This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III
Length 8.9 Miles
Flow Range 500 - 5000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 185 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 08/08/2005 1:39 pm

River Description

Five miles of flatwater then 4 miles of II-III

Put In: at the U.S. Hwy 27 bridge between Onieda, TN & Wartburg, TN or more specifically between Robins, TN & Helenwood, TN (there is an access road on river right just past the bridge that takes you under the bridge to a concrete put in ramp with lots of parking)

Take Out: The take out is the same as the Put In for the Big South Fork if you are running from the confluence down. From the put in travel north on US Hwy 27 for about 5-6 miles & turn left at the Subway onto Niggs Creek Rd. Cross the RR tracts & take your immediate left onto Detour Rd. aka Helenwood Detour Rd. Go about a 1 mile & turn right onto Airport Rd. Take the left split at the Airport onto John Long Rd. The airport will be on your right and the road will be gravel as you go into the gorge. You will also pass a cemetery on the way. Eventually the road will end at the parking lot. (Taking out at the confluence requires carrying your boat uphill about a 1/4 mile)

Distance: 8.9 Miles (US Hwy 27 to Confluence with Clear Fork)

Description: This run gets overlooked due to the fact the the first five miles are flatwater and the water quality is suspect. However people are overlooking the bottom 4 miles which have about 12 Class II and 2-4 Class III. The first five miles are completely flat and are barely broken up by a few class I shoals. Finally, rock banks instead of mud banks and obvious gradient signals the start of the whitewater section. A few class II's lead to an obvious horizon line and the first Class III. This rapid is a 2-3 foot ledge on the left 2/3's that has pin rocks all over the landing zone and a spiral hole at one point that feeds an undercut. The middle has a pourover boof move and the right is a large shoal. Scout this rapid as it has undercuts & pin rocks on the leftside(see photo). Several more Class II's takes you to the 2nd Class III, WaBash Cannonball, the biggest rapid on this section. This rapid constricts the 70 foot wide river to about 30 feet causing a flume that gets pretty pushy. 1/2 way down the rapid is a large wave/hole that must be punched followed by another ledge just before several megaboulder pillow rocks to dodge.(see photo) This rapid marks the start of the last two miles which is where most of the gradient is lost. Immediately below is a Class II surfing ledge followed by another Class II + ledge. This ledge is marked by a huge pile (20-30 feet tall) of small boulders on river left that chokes the channel. The rapid has a tree blocking 3/4 of the ledge from river left.(see photo) There are a handful of more Class II's down to the take out at the confluence with the Clear Fork.

If you look at a topo map it looks like the last 2 miles could be accessed from John Long Rd. a 1/4 mile through the woods from the cemetery. Never tried it, but it would shorten the shuttle to a mile & would cut out the flat water.

Rapid Descriptions

5 Miles of Flatwater

Class - Mile - 5
This is typical of Miles 1 - 5

First Class III Ledge

Class - III Mile - 5.7
River right is a shoal and is not shown in the photo. Middle and left is this 2-3 ft ledge. The pourover in the middle (left in photo) is a nice drop. River left (right in the photo)is peppered with pin rocks throughout. There is a nasty hole on the far river left (can't see it in the photo) that feeds into the undercut rock in the middle right of the photo.

Typical of the Class II

Class - II Mile - 6
Typical of the Class II stuff following the ledge. At this level the whitecaps below are 2 ft. waves.

More Class II

Class - II Mile - 6.3
River left and middle are a medium shoals. River right (circled in red) is a nice 2 ft. drop into a rock garden.

Solid Class II Drop

Class - II Mile - 6.5
This is a solid class II. Not all Class II rapids are pictured, but the pictures are in order. See C1 boater at the top for scale.

More Class II

Class - II Mile - 6.9
More fun class II. Not all rapids are pictured, but the pictures are in order.

Wabash Cannonball

Class - III Mile - 7.1
The is the biggest rapid on the section and there will be an obvious horizon line. Punch the wave/hole, drop over another ledge and then dodge those nasty pillow rocks at the bottom that may be undercut. Rollercoaster ride.

Surfing Ledge

Class - II Mile - 7.5
A nice little class II surfing wave.

Class II+ Ledge

Class - II+ Mile - 8
This is a 2-3 ft drop followed by some nice waves. Yellow line shows a strainer blocking river left 2/3's. Red circle shows the meat of the drop.

Class II near the end

Class - II Mile - 8.3
Class II boogie water near the end.

Final Class II drop

Class - II Mile - 8.6
Looking upstream at the final Class II drop before the confluence and takeout. You can keep going down the BSF Gorge for a 16 mile day.


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Andrew Van Horn
3 years ago

I had a crew of three ran this river yesterday, and the level was 2650. At this flow, the class 1 shoals at the top become a good 2, and Wabash Cannon Ball becomes a 3+ or 4-. It is a big and pushy rapid at the higher flows. Several of the rapids upgrade at these higher flows. Overall it is a great run at this level, and the flatter water at the start moves quick. I would do recommend this run when BSF gets a bit washed out. It is a blast.

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8 years ago

I ran this river today, March 26th, even though the sewage spill advisory is still in effect (I am just too impatient!). The water - by all visual accounts, seemed very clean. It was running at 1350cfs - nearly twice the running rate as the pictures on this website. It was a fun run with the latter half being very active. The last class III has a high potential for pinning, so be careful.

Gage Descriptions

500 cfs on the new river gauge is low minimum
It is runnable much higher than 5000 cfs on new river gauge by those with the skills.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

No Accident Reports




Allen Brown



Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191559 08/08/05 Allen Brown n/a