Cumberland, Big South Fork, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||20 fpm|
|Max Gradient||40 fpm|
|SOUTH FK CUMBERLAND RIVER AT LEATHERWOOD FORD, TN|
|usgs-03410210||400 - 5000 cfs||II-IV||01h10m||179 cfs (too low)|
Big South Fork of the Cumberland is one of the hidden crown jewels of the Cumberland Plateau in
East Tennessee. Formed by New River and Clear Fork near Oneida, Tennessee, this class II-IV run
offers a big water adventure through a cliff lined gorge that is accessible only at a few points.
Bring a playboat, river-runner, canoe, or raft. This run is truly a wilderness whitewater
Put-ins and Take-outs
There are several take-outs and put-ins for the Big South Fork. The run documented on this site is from the confluence of New River and Clear Fork to Leatherwood Ford. It is 6.2 miles in length and will take 2 to 4 hours (or longer) to complete.
The main take-out is at Leatherwood Ford where heated changing/restrooms are available. This is the most accessible take-out on this run with paved roads all the way. There is one additional take-out at the O&W Railroad Bridge. This take-out eliminates the last 2 miles of the run, which consists entirely of flat water with two class II rapids. If you put-in at the Confluence and take-out at the O&W Railroad Bridge, the run is only 4.2 miles and takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete. This run consists of almost all the class III and IV rapids on the entire Big South Fork. The O&W road is in much better shape now than in years past. In the spring of 2004, the Scott County Road Department graded, graveled, and ditched the road. Since that time, it has developed several potholes but is still in descent shape for a Scott County back road.
Confluence to Leatherwood Ford Shuttle Information
From Leatherwood Ford take SR 297 east for approximately 7 miles. You'll come to Coopertown Road. Make a right and go approximately 4 miles. Turn right on Verdun Road. Go 1.2 miles and make a right on US Hwy 27. Go 1.2 miles and make a right at the airport sign (formerly a Subway existed here). Cross the railroad and take a left on Detour Rd. Go 1 mile and make a right on Airport Road. You'll then go 1 mile where John Long Road will veer left by some oil tanks. Stay on John Long Road till it ends at the Confluence put-in parking lot. This road is 4.8 miles in length.
O&W Railroad Bridge Access
The O&W Railroad Bridge can be accessed from Verdun Road. About halfway between SR 297 and US Hwy 27 on Verdun Road is the Edgewood Estates entrance. This is where O&W Road begins in a sharp curve. The bridge is approximately 8.6 miles. The easiest access is upstream from the bridge on river right.
The Canyon Section Run
Two miles upstream from the O&W Railroad Bridge is the Pine Creek put-in. You'll know the put-in by the gated road that drops off beside O&W Road. This put-in is just above Maria's Rock which is the start of the Canyon Section. This playable two-mile section offers big wave trains at around 3,000cfs and is great for those who don't want to run the entire Big South Fork section. Multiple runs on this section can be fun, fun, fun!
Here is a link to a Big South Fork area map. The roads mentioned above are very detailed on this map.
For additional information about paddling the Big South Fork, checkout A Guide to Paddling in the Big South Fork.
Other Area Runs
Clear Fork Brewster Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge 10 miles Class II+
Clear Fork Burnt Mill Bridge to the Confluence 4 miles Class II-III
Cumberland, Big South Fork Leatherwood Ford to Station Camp 8 miles Class I-II (IV)
Cumberland, Big South Fork Station Camp to Blue Heron, KY 19 miles Class II+ (IV)
North White Oak Creek Zenith Mines to Leatherwood Ford 7.8 miles Class II
Pine Creek Bend in Road to Big South Fork 0.85 miles Class IV-V
White Oak Creek Hwy 52 to Clear Fork 6 miles Class I-II (III)
Here is a link for all information on the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
Contact the streamKeeper: Brandon Hughett, Knoxville, Tennessee
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.0||Google Map of Big South Fork|
|0.2||Undercut Rock Rapid||III|
|0.4||Triple Wave/Boof Rapid||III|
|0.8||First Drop of Double Drop||III+|
|0.8||Second Drop of Double Drop||III+|
|1.6||Honey Creek Rapid/Kreckels||III|
|1.8||Hand of God Rock||I|
|2.2||Rion's Eddy/A*s Kicker||III+|
|3.4||Jake's Ledge Hole||III+|
|3.5||Canyon Rapid a.k.a. Moonshoot||III|
|6.2||Leatherwood Ford Take-Out|
Boofing opportunities exist at this rapid. Simply line up left of center and BOOF!! The other line is run from right to left through 3 waves.
Double Drop is the first of three rapids known as "The Big Three". The main line is on river right with a series of two drops. Catch an eddy on river right above the first drop then ferry across and drop off beside a rock on the left side. This will land you in a boiling eddy where you will then paddle aggresively down the center to run the second drop with a little left angle.
The alternate Double Drop line is extremely far river left. This line is a class II read and run line that lands in a large eddy.
One of the better play spots is located just above this rapid. It is a low-angled, fluffy hole that is great for today's short boats.
You must paddle aggresively at levels below 1000 cfs due to a pin rock that sits about two feet of the right bank. The second drop will surf you into the rock where water will pile up on your stern. Then, you are jambed into the crack stern down. Several paddlers have gotten pinned vertically in this spot.
Washing Machine is known for it's twisting and sticky action at levels below 1000 cfs. It's a 10ft wide chute that drops into a twisting hole. An alternate route can be cheated on river left over a small ledge. However, this ledge can develop into a nasty hydraulic above 1,500 cfs. At levels above 1000cfs, the sticky hole in the main line disappears and the rapid is simply run from left to right.
The Ell is the last rapid of "The Big Three". Start from an eddy on river right to boat scout this one. Look for a rock on river left where the river curls from left to right. This marks the final drop and is where you want to aim. Drive hard toward this rock a little left of center while the river tries to pull you to the right. Then, get ready for a ninety degree turn to the right for the final drop. If you flip in this one, tuck hard at levels below 2000cfs due to "Cheese Grater Rock" being only a few feet or less underwater immediately downstream. The center and right side of the final drop is a large hole that can be sticky.
You'll have to look upstream to see this rock. It makes you wonder who might have created the Big South Fork gorge.
There's a cave under this rock that you can paddle through at 400cfs.