The Hiwassee Dries is a big beautiful run that is almost always dewatered by TVA's Apalachia hydropower project. Think a big-water version of Section III of the Chattooga, just over the hill from the Ocoee. An old railroad line shares the river corridor, but the scenery is most often wild. The water is crystal clear, and there are plenty of waves and deep eddy lines to play with.
The run is only available when the Hiwassee Dam is spilling due to high rainfall or more likely due to maintenance shut downs at the power plant, which happen once a year or so. There is no great way to tell if the dam is spilling except to keep an eye out for a notice on the TVA website. At high water (>3,000) you can expect big waves and holes and lots of fun boils. At moderate flows (1,000-3,000) expect clean deep lines and moderate sized features. Its been run and is fun at least as low as 800.
The 70+ year old hydropower diversion has allowed trees to grow in the riverbed. Above Turtletown Creek the riverbed is essentially a forest, with dangerous and miserable strainers throughout the channel. Below Turtletown Creek trees and shrubs are seldom an issue for paddlers, but caution is advised of course. Because of this: DO NOT put in at Hwy 68.
The biggest rapid by a long shot on the Dries is Hollywood Bowl, about a mile below Turtletown Creek. Scout from river left and chose a route through the 3-4 ledges with multiple lines through each depending on flow. Shortly after Hollywood Bowl is Wu, a big wave train leading to two offset features that are rocks, pourovers, or holes depending on the flow. Thread the needle, sneak right, or go for a boof at Wu. After Wu are a dozen or so easier but nice class III rapids that offer up some fun technical moves and surfing opportunities. The stretch marked on the topo maps as the narrows has some suprisingly boily funny water. The recovery pools are quite large between almost all of the drops.
You can put in at the confluence of Turtletown Creek if you have a relatively high clearance 4WD vehicle. If not, hike the steep trail down from where the shuttle road first nears the river on a sharp bend. Hike a bit upstream from here to reach Hollywood Bowl. Don't put in above Turtletown Creek (at HWY 68): it is swift flatwater and completely clogged with trees and strainers. From Turtletown Creek to the Apalachia Powerhouse is 5.7 miles at an average of 40 fpm. Using the Turtletown put-in makes for an 8.5 mile shuttle, all on dirt roads. Be aware the roads can get rather muddy after a lot of rain. Take out downstream of the Apalachia Powerhouse on river left but be sure to park and stay very out of the way, and park outside of the yellow gate. This site has been closed in the past to parking and clear vehicular access to the powerhouse for TVA is mandatory at all times.
The Dries is home to several endangered and globally rare species that are likely underwater when you are paddling. Avoid disturbing vegetation on the bedrock islands and outcrops both above and below the water.
American Whitewater is very interested in restoring flows to the Hiwassee Dries. We appreciate paddlers documenting their runs with high quality photos and video, and noting flow volumes if known.
This goes on and on and on for about 3 miles.
The better access point.
A multi ledge rapid with any number of routes. The picture shows the bottom half of the rapid. There is a similar sized ledge in the background. After running this ledge, there is a fast run out thru a couple of holes.
This rapid is rather long with several pools and ledges.
A long western style wave train with some hidden holes. At the bottom was a 10 foot tall boulder. At this level the guys coming down in the back of the pack were able to boof off the rock. Those of us who probed it were afraid it was going to make a huge hole. With a bit more water this rock would make a huge riverwide hole.
Long cool wavetrain rapid. Big waves. Lots of surfing.
The narrows starts by punching a large hole. This is more interesting because both walls appeared to be undercut. Then you have a half mile of cliffed out swirly boiling water. Expect the unexpected. This water tried to stern squirt a Prijon Tornado a couple of times. Or just see the classic Neely cartoon of funny water.
DO NOT TRY TO TAKE OUT ON THE RIVER LEFT SIDE OF THE RUN. USE THE REGULAR HIWASSEE PUT-IN AS YOUR TAKE-OUT. We tried to use river left, but the road was gated before the final turn to the plant below. We sent two people down to see if they wouldn't mind us parking there. They were less then pleased to see us there at all, much less park. Also, after a rain, the FS road is very muddy and almost impassible in spots. This makes the river left take-out a NO GO! Use the regular Hiwassee put-in on river right as your take-out. I would also suggest, if there has been a recent rain, avoiding the FS roads AS much as possible and taking the very long shuttle around the mountain. Again, if I havn't made myself clear. There is NO TAKE-OUT ON RIVER LEFT.
