Difficulty III-IV
Length 5.5 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 02/11/2020 9:38 pm

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. 

To know more about this creek 

 Below is a Dropbox Link to the WaldensRidgeWhiteWater Guidebook


Compliments of Mark Cumnock 

Rapid Descriptions

Don't put in at Hwy 68

Class - N/A Mile - -3.4

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

Turtletown Creek

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The better access point.

Hollywood Bowl (First Rapid)

Class - III+ Mile - 1

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

This rapid is rather long with several pools and ledges.

Wu (Second Rapid )

Class - III+ Mile - 1.5

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

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

The Narrows

Class - III+ Mile - 3.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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.


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Teresa Gryder
8 months ago

I'm told that there will be 550 cfs in the streambed "until further notice" due to repairs, however I cannot find the website where this is announced. We ran part of this section yesterday at 550 and really enjoyed it. Class III is a realistic rating at low water, though this was not anywhere near as low as you could go. We launched below Hollywood Bowl by way of the steep trail from a 4-car pullout. We roped our boats down the first part because all the freshly fallen leaves were slippery. Hollywood looked IV-ish from below. The existing writeup on this section says it is reminiscent of section III of the Chattooga but I disagree. It is more like a Cumberland Plateau run with ample lovely sandstone, rather than the hard striped schist typical of the Chattooga. The Narrows does have some potholing in the walls and the Chattooga is riddled with potholes. We were amused to discover that in the slow water upstream from the Appalachia power plant input we could the surf compression waves and make headway going upstream. We saw a lot of Ruth's Golden Aster (endangered) on the rocks at one of our stops. The forest is mixed deciduous and has great colors in the fall. We also saw a mimosa/Albizia (introduced) growing at the water line. The shrubs growing in the water are alders and they are not obstructing the main channels. The main negative is the long gravel shuttle. We took out at the put-in for the class II run (less than a mile below the powerhouse and on river right) because we've heard that the gate at the powerhouse is sometimes closed, and that paddlers have sometimes gotten locked in behind the gate. If you plan to use the powerhouse as your takeout and the gate is locked, you just added nearly an hour of gravel driving to your day to take a vehicle back to the other takeout. If your car gets locked in at the powerhouse you are a long way from anywhere and your best option is probably to boat out to a telephone and get someone to pick you up. There's an effort to get releases on this run and recommend that those releases be scheduled in July-August, when the region is typically dry. It would further be really nice to have clear and accurate information about when the powerhouse takeout gate will be open and when it closes. Overall a lovely run and the long shuttle will be shortened by good gate info. One last thing. Castillo's Mexican in Etowah is good.

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Matthew Haughee
7 years ago

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.

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Brandon Hughett
9 years ago

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.

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Alex Zendel
9 years ago

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.

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Matt Witt
10 years ago

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!

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16 years 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.

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Robert Maxwell
16 years ago

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.

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17 years 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.

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17 years 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 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.

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17 years 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.

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17 years 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.


No Gage

Gage Descriptions

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.

05/13/03 1275.90 2559 6622 4063 t
05/14/03 1276.71 2552 6604 4052 w
05/15/03 1276.62 2560 6477 3917 t
05/16/03 1277.14 2555 5153 2598 f
05/17/03 1277.69 2536 3542 1006 s
05/18/03 1277.16 2529 3534 1005 s
05/19/03 1279.04 2525 3007 482 m


Directions Description

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. 

No Accident Reports




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AW Launches Hiwassee Dries (TN/NC) Flow Survey

Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater has long had an interest in restoring flows to the 13-mile long, biologically diverse Hiwassee River Dries. American Whitewater is gathering information on the recreational, hydrological, and ecological attributes of the river in order to create a science-based vision for a restored Hiwassee Dries. We have created an online survey to hone in on the recreational flow preferences of paddlers who have run the river. Ultimately this will help us create proposals for flow restoration that meet ecological and recreational goals in an integrated manner. If you have paddled the Dries, please take just a few minutes and fill out this survey.

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TVA to Undertake Integrated Resource Plan - Comments Needed

Kevin Colburn

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.

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Hiwassee Dries (TN) to Run: TVA Alerts Paddlers (updated)

Kevin Colburn

TVA has alerted AW that the Hiwassee Dries would be running at around 1600 cfs from 10 am on Saturday February 7th until the following wednesday.  THANKS for the flow information TVA!  AW requested that this flow information be made available in the fall of 2003 and we are very pleased that TVA has provided it.   

Kevin Colburn


Teresa Gryder


mark cumnock


Paul Martzen


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1213236 07/09/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1213841 10/30/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1213840 10/30/19 Kevin Colburn updated name
1213875 11/11/19 Teresa Gryder updated description
1214352 02/11/20 mark cumnock updated description
1205431 11/04/15 Paul Martzen further directions description
1209001 02/27/18 Kevin Colburn updated description
1205429 11/04/15 Paul Martzen Changed put in to Turtletown Creek. adjusted mileages and estimated coordinates of rapids.
1191546 12/29/04 n/a cleaned up format to make easier to read added link
1205430 11/04/15 Paul Martzen added description on directions tab.
1209003 02/27/18 Kevin Colburn description
1212079 04/29/19 Kevin Colburn updated name