Little - 4. Townsend to Dam at Melrose

Little, Tennessee, US


4. Townsend to Dam at Melrose

Usual Difficulty II (for normal flows)
Length 8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 15 fpm


Photo by Forrest Easterly taken 04/02/16

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03498500 450 - 3000 cfs II 01h14m 14.9 cfs (too low)

River Description

This is a nice stretch of river with short class II rapids interspersed between long quiet pools. There is adequate parking at the put-in (at public park across Hwy 321 from Apple Valley Country Store) and a TVA boat ramp at the takeout (at old mill dam on Hwy 321 near Melrose). You can put-in at the "Y" in the park which adds about 5 miles to the run but be aware there is a dam at about river mile 33.5 (TopoZone) that must be portaged. There is a warning sign on river left as you approach the dam at the Melrose takeout, but pay attention.

Also there are the remains of a dam about 3/4 mile below Walland (about river mile 23, TopoZone). About 2/3 of the dam has been demolished (part remains on river right). This is best run at extreme river left at higher flows but be careful as there is potential for dangerous hydraulics at very high flows.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-07-19 23:04:49


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.
May 17 2017 (611 days ago)
Paddled two stretches of this section in April 2017. Day one in my WW kayak at approx 900cfs; first
time floating this section. Day two in my open canoe Esquif Pocket Canyon, me and my 70 pound dog
at about 800cfs. To be clear, I am a class IV kayaker. I agree with the others that this would be a
routine run for anyone comfortable on the Nantahala, the Hiwassee, the Lower Green, the Middle
Tellico, the Tuck, the Lower Pigeon. There were no rapids likely to "sneak up on you." The rapid
below the pedestrian bridge near Kinzel Springs will not surprise you. The rapid below the bridge
at Walland (not far downstream of the Chilhowee Inn bed & breakfast) will also not surprise you
because, well, you'll have that bridge to warn you it's not too far ahead. The road noise is a bit
disappointing, but the scenery is nice. I spoke to some folks at the Townsend, TN "Visitor Center"
who definitely reminded me not to put-in at "The Wye" upstream in the smokies because the land
owner of the first "old mill dam" reacts very strongly to any trespassers. The Visitor Center
people suggested that the two tubing companies near the US321 bridge in downtown Townsend might be
willing to let someone launch from their site and possibly, maybe, possibly even park a car if
tourist levels are low.
July 19 2016 (913 days ago)
tellicoee (154867)
To accommodate more vehicles and better, public access, the put-in location for this reach of the
Little River is located at a public picnic area in Townsend. This is directly across Hwy 321 from
the Apple Valley Country Store. Park on the opposite site of the parking lot from the boardwalk
going down to the river. The City of Townsend prefers the picnic area by the boardwalk (like right
at it) to be for elderly/handicapped. Please respect their wishes by parking a little upstream from
the access boardwalk and simply carry the boats and gear down to the river access by the
handicapped picnic tables.
July 17 2016 (915 days ago)
tellicoee (154867)
The Little River below Townsend and upstream of the mill dam at Melrose (along hwy 321 below
Walland) is a great class I-II section of river within close driving distance to
Knoxville/Maryville/Oak Ridge/Sevierville. From the launch site in Townsend, downstream to the mill
dam (do NOT paddle near/over the dam), there are short, class II rapids/shoals separated by long,
quiet pools of gently flowing water. A few rapids could be considered class II+ at levels above
2,000 cfs. This section runs best in the Spring and Winter, with Summer and Fall runs possible with
ample rain in the Great Smoky Mountains. Minimum recommended flow is 500 cfs on the Maryville
gauge. Boaters may opt for "extreme low flow" levels of down to 250 cfs, but expect to put your
river reading skills to the test to find the deeper channels. This reach of the Little River is
paralleled by the scenic road "Old Walland Highway" therefore access in case of emergency is
possible. Please respect the rights of the property owners. From Townsend, past Camp Wesley Woods,
and down to the Foothills Parkway bridge, there are several easy class II rapids and shoals, the
largest being just below Kinzel Springs. Here the river widens and is covered with rocks and
boulders and is rather shallow and requires somewhat complex maneuvering at lower levels to
navigate successfully. Below the shoals, there are a few smaller "rock garden" rapids with boulders
located mid-river requiring basic skills to navigate safely. One of the major dangers on this
stretch are "strainers", which are trees that have fallen into the river. Stay AWAY from them, they
are very dangerous. As far as islands on this section, the best rule of thumb (for this section) is
to stay in the middle or where most of the water is going. Just pay attention for strainers or
logjams as this section can get huge from torrential rains in the Great Smoky Mountains. Just past
the Foothills Parkway bridge, another rock garden rapid entices the novice to maneuver around and
practice eddy catching or ferries in good moving current. Approaching Walland, you will notice the
large, scenic bluffs located on river right at an L-shaped bend in the river. Right as you paddle
by Walland, you will pass under two bridges back-to-back, one being permanently closed to vehicle
traffic. On river left there is a store/gas station with snacks, drinks, and picnic tables if you
need to eat or stretch. Below Walland, you will navigate through some class II shoals with some
maneuvering required at lower water levels to find the chutes of deeper water. A pool of water with
small gravel bars is next for about 100 yards until you reach the partially demolished dam below
Walland. This is not the dam where the takeout is, but is located at the start to fast water
leading into a rapid called "The Rapid." The last rapid or shoal of any fame on this section is
called "The Rapid" and it is located downstream of Walland and just upstream of the small lake
created by the mill dam at the takeout. At levels above 2,000 cfs, this rapid moves from a class II
to a II+ but is still pretty straightforward. Swimmers take note to always keep your feet up if you
swim during this rapid as there are large boulders underwater just below this one. The lake created
by Peery's mill dam at the takeout is roughly 7/10 of a mile long. Stay left after the bridge at
Melrose, as stated, there is a sign warning about the dam, so pay attention. Takeout on river left.