Obey, E. Fork - Cliff Springs to TN 85 Bridge

Obey, E. Fork, Tennessee, US


Cliff Springs to TN 85 Bridge

Usual Difficulty II-V+ (for normal flows)
Length 13.8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 40 fpm
Max Gradient 130 fpm

East Fork Obey

East Fork Obey
Photo of Fran Fitzpatrick by Julie Keller (www.JulieKeller.com)

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03414500 1000 - 3000 cfs II-V+ 01h43m 395 cfs (too low)

River Description

Photo of Fran Fitzpatrick, courtesy of Julie Keller (www.JulieKeller.com).

Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to the Streams of Tennessee, B. Sehlinger and


This is a strange run, with lots of flatwater punctuated by extremely dangerous rapids. Many paddlers had fun on this run--and said they wouldn't be back. See the Comments tab for their testimony.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2010-07-02 23:18:14


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.
July 22 2009 (3464 days ago)
x (1)
Andy Bridge, Wig, Keith Clark and myself did it back in the late 90's and the rapids had names back
then. We just used the names it had back then, they have been renamed again?
April 24 2006 (4649 days ago)
Trent PearceDetails
Now Kirk, technically Tom and I did the entire run before y'all yesterday and ran everything except
Fat Man's; so doesn't that mean WE get to re-name all the rapids? =) I can't believe you think it's
un-classic, the flatwater and tires in the river were awesome!
April 24 2006 (4650 days ago)
Kirk EddlemonDetails
We did it today at 1200, a good minimum level, at least with today's conditions. Here is the

This run sucks. Its worth doing once, mostly so you can say you will never have to do it again.
There is nice class 2+ for the first few miles and a 6 foot ledge. Then it gets real pretty and
drops into the first of 2 serious gorges. This one is 1/3 of a mile long, with 4 distinct rapids.
First is a nasty double drop, then a cool right to left slot, then a drop alot like the first part
of fantasy flight on big south in colorado, then what we called "baby jesus" due to its
similarities to Coming home on the meadow. after another 1/2 mile of class 2, its gotta be 6 miles
of flatwater before the next thing of interest. lots of roads and rednecks at the river and the
scenery is sub par. Then a mile after Little Indian Creek comes in on the left, you hit the second
gorge, which is scarier and more dangerous than the first. There are spots in here where a mistake
means certain death. Horrible undercuts. However by this point you are so glad to see anything that
you will be excited to run it. Class 5 for sure. El Horrendo is first, and has a horrible undercut
on the right with 40% going in. This WILL kill you. Then the second move is a tight slot center
left with many sieves and a siphon that we threw a log in. Then is afterbirth, which is not too
bad. Small mirror version of climax on Russell Fork into a slot that is the tightest that could be
run. Don't slice your neck on the sharp undercut on river left and don't go under it for that
matter. Then a nice 1/2 mile stretch of class 2 to 3- boulder stretches and you hit Hurricane, then
the rest is a little better with better scenery again and then surf city, then fat man's which
currently is sketch. The middle is the definition of Sieve. Then the 6 foot drop where you lose
water and then the takeout.

As far as the talk of losing tons of water to caves and then getting it back, we really didn't
experience much of this. The level remained the same untill surf city where we gained 200 cfs for
about a mile. Otherwise our level was roughly 200 cfs, which is minimum. The reading on the usgs
gauge was roughly 1200 cfs. Look for 1500.

Watch out. At higher water the 2 class 5 gorges are definitely 5+ and of most serious nature. They
are rapids that make Linville and the lower meadow seem less scary.

So there you have it, the ultra unclassic East Fork of the Obey. Glad we did it, but gosh. 2
dangerous class 5 sets, and about 5 class 3 rapids. The rest is either flatwater or class 1 to

It was an adventure though.

