Hiwassee - 1. Turtletown Creek to Appalachia Powerhouse

Hiwassee, Tennessee, US


1. Turtletown Creek to Appalachia Powerhouse (Dries)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 5.5 Miles
Avg. Gradient 32 fpm
Max Gradient 70 fpm

First Rapid, Drys

First Rapid, Drys
Photo of Brad Roberts by Kevin Miller taken 05/17/03 @ 1000+ cfs

River Description

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. 

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-02-27 16:19:55

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
-3.4Don't put in at Hwy 68N/AHazard Photo
0.0Turtletown CreekN/APutin
1.0Hollywood Bowl (First Rapid)III+Waterfall Playspot Photo
1.0Hollywood BowlN/AHazard Playspot Photo
1.5Wu (Second Rapid )III+Hazard Playspot Photo
2.8Long Wave TrainII+Playspot Photo
3.5The NarrowsIII+

Rapid Descriptions

Don't put in at Hwy 68 (Class N/A, Mile -3.4)

Hiawassee Dries - Trees

Hiawassee Dries - Trees
Photo of Will Reeves by Kevin Miller taken 05/17/03

This goes on and on and on for about 3 miles.

Turtletown Creek (Class N/A)

The better access point.

Hollywood Bowl (First Rapid) (Class III+, Mile 1.0)

Eric Paysen on Hiawassee Dries

Eric Paysen on Hiawassee Dries
Photo of Eric Paysen by Kevin Miller taken 05/17/03

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.

Hollywood Bowl (Class N/A, Mile 1.0)

Will Reeves on Hiawassee Dries

Will Reeves on Hiawassee Dries
Photo of Will Reeves by Kevin Miller taken 05/17/03

This rapid is rather long with several pools and ledges.

Wu (Second Rapid ) (Class III+, Mile 1.5)

2nd Rapid on the Drys

2nd Rapid on the Drys
Photo of Eric Paysen by Kevin Miller taken 05/17/03 @ 1000+ cfs

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 Wave Train (Class II+, Mile 2.8)

Wave train on the drys

Wave train on the drys
Photo of Will Reeves by Kevin Miller taken 05/17/03 @ 1000+ cfs

Long cool wavetrain rapid. Big waves. Lots of surfing.

The Narrows (Class III+, Mile 3.5)

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
December 1 2016 (567 days ago)
sprayer (158704)
I have run this section lots of times. 7000+-cfs being the highest and 550cfs being the lowest. At
both levels this is a very runable and fun run. At the higher levels 4000-6500 there is a very good
play wave right before coker creek comes in with eddie service. ( At all levels a play boat is fine
) Hollywood bowl has a large tree at bottom of main drop right now that should be scouted at higher
levels. I would say 4500+ this run is closer to a class five run even though a class five boater
will have no issues. I have seen a few walk out after reading all this stuff above and going in at
a high level. At the 550 - 2500 range the river is very friendly and i think all beginners could
take a stab at it.
May 12 2013 (1866 days ago)
Matthew Haughee (154977)
WARNING: 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.
March 23 2011 (2646 days ago)
Brandon HughettDetails
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.
March 12 2011 (2657 days ago)
Alex ZendelDetails
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.
July 31 2010 (2882 days ago)
Doug DavisDetails
Why doesnt someone update the map page and switch the put-in to the safer Turtletown confluence?
June 11 2010 (2932 days ago)
mewitt21 (151270)
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!
February 15 2004 (5239 days ago)
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.
February 9 2004 (5245 days ago)
Robert MaxwellDetails
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.
May 21 2003 (5509 days ago)
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.
May 18 2003 (5512 days ago)
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

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.
May 16 2003 (5514 days ago)
TN Upper Hiwassee Huge Fun & Water today New
Forum: BoaterTalk
Date: May 17 2003, 3:53 GMT
From: oletncreek

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.
May 16 2003 (5514 days ago)
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.


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