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.
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.
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.
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.
Maryville gauge is approximately 14.5 miles below put-in in Townsend.
Permits are not required for this reach.
From the takeout in Melrose, take U.S. 321 toward Townsend, TN. This will go from 4 lane down to 2 lane and then back to 4 lane. About 3/4 mile past Kinzel Springs (where 321 widens to 4 lane) you will turn left into a public parking area. This is right across the highway from the Apple Valley Country Store. There are some picnic tables and a nice access location beside the river.
The Rapid at medium flow
Scenery along the Little River below Townsend
Partially demolished dam below Walland
Below Kinzel Springs 2
Partially Demolished Dam Below Walland
Downstream of Walland
Bluffs Upstream of Walland
Below Kinzel Springs
Little River in Townsend
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