Well said:
"Its the most exciting run I'll never do again." -Tony Robinson
September 19 2004 (5231 days ago)
Chris KellyDetails
Ran it yesterday (9/18/04) with a group of nine; 5 open boats, 3 kayaks and an inflatable. Rocky
Garrett led. We put on at about 11 am with the level at 2,600 cfs. The day was beautiful and sunny,
the water warm compliments of Ivan. Overall gradient is a bit over 40 fpm with some sections at
130. The run is almost 14 miles. The shuttle is easy. Put in at Cliff Springs Road right off TN 164
about 5 miles north of Monterey. The take out is on TN 85. Go n on 164 to 85, go right and drive to
the bridge over the river.
There are several miles of flat water easing up to class III and then a gorge with a class V drop
through a congested boulder field. We walked the first pitch of this drop (I don't know its name),
scouted several more times and completed the rapid with a seal launch. Someone in the group said:
"this is as hard as anything on the Russell Fork", to which there was general
Then comes a loonnnnng ( maybe 6 miles) class I and II section, split by the intermediate
putin/takeout point, where 2 of our number left us because Ben broke his boat in the big drop
At the end of this flat section comes El Horrendo which we all portaged river left. The portage is
more then 100 yards through the woods and on an old logging road and then down a steep hill. to put
in below the rapid. I am told that it has been run but mostly walked by even excellent boaters. It
is a long, steep drop, congested with a bad sieve at the bottom.
Next rapid, coming quickly is Afterbirth, also steep and congested with a serious undercut at the
bottom left. On this one we ran the top, made several ferries and lifted over the bottom pitch.
Following Afterbirth is a nice mile or so of fun read and run, somemore flat flat water and then
Surf City. I am not much of a play boater but this has got to be one of the finest play hole/waves
anywhere. It is big and fluffy, is attainable on either side and has no danger factor. If the East
Fork were not such a challenge this would be a destination play spot. Even though we were
exhausted, we all took some turns at it.
The last significant rapid is Fat Man's Squeeze, which (surprise) is a big blind, congested rapid
full of huge boulders.
Another mile of very nice II and III read and run brought us to the takeout which we reached about
6:30 pm. All together, we portaged 3 (in some cases 4) times, scouted maybe 8 or 10 times, carried
around river wide wood twice. Rocky's leadership was impecable; safe and knowledgable. This is his
home river. We had no misahps but scrapes and cuts from the rocks and trees.
I had an excellent time but was exahusted at the end. The big drops were very challenging for me.
Nevertheless, I won't recomend it except to those who want an expedition type day. Here is why.
Intermediate boaters cannot mess with the hard stuff; it is just too dangerous and the portages
would be horrible. Class V boaters will probably be impatient with the miles of flat water. (I have
more tolerance for the flat water than most.) Another factor is that it is unusual to catch the
East Fork in nice weather. In March, with shorter days, this could be a long cold paddle.

I liked it but unless you want this kind of challenge it may not be your cup of tea. There is also
on the East Fork the interesting issue of syphons; places where a significant portion of the river
dissapears underground. I did not see this as so much a danger issue (although at one point it did
appear that the syphon was in an undercut) as a water availablity issue. Apparantly at low water
you can lose the water and end up gorilla walking your boat. We had high water so it was not an
issue but it means you may either have high water for these bigger drops or are losing your

Chris Kelly
April 7 2002 (6127 days ago)
william w. thorntonDetails
Very nice ,strange run.we arrived late in the afternoon and put-in about half way down the run by
hiking into the canyon just below the Indian Creek confluence on the west side of the canyon. There
was a moderate amount of water at our put-in, est.200 cfs which held to below the first short
boulder clogged gorge.below this gorge water fell out of creek bed into underground caverns by
pouring down several siphons.This reduced flow to about 40 cfs. after a spell of wheelchairing, and
boat dragging, water came back into the creek though several cliff bases bumping it up to a higher
level than before maybe 350-400 cfs. pretty good class 3 section for a couple of miles with one
section of good fluffy low angle play holes this ends up at river wide 5 to 6 ft. ledge into a big
pool,water goes under ground again at this pool leaving steam very low again. there is another
extremely boulder clogged section below this that was very cool with mulitiple low volume slots
mazing through gaint boulders.we scaped on down to the 85 bridge .Big Laurel Creek comes in on the
left just above the bridge depositing massive amouts of orange gunk in this pristine steam complely
killing all moss and life in the Obey and staining all the rocks a rusty orange.Very nice area and
intersting runs can't wait to go back and run the whole thing at a good water level.


we ran it at 560 on the Jamestown Gauge this is too low, this gauge is several big tribs downstream
and is likely twice to three times the water that is in this upper section.I am guessing that 800
to 1500 would be a good medium level. any more input on levels would good.