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Difficulty III-IV
Length 4 Miles
Flow Range 3.50 - 10.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 21 minutes ago 2.31 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 10/19/2015 7:19 pm

River Description

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 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.

Nearby runs also include...
Bald River

For more information please click on the link below:



Rapid Descriptions


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David Bazemore
6 years ago

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Kirk Eddlemon
14 years ago

The gradient figures are right, but from the putin to just below pigs in space, which is what the reach is, is not 4 miles. It is 1.65 miles. Big difference.

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paul hubbard
14 years ago

on Jan 31 2006. I was driving by after a low flow tellico and saw trees that had fallen across 3 sections above pigs in space. Check from car and walk if needed. Still fun no matter what

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Ken and Fran Strickland
15 years ago

The first significant rapid (large boulder on the left) has recently been referred to as "Boulder Dash" (a good name, BTW). However, the name "Gorilla Face" has been in use by some of us since the late '80s. This name is derived from the gorilla profile seen in the rock when viewed from the road. Also, the rapid above White Rabbit in the noticible right turn in the river (right and left lines as well as a middle boof if the water's high enough) has been called "Go Ask Alice" for several years now.


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Michael Stephenson
16 years ago

We ran Citico at low water this weekend (water below the top of the bridge). It's still a lot of fun at this level. I just wanted to point out that there is a bad pinning spot in the far right slot of the 3-slot rapid at this level. There is a piton rock below the slot center or left-center. At the low water level, the tendency if trying to boof off the rock is to get up on the rock and get turned back left and into the piton rock. Quite a few of us pinned their briefly this weekend. I personally pinned and was stuck head down (but with a big air pocket) until my friends could yank me out (yikes!). Be careful on this one at low water.

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17 years ago

Put-in level info from boatertalk:

* If the water is lapping over the bridge, it is a low doable level.

* 10-12 inches over the bridge is ideal for a fast fun ride(roughly 1500 cfs on the tellico gauge, if the rain fall is spread evenly throughout that region)

* 24 inches over the bride is fast, hole dodging action.

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17 years ago

Lots of people are speaking highly of the half mile hike above the put-in to where the north fork comes in and floating down from there.

Gage Descriptions

There is no direct gauge for the Upper Citico.
The best indication is to check the gauge for the Upper Tellico.
If the Tellico is cranking (1000 cfs+ or 3.5 feet and rising on the gauge) then the Citico is probably running.
It also depends on where the rain falls, so use this as an indicator only.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




article main photo

USGS Tellico Gauge: The Rest of the Story

Joe Greiner

The new USGS Tellico River gauge is now online. How did it get there? Read about how American Whitewater and boaters like you worked to get this important gauge reported in realtime and onto the internet.

Daniel Fosbinder


mark cumnock


Kevin Colburn


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191523 05/12/08 Daniel Fosbinder n/a
1198239 09/27/10 mark cumnock added link
1205358 10/19/15 Kevin Colburn noted dam removal
1202995 12/18/14 Daniel Fosbinder