Henderson Creek, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||150 fpm|
|Max Gradient||350 fpm|
For two nearby streams with mucho gradiente, check out Richland Creek and Morgan Creek.
The put in is located at the Rhea/Bledsoe border on Liberty Hill Rd. As of Fall 2002, property surrounding the put-in is for sale. Being a land bridge, I'm worried about possible disputes if homeowners come in. Hopefully not. The take out is in Bowater's Laurel-Snow Pocket Wilderness.
Henderson is the largest tributary of Richland Creek and holds within it the highest quality trip of the holy trinity, Henderson, Morgan (north pole), and Polebridge. The start is a flatwater paradise after one class IV that is usually portaged, but don't leave just yet. This creek holds some high quality class V drops spread throughout a mile of nice, steep, pool-drop gradient. Add with that the seven mile length, beauty, and remoteness, and you have one of the best Chattanooga area creeks to visit. More than likely your group will be the only one out there taking it all in, so enjoy it! The rapids are an excellent mix of boulder garden and slides. The first drop is a sieve portage but is easy to spot. Right after that, enjoy a sweet blind 7 foot boof, and a big 20 foot fast slide leading right into Spinal Adjustment. Always shallow and always backbreaking, Spinal Adjustment is best run river right, hugging the bank. After some good IV+ boogie with a spectacular boof, enjoy Spoonman, a tight boulder choke with a tricky hole at the top. Keep your bow up (see the video vertical addiction)! The runout is a juicy double drop. The mega rapid is Fire Escape. Four part rapid starting with a big hole on river left, working back river right to an 8 foot ledge with pinning possibilities, sliding down a boulder to far river left, then back river right again for the final 10ft boulder choke. Wow, that was a mouthfull (See video below). A few more are left before the confluence of Polebridge. After this mile of "whitewater armageddon" enjoy a calm class III-IV section before entering a some tight boulder gardens, noted by the three bridges. These rapids usually have some trees in them and are best scouted. Go right at the island just below the bridge. The left slots have been known to grab boats with their sieves. Another bit of class III until you reach the old Dayton Reservoir, which marks the beginning of the Richland run. At high levels, the Richland rapids will not come lightly. Check Richland Creek description to complete the trip description.
Total drop of 1020ft. The heart of Henderson is 350ft in a little less than one mile.
For further information visit:
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.4||Class 4 Portage||IV|
|3.8||Boogie currently with log||IV|
|3.8||Ferry Left, Definition of "boof"||IV+|
|6.4||Left Down Hut||IV+|
land bridge 1/4 mile south of intersection of Liberty Hill and Summer City Roads
Most portage this unless the water is fairly solid, in which case it can be banged down center heading right.
Here Double Creek(the creek you put in on) meets Lowery Creek, doubling the flow. Sometimes it may more than double it, other times, it may have less. More is better.
It has been run at maching high water, but is always a portage. Get out on the right after a wavetrain crashes into a vertical wall, seal launching back in below the sieve. It begins here.
After running a fun double ledge, you will find yourself winding around a left bend into a blind 8 foot ledge. Boof.
A channel on the right narrows down what appears to be a little slide, only to open up into a big slide. Great to watch first timers as they round the bend. All fun here.
This slide is similar to the one above, except there are two goals. First goal is to stay off the left undercut bank, second goal is to be prepared for an 8 foot ledge onto a slab as the bottom drop. The far right side can be a good landing, but watch for the snarly undercut wall there. Middle is least desirable, and if you fine line it just to the right of the last chill undercut on the left, this will put you in a fine center left position for the gentlest hit, which if done right, is fine, even at minimum flows.
This is only temporary, but after a straightaway with some nice boogie, there is a riverwide log best portaged on the right. It can also be ducked far left, but watch the curls coming off the left wall, and don't become a statistic.
Here is a classic drop that starts on river right. Drop the slot far right into a small eddy, then deal with the boils ferrying all the way to the other side of the creek, above less desirable slots. Then peel back out down a tall tongue, which deposits you into a wide course down to the best boof that doesn't have a name ever. It is center to right with a direction change upon landing. Most excellent boogie.
Immediately below the aforementioned boof is Spoonman, so eddy left in a hurry and take a gander. The line is down a narrow notch with a hole in it for an entrance. Don't plink the walls and don't stop in the hole! Thread it true into a big ramping 12 foot drop with a stout hole and a bad spot on the right. Left angle coming through paired with coming up stroking is a good method. Portage left. Oh yeah, the runout is rowdy for sure. Punch stopper, drive right, boof.
