Island Creek - Catoosa Bridge to Emory River

Island Creek, Tennessee, US


Catoosa Bridge to Emory River

Usual Difficulty III-IV+ (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles

Island Creek

Island Creek
Photo of Jim Strickland by Brad Roberts taken 04/15/02 @ Moderate

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Island Creek near Nemo
virtual-10484 250 - 500 cfs III-IV+ 00h34m ~ 30.9875 cfs (too low)

River Description

Island Creek has been described as "the Gem of the Cumberlands". It is certainly one of the most scenic and continuous runs on the Cumberland Plateau.

Over the last few years, we have made a concerted effort to remove the many strainers that had made the river almost unboatable. We have done this in the most unobtrusive way leaving the river aesthetics intact. However, please use utmost caution!!! Due to pine beetle and ice damage, there are numerous trees both upstream of the put-in and along the run that are awaiting their turn to become a strainer. Therefore, be very alert just after high water. There are a few logs in the creek but they are not in bad spots and no portages are required.  Over the last several years downed trees have been cut up near the end of the run where the last island is located down to the confluence with the Emory. The rapids in this lower part of the creek have historically accumulated wood.  Please use caution to look for any cut-up wood or newly downed wood that might create a safety issue.

Access for the put-in on this lower reach of Island Creek is on Catoosa Road going southeast from the game check station. While the area is controlled by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), the 3/4 mile stretch of Catoosa Road to the low-water bridge put-in at Island Creek has traditionally been open to traffic during managed hunts. The regional TWRA manager for the area has said that the road would remain open to boaters accessing Island Creek during managed hunts.  The area is closed during a deer hunt on December 4-7, 2015.  The Non-quota Turkey Hunt Handout shows that Feb 1 thru March 27, 2015 is a wildlife rest period and access to the WMA is closed to all users and no vehicle access is allowed. April 10-12, 14-16, 18-19 (Young Sportsman Hunt), 21-23, 24-26, 28-30, and May 1-3, 2015 are turkey hunts. During hunting days, the Catoosa WMA access is restricted to all but hunters. There are usually signs posted during hunts and rest periods alerting you that the area and roads are closed to access. There may be a sign at the intersection warning you that the area is open only to Big Game Hunters. Traditionally, the signs have only restricted the Catoosa Road leading west of the game check station. There should only be "STOP" signs on the righthand road leading west up Island Creek towards the Daddy's Creek takeout at Devil's Breakfast Table. If you are uncertain, check at the Obed Wild and Scenic office in Wartburg or with TWRA. TWRA has fined boaters in the past for illegal access and parking at river accesses in the WMA such as the Devil's Breakfast Table parking area during restricted times. The fine has been as much as $142 per person. TWRA Contact: Jim Lane (931)456-2479. Please provide comments on any access issues you find.

The first quarter to half mile is fairly tame just stay to the river left at the islands to avoid any strainers. Work your way immediately back to the left to get back to the left side of the island. Avoid the right side of the small island as it leads into a rocky blockage. If you end up there exit the far right. The left side of this blockage is not advised as it has a 90 degree right turn that has an undercut in it. The action picks up in the next 3/4 mile with several rapids with small ledges. At about 1 1/2 miles, you will reach a horizon line as the river makes a left turn with a rock wall on the river right. This is the most difficult rapid "Compound Fracture". You can scout on the island above where the river constricts to form the rapid. If you do not feel confident, this is a good one to walk! The best portage is on the river right along the old railroad bed on the rock wall. Some of the rocks in this rapid are from the creation and demise of the old narrow-gauge railroad on river right and are jagged and spaced to thwart a clean line. Also be aware of the potential undercut at the bottom on river left; although I have never seen anyone get in trouble there. The usual run is down the right center angling right. Several fun rapids are below including "The Slide" and "Rockhouse". "Rockhouse" has one of the neatest surfing experiences in the super large undercut on river left in the semi-dark.  There is a new obstacle at the bottom of Rockhouse rapid.  A large rectangular block stone on the river right side at the bottom creates a pinning potential.  The top of the stone is near the water level so look for the telltale wave.  If the water is high enough stay left.  If not, your going to have to squeeze between the pinning block and the large boulder sticking out of the water blocking the right side.


Near the end of the run there is a large pool with an old RR bridge pier just above an island.  Either side of the island can be run depending on wood that collects here.  This rapid has been changing.  I recommend running the left side of the island at lower levels.  Near the bottom of the left-side rapid you must cut back right quickly to avoid being pushed into an undercut rock near the left bank.  The right side is open at higher levels.  The right side of the island has a shallow entrance and less water than the left side but is a fun rapid with a nice boof/slide drop.  Both sides of this island are historically very bad debris traps and more wood will collect from all the dead wood from pine beetles and weather damage.  The stretch from the last island down to the confluence with the Emory was cleared of strainers from 2007-2010 but boaters will need to pay attention for years looking for loose wood and new wood that can cause strainers.  The cut-up logs will push on to the Emory after a big rain but watch for logs particulary in the last stretch of Island Creek.


For more information please click on the link below:

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-12-08 02:17:50


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.0Put-In GaugeN/APutin Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Put-In Gauge (Class N/A)

Island Creek Gauge

Island Creek Gauge
Photo by Brandon Hughett taken 10/15/14

Here's how to read the Put-In Gauge.

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