Citico Creek, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||100 fpm|
|Max Gradient||180 fpm|
|TELLICO RIVER AT TELLICO PLAINS, TN|
|usgs-03518500||3.50 - 10.00 ft||III-IV||01h15m||1.46 ft (too low)|
The Upper Citico is a tight, fast little creek set in a beautiful surrounding. Making a trip here is not wasted if there isn't enough water because the Tellico is just a few minutes back down the road.
With a put-in at the bridge just below the confluence of the North and Citico creeks, the whitewater picks up immediately. This is mainly a class III+ run, but it's constant, with steady gradient and rock-filled rapids.
The Citico begins with class II-III boogie water as it bends to the left, setting you up for the first section of rapids. The first big rapid can be broken up by eddy-hopping through it, or you can turn it into a hundred yards of non-stop slides, ledges, and boogie water.
Next up is a small horizon line that turns out to be just a long, easy slide. A bend to the right bumps you through more boogie water, and then the action begins to pick up again. Hug the river right wall for the next rapid which goes around a large boulder situated on river left, blocking your downstream view. This boulder is undercut, and trees are usually stuffed into the front of it. Stay right all the way down. This rapid looks worse than it is, but stay alert. A few more smaller rapids brings you to another horizon line with three slots that look runnable. Far right is the best option at lower levels, boofing off the rock and into the pool below. At higher levels (when the Tellico is over 4 feet) then the middle line is the way to go.
The river leaves the road for a bit at this point, but class II-III water is all that awaits. After losing sight of the road and paddling down a stretch of class II-III you will come to a sharp bend to the right. Eddy here and scout this next rapid. A big rock situated left of center creates a hole that you should avoid. Left of the big rock and off the curler wave is the hero route, but paddling hard right will get you past it as well. After this is calmer water, but there is one major rapid left. Be on the lookout for Pigs In Space (IV), the biggest single rapid on the Upper Citico. It sneaks up on you quick. The best way to tell that Pigs is coming is this...you will be in calm water, just having finished a class III section above, when downstream you notice the river starts dropping quickly over some ledges. River left will look like the best route, and you'll notice the road will start climbing above the river and there will be huge rocks used as a retaining wall below the road. Unless you're ready to run Pigs In Space, get out to scout before you get into that next section or you're running it blind. The Forest Service road can be used to scout Pigs In Space and to set up safety if necessary. The best way to run this rapid is staying river left, bouncing through the class II-III entrance. Ahead you will notice a very large boulder on the left and a small horizon line. At lower levels you can run the meat, but at higher levels it's recommended you catch a tongue of water between the offset holes. Note that there are two undercuts here and set safety accordingly. Pigs In Space shouldn't be taken lightly when the Citico is cranking, but it can be run safely. After you've gotten through the mess at the top, you still have a powerful hydraulic to punch at the bottom, or paddle hard towards the river left side and avoid it all together.
Shortly downstream from Pigs you will go through Doublecamp Creek campground, which you'll recognize when you go under a bridge. If you want to run the upper section again, Doublecamp makes a good take-out spot.
Again this is followed by class II-III water, with no real consequences (provided you don't flip!). About 3/10ths of a mile or so below Doublecamp you will see a river wide ledge. This is a 4 foot high rapid that can be run about anywhere, scout if you're unsure. Just around the corner from this rapid there was a dangerous low-head dam until it was removed in the fall of 2015. Props to American Rivers, the US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service for taking the dam out! As you continue downstream eventually you'll pass under a bridge, with more class II-III water carrying you downstream. When you get to the second bridge after the dam, you will encounter a small ledge aptly named Takeout Ledge (III) because this is the normal takeout for the Upper Citico. A takeout here makes the run a little over 4 miles. If you continue downstream, more class III water awaits.
From Tellico Plains head east on Highway 165 out of town and at mile 14.4 turn left onto FR 345 towards Indian Boundary. In 1.3 miles you'll make a right turn on FR 35 following the sign for the Citico. This road winds 2.4 miles down to the river. Once you reach the river you can turn to the right where the road crosses the river at a low water bridge. At higher flows water flows over this bridge and level is determined by how much water flows over the top of the bridge. You can continue about 2 miles downstream to Doublecamp Campsite or if you want to add a couple more ledges head 4.5 miles to roadside Campsite 9. Runs continuing downstream are possible and it's easy to pick your access from one of the several roadside pullouts.
The take-out is reached by following 36 down the Citico until it intersects with Forest Service road 26 (about 4 miles down from the put-in.)
It takes about an hour and 45 minutes to two hours to reach the Citico from Knoxville, TN. If it's not running, the Tellico is right back down the road.
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