Bald River - F.S. 126 bridge to Bald River Falls

Bald River, Tennessee, US


F.S. 126 bridge to Bald River Falls

Usual Difficulty II-IV(V) (for normal flows)
Length 4.8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 100 fpm

Daniel Fosbinder on Bald River Falls

Daniel Fosbinder on Bald River Falls
Photo of Daniel Fosbinder by Daniel Bailey taken 06/03/00

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03518500 3.50 - 4.50 ft II-IV(V) 01h00m 2.66 ft (too low)

River Description

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-03-30 14:39:03


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-0.5Holly Flats CampgroundN/AAccess
0.2Gran TorinoIII+Photo
3.9Shallow FallsIVWaterfall Photo
4.0Suislide Falls5.0Hazard Waterfall Photo
4.0Doe RapidIIIPhoto
4.7KahunaIIITakeout Hazard Photo
4.8Bald River FallsN/APortage Hazard Waterfall Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Holly Flats Campground (Class N/A, Mile -0.5)

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.

Gran Torino (Class III+, Mile 0.2)

Rob McVie at Gran Torino

Rob McVie at Gran Torino
Photo of Rob McVie by Daniel Fosbinder taken 02/15/02 @ Tellico over 3 ft

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.

Rapids (Class N/A, Mile 3.3)

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.

Shallow Falls (Class IV, Mile 3.9)

Rob McVie at Shallow Falls entrance

Rob McVie at Shallow Falls entrance
Photo of Rob Mcvie by Daniel Fosbinder taken 02/15/02 @ Tellico over 3 ft

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.

Suislide Falls (Class 5.0, Mile 4.0)

Daniel Fosbinder at Suislide Falls

Daniel Fosbinder at Suislide Falls
Photo of Daniel Fosbinder by Rob McVie taken 02/15/02 @ Tellico over 3 ft

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!

Doe Rapid (Class III, Mile 4.0)

Rob McVie entering Doe rapid

Rob McVie entering Doe rapid
Photo of Rob McVie by Daniel Fosbinder taken 02/15/02 @ Tellico over 3 ft

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.)

Jumble (Class III, Mile 4.3)

Daniel Fosbinder at Rock Jumble on Bald River

Daniel Fosbinder at Rock Jumble on Bald River
Photo of Daniel Fosbinder by Rob McVie taken 02/15/02 @ Tellico over 3 ft

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.

Kahuna (Class III, Mile 4.7)

Daniel Fosbinder at Kahuna

Daniel Fosbinder at Kahuna
Photo of Daniel Fosbinder by Rob McVie taken 02/15/02 @ Tellico over 3 ft

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.

Bald River Falls (Class N/A, Mile 4.8)

Daniel Fosbinder on Bald River Falls

Daniel Fosbinder on Bald River Falls
Photo of Daniel Fosbinder by Daniel Bailey taken 06/03/00

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 9 2009 (3483 days ago)
x (1)
I enjoy the Holly Flats camping area in the top of the gorge. Trout fishing is excellent. Bring a
skillet and corn meal. Tim Mason
August 1 2006 (4556 days ago)
Kirk EddlemonDetails
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.
March 28 2002 (6143 days ago)
Matt MuirDetails
Great photos and description, Daniel!
This is one awesome crick!