Crab Orchard Creek - Flat Rock Ford to Oakdale (Emory River)

Crab Orchard Creek, Tennessee, US


Flat Rock Ford to Oakdale (Emory River)

Usual Difficulty II-IV (for normal flows)
Length 13.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 40 fpm
Max Gradient 70 fpm

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03540500 5000 - unknown cfs II-IV 00h50m 1050 cfs (too low)

River Description

See Tennessee Paddle for info on this and other nearby streams.



For more detailed information please click on the link below:

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-12-05 16:45:58


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
December 3 2018 (44 days ago)
clay wrightDetails
Long busy day on Crab Orchard Creek! 1.7' according to someone. We moved FAST for 3 hours solid. If
you haven't run it, 2-3mile class 1-2 paddle in with a log to portage (in flat water), 5-ish miles
of winding ''guess which channel is clean'' class 2-3 boogie building to some fun class 3 with
sweepers to dodge. Several ''push through branches around the log'' or side-lines that might =
short portages at lower flow. After you get to the road-side section, there was a another couple
mile section with fun waves to surf before the Emory. I can see doing just the lower section more
often - less time, get to surf waves without the worry of wood, half day trip. Crab Orchard is best
for experienced paddlers who don't like to scout or portage but like to get MILES of river running
action into their day. I would consider a long boat but the Antix was fun on all the eddy lines,
some splats too. The paddle down to Oakdale was 30 min and boring but plenty of current and short
walk across kudzu to a takeout.
April 25 2017 (631 days ago)
Rharwell (159029)
4-24-17. Put-in at noon. 2.4 feet on the bridge gauge at Flat Rock Ford. Cut-off is 2.5 feet per
Whitewater of the Southern Appalachians by Kirk Eddlemon. A 2-volume must have, awesome book - go
to to buy yours. USGS Emory River at Oakdale was at 18,000 cfs at
noon. Harriman area received 4 inches in the past 2 days and Wartburg area 7 inches. Three massive
waterfalls, a dozen plus smaller waterfalls and numerous micro-streams pumped more and more water
in as the run progressed. The high water and plentiful wood turned this normally II-III+ fabulous
run into a solid IV, with relatively few eddies, always the danger of wood, and a few undercuts to
keep you on your toes. The upper had numerous strainers, several river wide or 2/3rd's across the
run if you took the wrong chute, or went the wrong way around a log jam or an island. Kirk nailed
it with a 2.5 ft at the put-in as the cut-off. For the 3 magnificent waterfalls, we weren't able to
catch an eddy to watch their splendor, but then this was essentially our 1st run on this creek
(last run was 17 years ago at a lower level). The 10.7 mile Crab Orchard Creek section has 9 miles
(yes, 9+ full miles) of continuous, glorious whitewater. At this high level there were a multitude
of drops and moves around boulders, munching holes, and numerous slides. In the lower section there
were gigantic wave trains, crashing waves and hungry holes. Due to how pushy the water was it was a
constant read and run, with little opportunity to stop and get out and scout. In fact we didn't get
out and scout, because where was that eddy when needed? I've heard that at upper levels the
upstream rapids tend to wash out and the run isn't as much fun. All I can say is that at 2.4 ft,
with all of the additional water coming in below on the run, that the rapids were great. The upper
section of this run is lined with thick mt. laurel/rhododendron making any hike out very difficult
at best, and would you even know where to hike to in this remote area? The lower section has some
rural homes and farms along the way. The scenery is fantastic. It took 4.5 hours to run 13.7 miles,
paddling only what was necessary to run the lines, including taking three breaks totaling over 45
minutes. The 3 mile run down the Emory took 20 minutes, without paddling! Wowser. What a wonderful
14th wedding anniversary for Chris and Renee Harwell! BTW - Connie lives at the nice house catty
corner from the take-out bridge in Oakdale. She keeps an eye on the cars, and worries when people
don't return until late at night or are gone for a day or two. She likes to visit with the paddlers
and asks that you leave a note on your car or with her stating what run you're taking and when
you're expected back. That way she'll know when to call for help on your behalf as occasionally
people do get into trouble on the plateau.
March 20 2015 (1398 days ago)
simonkrzych (155765)
3-15-15 .8 on WMA road bridge gauge, ~5000 for emory at oakdale. The flow was low but very doable
for the bottom section. We put on at Pine Orchard/ White Oak Road bridge (upstream river right side
has a small grassy area), we took out at the wma access on Jacks Hill road at the confluence with
the emory. G -canoe/ducky, Ct -ducky /canoe, EH -canoe, SW JJ and DS -raft, KC -kayak, MP -kayak.
Even with the raft this section of river was totally doable. There were numerous fun surf spots
even a few big enough for the raft. There was no worrisome wood on this lower section (but a bunch
on the top half). Lunch next to Mill creek falls rounded out a great day.
October 20 2014 (1549 days ago)
simonkrzych (155765)
10/15/14 crab orchard creek, flat rock ford to oakdale. 7000 cfs on the emory at oakdale gauge. We
put on at the parking area on WMA road and you can see in the picture that we had low flow. We left
our shuttle vehicle under the 299 bridge in oakdale and it seemed like it was an okay thing to do.
you can break the run into sections and access the river at white oak rd/pine orchard rd bridge (we
saw this from river level so i dont know about parking) or downstream where camp austin rd
parallels the the river (easy access just downstream of the dream house on the river with the creek
flowing through). The rapids were a mixture of whites creek, the nantahala, and town creek (AL).
Flat water to start with for a bit and then some good easy rapids and low angle slides. The longest