At 1000 cfs this was a fun run (1000 cfs in the river is 3000 cfs from the dam). All in all it was easier than the Ocoee with fewer rapids and had plenty of trees. The rapids were not huge and certainly had nothing of Gauly stature or even resembled the Grand Canyon. I thought it was a fun class III run with some alternate class IV lines in certain drops. I agree with the posting that this is a one or twice in a boating career run, because other things are running. I have seen this run with water in it probably 6-12 times in a decade plus boating career.
Access on river left is a hit or miss thing. We had no problem getting to the river on the left at the public parking lot near the power plant.
From: Gomer@EmpireStateOfTheSouth m
at the flow under the TN Hwy 68 bridge (or Czech the TVA site to see if the Appalachia dam is spilling). Do not put in at the dam or Hwy 68 since you'll be boat-bushwhacking class I or II for many miles. The best put-in is off the USFS road that runs between Turtletown and Reliance (TN). In Turtletown follow the USFS signs that direct you to Appalachia Powerhouse and Big Lost Creek campground. The put-in will be the point that you first come down to the river. Be sure to hike up the railroad tracks for 1/4 mile for the first good rapid. The take-out will be the Appalachia Powerhouse (follow signs). The rapids are Ocoee-like but not as numerous. Of course there have been some high flows lately--15K last Thursday--so make sure you are comfortable on the Ocoee at similar levels. One place of note is called The Narrows--a wall of broken potholes. Although not a challenging rapid, the strange currents through there make it interesting.
It runs more often than the once in ten years you mention; I'd say a half dozen or so times a year after heavy winter rains. It's a run you'll do once or twice then move on to other things when the conditions are such that it's up. Other creeks in the area are Coker, Turtletown, Big Lost Creek, and Wolf Creek.
Also, it's also the only other location--the Ocoee being the other--where the rare Ruthie's Golden Aster is found.
Hope this helps.
Finally got on this one Saturday May 17, 2003. According to the TVA page the damn was spilling over 5000 cfs. This made for some fun whitewater. We made the mistake of putting in at the TN 68 picnic area. This lead to three miles of ducking thru and under branches vines, surfing off rootball pillows, and finding the occasional dead end of trees. Its was kinda neat for a bit, then got really old going thru all of the trees. Next time I'm using the Turtletown put-in.
Finally we came to the first drop. A riverwide falls of sorts. Its not really a vertical falls, but a really wide broken ledge with a number of routes, and a couple of strong holes to be avoided. This was best scouted from the center rocks. We ran the right of center lines. There was a cool boof on the bottom right. There was also a hero line on the left thru a solid hole.
Below this was a solid class three wavetrain with a few hidden holes. Then a cool rapid with a big hole at the top, a narrow channel at the bottom, and moving van sized boulder in midstream. From above it was scary looking, and with a bit more water would turn into a massive riverwide hole. After this things calmed down for a bit. Lots of class 2+ boogie water, kind of like the upper ocoee above the olympic course. Then we came to the quarter mile of rapids that was full of the boiling, percolating water...very cool stuff. Textbook Neeley style funny water that tried to squirt my tornado a few times. After this was a long wave train on the right with a lot of good surfing.
The last big rapid is marked by an island mid stream. The hero line is on the right, but one in our group spent some time in an undercut on that side. The right line was still a strong class 3/4 reminicent of double Z on the new.
All in all a cool run, with some of the best big water rapids in the SE this side of west virginia. Most of the ten big rapids are better than anything found on the ocoee.
I was at the Turtletown confluence with the Hiawassee Dries a few weeks back. A construction crew is working on the water diversion tube there. Due to their construction equipment and scafolding, they are locking the gate at 5pm in the evenings when they go home from work so don't get locked in. They said the gate would be wide open all the time once their construction is done.
I think this run is defintely worth checking out at least once. The wicked, but easily avoidable, boils in the Narrows were unlike any I've ever seen before. Hollywood Bowl is a long, farily complex rapid with a potentially nasty ending. The next rapid produced a swimmer. Those are by far the two biggest rapids on the run. Everything else was III-III+ at 2300 cfs (flow in the dries, the powerplant was broken down and offline)
It looks like there is a bridge over the river just below the Appalachia Powerhouse on the USGS topos on this page. There is a bridge, but it's only a foot bridge - no cars.
The gate down to the powerhouse (river left) was open - we parked there and took out without incident. Using the put-in for the Lower (traditional) Hiwassie makes for a very long shuttle, but it sounds like you may not have a choice depending on what kind of mood the gate-keepers are in.
