Bald River, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV(V) (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|TELLICO RIVER AT TELLICO PLAINS, TN|
|usgs-03518500||3.50 - 4.50 ft||II-IV(V)||01h14m||1.52 ft (too low)|
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.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|-0.5||Holly Flats Campground||N/A|
|4.8||Bald River Falls||N/A|
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.