rapid i remember was in this section and it was a long, wide open slide. Numerous class 2-3 rapids,
even a class 3+ with a sieve on river right. I never encountered a "rock jumble to congested to
run" (sorry Monte Smith) and the river mellows in its mid section with a few pools and some
downtime. After the bridge there are many more class 2-3 rapids, these lack some of the technical
nature of the early section. Mill creek falls is a notable beauty on river left, its worth getting
out of your boat and walking the sort distance up to see. Not long after the falls the creek splits
into channels as it approaches the emory, stay to the right (the river left channel had a few huge
downed trees). The contrast from the tiny crab orchard to the big volume emory is pleasant, even at
lowish flow there were wave trains and moving pools all the way to the take out. Overall this river
is intermediate fun, with over 30 class 2-3 rapids and most can be boat scouted from above. Wood
was a factor throughout the entirety of the run. The wood was more worrisome than any rapid and is
what necessitates intermediate skills. We encountered no less than 10 logs across the whole river,
but we only had to get out of our boats a couple times. This being the first time it has run this
season it will clean up with more rain.
December 8 2013 (1865 days ago)
Ran this yesterday with a Knoxville crew of Russ, Damon, Aaron, and Carl. Our first choice was
Island Creek but not enough water. The most recent AWA comments listed here go back 9 years, but
the strainer notes still sounded familiar. We putin at the concrete TWRA "slab" at the bridge. 1
foot was level, 12,000 to 13,000 and dropping. Two, maybe 3, river-wide strainers in the first 1
mile or so, but easy to see early and you have several options to portage on both river left and
river right. Barbed wire strands on the river right portage area so just be reasonably aware if
wearing dry suit. I can easily see why this is a good intermediate run. The gradient starts off
very slow, then builds slowly, has a few (short) flat sections in the middle, and then finishes
with even more gradient in the last 1.5 to 2 miles. Locals say (see Kirk Eddlemon's post from 2004)
that the last two miles to the Emory (from the church down to the confluence with the Emory) are
fabulous at higher water levels. My thoughts of the run: I recall, perhaps 4 to 5 miles downstream
from putin, one solid class 3 rapid, we'll call it Studebaker Rapid, with a horizon line and
boulders situated to make scouting from the water a bit dicey, so I walked down river right a bit
to get a view. This AWA page has a link to Waldens Ridge Whitewater description with a couple of
photos of this rapid from downstream; the photos are tagged "Photo by Stu Thompson" (Studebaker).
There was another rapid in approx the middle of the run that had a small island upstream of a small
ledge with a large, flat boulder just downstream of the ledge. Wouldn't be a challenging rapid at
all except there was a long running across half of the river at that spot. We eddied-out behind the
small island and grabbed a few small shrubs to hold ourselves in position and ran it river left
side of the hole. This rapid sounded like Allen Brown's comment in Oct 2004-- the very last
sentence; I agree with Allen, "This could really sneak up on you" best defense is have a capable
leader and don't follow too close to the leader. The undercut rock cliff rapids, here and there,
are easy to see from upstream, I think. At this water level an intermediate paddler would, as the
miles go by, be more and more challenged to move back and forth across the channel to choose the
best or safest route all-the-while keeping a weather eye downstream for the next decision/move.I
read someone's online account comparing this to the Nantahala but without all of the Nanny's pools.
I'd agree with that. Beginners beware, you won't often have time to collect your thoughts because
the next move is just downstream and with 8-9 miles you're going to have plenty of chances to miss
a few moves and challenge your combat roll.
December 13 2004 (5147 days ago)
kevin turnerDetails
log jams at beginning of run are clearing out. we had to portage one jam and the second required a
limbo maneuver. the emory gauge was running about 13,000 and the run was fun with lots of class 2/3
stuff. just below the bridge there was a great glassy wave to surf with an access eddy on either
side of the river. we took out a few miles past the bridge and well before the confluence at one of
the public access points so we did not have to deal with any land owner issues.
October 11 2004 (5210 days ago)
Allen BrownDetails
One of my favorite runs. Non-stop class III for 12 miles. There are two danger spots 1.) a couple
of undercut cliff's on river right about 1/2 way down which are easy to miss with some skill at
med. to low water At med. to high water river left opens up & they are fine. 2.)Jack Hill,
landowner who owns both river left & river right of the last mile before the confluence w/
Emory. He is drunk, angry, and thinks a Kayaker stole his chainsaw. ( I was forced to hear the
story after he blocked our car in as we used his land as takout. Yes we had permission from his
wife & offered to pay $5. Apparently, his wife cannot grant permission on his land. Anyway, had
we not been from TN & sworn our alledgence to Jesus Christ he was going to "blow up"
our truck with dynamite he keeps around. Towards the end of the run you will see a pretty side
waterfall on river left. This is the beginning of his land on both sides, so shut up & do not
get out of your boat.) Also as of 09/18/04 there are 3-4 riverwide log jams in the 1st mile which
is the 1 mile flatwater section. Not dangerous, but difficult to get around. Also as of 09/18/04
there is a strainer blocking the right slot of a class III in the middle of the run. The left slot
is fine, but this really sneaks up on you.
January 14 2004 (5481 days ago)
Kirk EddlemonDetails
This run is the best play anywhere when the Emory is at 40,000 and higher.