice is to portage. At higher flows one could be pushed into this pile-up quickly, so be careful. Be on the lookout on river right for lots of trees that are in the process of being downed by beavers. Just around the next bend is the major pile-up, take action accordingly.
Some folks may prefer this as their put-in. It does add a half-mile of flatwater warm-up, but may offer better parking and some facilities.
Just downstream of the Forest Service Road 126 bridge you quickly encounter a class II jumble leading to Gran Torino, a 3' ledge followed (about 10 yards down) by a sizeable, river-wide hole. The hole isn't much at normal flows, but at high water it gets really nasty. This sequence can be scouted by getting out on river left when you encounter the class II lead in. Gran Torino can be run down the middle, or river left, which requires some effort.
For the next several miles you encounter class II riffles and rock jumbles, strainers, and beaver dams. There is nothing major to speak of, but use caution at higher water levels.
After almost interminable tame paddling, a fine stretch of better action occurs. About a half-mile later you will begin the major action of the final stretch.
A major horizon line appears and Bald River drops out of sight amidst a roar of water. Take out on river right and use the trail to scout Shallow Falls and Suislide. Going vertical off the falls will probably result in a good piton (hence the name, Shallow Falls), so try and land a little flat.
A short pool after Shallow Falls brings you to Suislide, one of the nastiest-looking waterfall/slides/sluices you'll see. Scout from river right (good piton and/or pin potential here). Suislide is a very narrow 25-30 ft slide, consisting of three ledges that form one big falls. River right (against the reportedly undercut wall) is the best line, but getting over there is tricky. A big rock blocks the entrance, requiring you to ferry over to the eddy behind this rock, just at the lip of the falls, with no room to spare. This also makes getting a good launch off the first ledge nearly impossible, since you have room for about one good paddle stroke when you leave the eddy.
A short pool exists below Suislide to recover your breath (and maybe your gear). Looking back up at Suislide and Shallow Falls forms one impressive sight!
Just after this pool below Suislide is Doe Rapid (so named as it resembles the river of the same name in east Tennessee). Run towards a large rock on river left, dropping into a groove just in front of it while making a 90 degree right turn to finish the rapid, or take a middle line and drop over the series of ledges to the bottom of the rapid. (Run river left for a technical challenge or the middle line for an easy drop.)
After Doe there is nothing significant, until you encounter another small horizon line. This is Jumble, a pile of rocks that offers no clean line. Dropping over the first small (2') ledge at higher flows can produce backenders, just enough to get you off the line you had in mind. A short pool leads to a broken 6' ledge into a rocky washout. Just left of center is the recommended route. River right has exposed rocks, and a pinning situtation can occur on river left.
A couple class II rapids (after Jumble) will bring you to flatwater and a picnic area on river right. Take out here and scout!
There are two waterfalls just above Bald River Falls. Kahuna is the first of the two, and the only one that can possibly be run safely. Not taking out after Kahuna, or washing into the next waterfall after Kahuna will flush you over Bald River Falls just a few yards downstream.
This 80' waterfall is unrunnable on river left. River right would be nearly impossible and lands into an extremely shallow pool with lots of rocks. Please use caution when running the rapids above this waterfall, if you get washed into Bald River Falls it will almost certainly end in extremely serious injury or death.
The lower river left tier (about 20' drop) can be run by hiking up to the ledge from below the falls and dropping into the pool below.
I enjoy the Holly Flats camping area in the top of the gorge. Trout fishing is excellent. Bring a skillet and corn meal.
I've found that the way to do this one is to hike from the bottom. You miss 4 miles of flatwater and one good rapid. The other cool thing is you don't need shuttle. Its only like a half mile hike up and you get 3/4 mile of river putting on a little ways above the cascade above suislide. Portage suislide on the left and you can slide back into the last part from the left back to right. From here its beautiful 3-4 untill the falls, which you can portage on the left with care and still run the lower tier. Tony and I found this to be an enjoyable addition to the Ledges with little work.
Great photos and description, Daniel!
This is one awesome crick!
No direct gauge. You can get a fair indication of what the water level might be like by checking the Tellico Plains gauge for the Tellico River.
Look for the Tellico River @ Tellico Plains to be over 3 ft on the gauge.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Bald River rapid
Bald River Falls
Zach Fraysier Bald River Falls
Joe Holt running the Falls
Bald River view
Dave Livingston bombs down Bald River Falls
Rob boofing "The Beak"
Mark Travis on Baby Falls
Rob Beckman running Bald River Falls
Nathan Burress Bald River Falls
CANOE RUNNING 8 FT DROP!
CANOE RUNNING BALD RIVER
CANOE RUNNING BALD RIVER!
OPEN BOATER ON BABY FALLS
Kudzu Kayakers Rock
Bald River Falls video
I gave my love a cherry
Bald river Falls 1
Daniel Fosbinder on Bald River Falls
Bald River Falls in Winter
Rob McVie scouting Suislide from the eddy
Daniel Fosbinder on Bald River
Rob McVie at Shallow Falls (avoiding the piton)
Rob McVie at Gran Torino (first ledge)
Daniel Fosbinder at Bald River Falls
Daniel Fosbinder at Kahuna
Daniel Fosbinder at Rock Jumble on Bald River
Rob McVie midway down Doe rapid
Rob McVie entering Doe rapid
Rob McVie downstream of Suislide
Daniel Fosbinder midway down Suislide Falls
Daniel Fosbinder at Suislide Falls
Rob McVie midway down Suislide Falls
Rob McVie enters Suislide Falls
Rob McVie at Shallow Falls entrance
Rob McVie in Suislide Falls eddy
Rob McVie at Shallow Falls
Daniel Fosbinder at Gran Torino (river left)
Rob McVie at Gran Torino
Adam Thomas Running Bald River Falls
Omer Hall running Bald River Falls
Jason Foley running Bald River Falls
Gordon Byrd at Bald River Falls
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Earlier this week the Tennessee Wilderness Act passed the US House and Senate as part of the Farm Bill, and now heads to the President's desk to become law. This bill has been promoted by local citizens and the Tennessee delegation for nearly a decade, and American Whitewater and many paddlers have voiced their support over the years. These Wilderness designations will protect some places that are special to paddlers.
Last week Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker from Tennessee introduced the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2010. This bill would protect roughly 20,000 acres of some of Tennessee's wildest lands, including the Bald River Watershed and lands near the Cheoah River.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!