After spoonman is a nice boof on the left, then a manky ledge. In the runout of this ledge the creek necks to the left wall and drops of the face of the earth. DON'T miss the eddy on the left wall. It is a 1.5 boat eddy. In other words, space it out below spoonman. The eddy is tiny and the climb out is on loose chunks of unstable rock and poison ivy. After climbing up to the O-deck, you will behold the best rapid on Walden Ridge. Yep. 4 drops, back to back, dropping around 30-35 feet all together. First drop is simple, but a disgusting sieve awaits the complacent, inches from the optimum spot. The hole at the bottom is just enough to create plenty of scrambling opportunities above the sketchy crux of the drop. Here, a few diagonal ledges and boily currents loom above the second drop, which has 2 narrow lines. Anywhere else is less than desirable. You can run off the left wall just to the right of a large boulder down an 8 foot slide, or ferry right using the crosscurrents for escort. Right is maybe a little harder, but the left line has been known to reject people, sending them into the horrible pin spot in the center. Many close calls here. The far right slot is a narrow drop into a hole that sends you fast into 3 and 4. Third drop is a slide ledge angling back to the left. Drive against the grain to the right with two options. Drop down low into the wall at the bottom, or boof right, careful not to go too far right and land on/in front of a big slab, and not too far left and onto a painfull dome rock. Below here is the final 8-10 foot plunge, which is best boofed on the right. Freewheels, railgrabs, and celebratory meltdowns are welcome, though there is a big pool that backs the drop up pretty viciously.
Immediately below Firescape is Triple Drop, the final piece de resistance of the steep creek section of Henderson. Here the creek smoothes down a nice slot tongue for 6 feet, immediately into another 6 foot shoulder, and then turns to face the left wall for a blind and beautiful slot slide with a fluffy friend at the bottom. Below here is another good class 4, then it is 100 yards of shallows to the confluence with Polebridge Creek, where a break is given.
This confluence signifies the end of vertigo and the beginning of a short breather stretch. Watch for a few holes and a bad undercut on the left through here. When you see steel bridges over the creek, eddy out and regroup, because a whole new sickness is about to emerge.
Here, under the crossing of the Laurel Snow hiking trail, the creek has more water and starts picking up steepness and giant boulders. The first drops is best on the left higher and the right lower, though the rock right under the bridge on the right is very undercut. Below this is a sketchy slot in the center of the creek that runs down into a BIG hole with a bad pocket on the right. Watch out for this one. Next is a clean boof and then a split at a big center boulder. Go right to avoid sieves on the left, and the right is excellent, with a blind rounding boof back left.
Laurel Creek crashes in from river left.
Here, where the standard Richland Creek hike up run starts, the Dayton Reservoir drops over an 8 foot dam. Run far left, and at low water, watch out for the rock to the right of the LZ.
Some good boogie leads you into Timber Rattler, a large and complex rapid with the crux and consequences at the bottom There is a jumble of boulders in the center that routes a split, reconverging for the final 5 foot boof into a boxed in, spanky hole. Either side can be run, but check for wood. At flows required for a Henderson run, this rapid edges into class 5, especially with solid Henderson flows.
After Timber Rattler, you can run a juicy center slot, or circumvent around the left. Run right below here, heading quickly back left to avoid a subtle and sickly sieve all the water slams into. Cut back right again below the sieve to line up for Left Down Hut. Head left for what Daniel Talley calls the west prong line. It really should be called Daniel Talley is a badass and thinks this rapid is like the west prong rapid. Back to the right, Left Down Hut begins with a diagonal ledge that you want to finish heading back right. At all but low flows, boof off the 7 foot finger hard right into a trough that slides down into the pool below. At low to elf flows, head tight left in front of a doomy boulder, dropping 6 feet landing right above a finishing boof. Below the pool is Harry Harry's dreamboof on the left for flows above 0, and a fun slot on the right wall at lower flows.
After a big hole, a tight slot into the swimming hole, and the cave slot, Morgan Creek enters from river right, officially changing the creeks name to Richland Creek. Below here is a fun wavetrain into a sliding hydraulic, and some more fun class 3.
After a classic Heinzerling move in the center, and a banking tongue off the right wall, the river straightens out into a busy entrance to Weirdo, the most fun rapid on Richland Creek. Here the creek drops down through a chasm with a LARGE hole in the center right, and a long finger on the left. Stay left on the entrance and maintain that down the finger to stay out of the hole. The bottom is fast and flushy, and after one more boulder rapid lies a final shoulder boof before taking out at the Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness parking area.
Takeout river left at the parking area. Shuttle back up to the top is around 15-17 miles depending on whether you take Hwy 30 to Summer City to Liberty Hill, or whether you take Back Valley to Evansville Mountain to Liberty Hill.