I ran this back in the summer of 2005 after a period a heavy rains. Putting in at the 68 bridge did lead to quite a bit of weaving through a flooded forest. After that, the river opened up into some class II/III boogie water until Hollywood Bowl. I would advise boaters to scout this one as it is definitly full on Class IV. There are two possible routes. I chose the far left option because it looked the least sketchy and ended up getting windowshaded a good bit in the hole. Before I could roll back up I got my head busted by an undercut rock and had to get stiches later. I was in a playboat and something bigger would probably be fine but watch out on that one. After that there were probably another three or four miles of boogie including the awesome sight of paddling through the narrows. I would recommend this seldom run adventure to anyone but I would advise you to use caution. Some of the rapids out there are long and complex and especially on Hollywood Bowl or the lead in a swim could be bad. I hope this helps!
When putting in at the Turtletown creek confluence be aware the train track is active and runs regularly. Do not cross the train bridge to put in. There is not enough time to get off the bridge if the train comes around the blind curve.
TN Upper Hiwassee Huge Fun & Water today New
Date: May 17 2003, 3:53 GMT
Tn area has just last week had a 30 yr flood so chk AWA page on Upper Hiwassee and dam was ripping. This is a drys section like on the NEW River in WVA(water bypasses stream bed in a pipe).I had run this section in the 90's a few times but never this BIG!(FRIDAY)! The first big rapid I call Hollywood Bowl has a big ledge drop hole @ the bottom w/ alot on pullover holes on the horseshoe shaped ledges as they drop down. We found a rock eddy to get out an scout @ top in the middle below an island. The must make moves worked for me but my less experienced friend washed over a pullover and then dead right into the hole @ bottom. His sub7 backendered up and flipped and he swam in the long wave train. I picked my way around and cheated the bottom hole in the woods river right so I could chase his bod and boat.After recovery the rest of the run is boat scoutable and the shore is in the trees anyway so no shore to walk on. Unlike the regular Hiwassee this section squeezes down from 100yrs wide to less than 20yrds in some rapids so all kinds of boils and funny water swirling around. Cool but scary like the bottom of rapids on the GRAND CANYON. A section called the NARROWS has walls on both sides and very funny water w/ a hole to trick by.
By all means run this section - avoid HELLHOLE and see a new run w/ big water that only happens every 30 years. The OCOEE and such will be there all summer!
Oh the main pain is the shuttle- LONG! We had my girlfriend run shuttle so we didn't have to go back for truck.The forest service road off hwy 30 towards Ocoee to Lost creek campground is the most direct route but the 17 miles took 1 1/2 hr to run from bottom to top. You can go around to Ocoee-turtletown but very long.
2 years ago
by Jonathan "sprayer" Campbell
Visual at the TN 68 bridge. Takes a major rain event and water spilling over the dam. What usually happens is someone is driving over TN 68 on the way to the Tellico and catches it.
Go to the following link for dam release information. Look for the Total Discharge minus the Turbine Discharge. If the dam is spilling the run has water. Total Discharges of 3500-5000 cfs are probably optimal. Releases below 2500 cfs are diverted thru the Apalachia Powerhouse. Apalachia Dam release info or TVA link to dam release info.
If the lake level is 1275 feet or higher, there is a good chance water will spill. Max lake level is 1280.
Permits are not required for this reach.
From the Appalachian Powerhouse drive east, first on Smith Creek Rd, then on McFarland Rd. At about 6 miles the road runs along the Hiwassee. In a half mile the road turns right up Wolf Creek. At about 7.5 miles look for a left turn onto Turtletown Adit Rd. This road leads back to the river in about a mile and a half.
Turtletown Adit Rd does not show up on this map, so the mapping software has placed the put in marker on McFarland road at a point nearest in a direct line to the actual put in. Because of this, the put in marker on the map below is about 1/3 mile short of the junction with Turtletown Adit Rd.
Bottom of Wu
Top of Wu
Hollywood Bowl from Below
Top of Hollywood Bowl
Bottom of Hollywood Bowl
Last drop of Hollywood Bowl
3000cfs Hollywood Bowl
3000cfs Coker Creek wave train
in the middle of the rapids
Wave train on the drys
2nd Rapid on the Drys
Hiawassee Drys Whitewater
First Rapid, Drys
Will Reeves on Hiawassee Dries
Kevin Miller on Hiawassee Dries
Eric Paysen on Hiawassee Dries
Hiawassee Dries - Trees
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
TVA is gathering information from stakeholders on how to meet the needs of the Tennessee Valley and its residents for energy, environment, natural resource management and recreation. As users of public lands and waters, please tell TVA what you think. Please submit your comments by August 14, 2009.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!