This photo needs editing.
Difficulty II-III(IV)
Length 4 Miles
Flow Range 2.50 - 8.00 FT
Flow Rate as of: 11 years ago 0.31 [FT]
Reach Info Last Updated 07/04/2010 12:26 pm

River Description

Scott Williford
Spring Creek Gorge, Jackson County, TN

Run Length: 4 miles
Class: II-III+(IV)
Putin: Waterloo Falls
Takeout: Spring Creek Community

Waterloo Falls is a 40-footer. It is runnable when the water is high. It has been run before. The "secret creek" is actually in some really old guidebook, so I guess it isn't so much of a secret. I have decided to reveal the location of my secret run for the following reasons:

1. The access issues I was worried about have become far less of a problem. The putin and takeout are both on private land. The entire creek is bordered by private land, and some sections are viewable from houses. The landowners in the area live there because they like their privacy. Remember this if you are there. Be extremely respectful. Be quiet, drive slowly through the gorge, don't take your dog here. Under no circumstances should you be in view while changing. Access is okay now; let's keep it that way. If someone ruins my ability to paddle here I will seriously regret my decision to post this.

2. Clay's post. I agree in so many ways. Localism is very bad for the sport in most cases. I am going out on a limb here that everything will go fine, and if we all follow the rules it should.

3. It turns out that it is not as much of a secret as we thought. A lot of old-timers around the area have heard of it, just no one paddles it anymore. More on this later.

The creek is 2 miles of whitewater, 2 miles of moving flatwater. It is in one of the most scenic gorges I have ever been in. It is runnable after basically any rain. At every level there is at least one nice playhole, usually several. The river holds water very well.

First Ledge: Run river right. Then ferry to river left in front of the island/strainer that covers the entire side you just boofed. Basically a 4 foot ledge drop. Hit the boof and it will kick you up and out.
Second Ledge: Several lines here. We now always run the right line. Slide down the slide, boof the ledge. Hole will work you if you miss your boof. At really high water sneak it on the river left. Center lines possible at some levels, but they are rocky, and pins are possible. Scout/Walk river left. Class III.
Next is a series of awesome play holes. All holes on this river are shallow--vertical tricks work only at really really big water. Flat-spin yourself silly. Pictures were taken here today, at a big, but not too big level.
Electric Slide: Big river-wide long slide. Not fast, feels like you are taking an escalator down. You want to start moving right, and hit one of the two eddies on the river right before the next rapid.
Horseshoe: I believe this was originally called Big Daddy. It is a big curved ledge that covers the majority of the river. There is a chute on river right. Run it through here. Start working you way left as you head down the chute. There is a big hole on the river right at the bottom. Scary at really big water, but still avoidable, Flushy at medium high levels, excellent play at lower water. I have had several rides here where after about 5 minutes I just decided I was tired of being in the hole.
There is a waterfall, Mill Creek Falls, coming in on the river left below the falls. Kind of neat. The rest of the river is read-and-go class II, a few good surf waves, some fun wave trains, and a lot of flat water.

Our run times are usually between 2-4 hours, depending on play. Could be done faster, probably around 1.5 hours without much trouble, if you just ran it.

Takeout: Head North out of Cookeville, TN, on Willow Ave (Exit 286 off I-40) You will travel about 5 miles out of Cookeville or so. You will enter Jackson County, then pass a school, and then a church. The road turns left, with a road heading straight. Take the road that is straight in front of you. After a mile the pavement ends, and then you head down into the gorge. Go all the way to the creek and turn right. Turn left at the split, across the bridge. Follow this road up the creek until you come to a house with a footbridge leading across the river. Park in the pull-off for the bridge. At the request of the landowner, leave a note on your dashboard that says "kayaking". His name is Gabe, and he is a nice guy. You can also use his boat ramp to take out on. Leave as few cars as possible here, and don't tear up the grass, or leave trash, or get naked, or drink beer, or leave you dog, or anything you wouldn't want someone doing in your front yard. Remember, this is private property, and you have no right to be there. It is only by his kindness we are allowed to park there. There is no public access to this creek.

Putin: From the takeout head back the way you came, downstream. Keep following the road along the river, until you come to a road that heads right across a bridge. Turn and go over the bridge, heading up the road. Follow this road for several miles until you see Waterloo Falls Rd on your right. It angles off to the right, and uphill. Take this to the bottom of the hill and turn right on the gravel road just before the bridge. Take the right split, not the one with the gate, the next one. Park by the top of the falls. Either run the falls, or walk your boat back up the hill, turn down the road with the gate, carry around on the left side, follow the driveway down, turn left on the trail, and head down the metal staircase. This leads to the river just below the falls.

Putin to Cookeville, and I-40: Head back out to the paved road and turn right. Cross the bridge and continue to the stop sign. Merge with the road there, it will be Washington Ave back in Cookeville.
Follow this road into town, and follow the signs to I-40. This will not be the same way you came in, but will work.


1. No changing in public--this is all private land.
2. Be discreet with beer.
3. No dogs.
4. Take out your trash, and someone else's. There is a ton of trash up here; bring a bag and help clean it up a little. I am sure this will help with our access.
5. Be quiet aroud the houses.
6. Drive slowly in the gorge. There are painted signs that say 25 mph, try to adhere.
Remember, this is all private land, don't make the landowners hate paddlers. This creek is close enough to my house that I can run it before work. Don't take that away from me. I have worked hard at improving relations with the landowners. Don't make this work in vain.

This creek is fun, but probably not worth driving to. I like it because it is really close. Almost anything would be a better run, but nothing is closer to me here in Cookeville. Try it if you want, but let me just warn you it is NOT on par with Tellico, or anything like that.


By the way, this was not a first descent for me. I have heard it was run in the early 70's, before I was born.

Rapid Descriptions

Waterloo Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
A big 30-40 footer with a ledge halfway down. It has been ran, but rarely. Water must be high, or you have to not mind taking the hit. Walk up the road at the putin, around the gate, down the driveway, take the trail off to your left, and down the metal staircase to putin below it.

First Ledge

Class - III Mile - 0.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is about a 4 foot ledge, or a shoal depending on where you run it. The standard line is on the river right, when the pool is the deepest. Anywhere on the right one third of the river is fine. Make a quick ferry around the island in front of you. The left shoal is runnable also, but not as fun.


Class - III+ Mile - 0.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This ledge is also run in the far river right. It has a rough lead in slide, then about a 5 foot ledge. The hole will work you at high levels. There is a sneak at high water around on the left, also portage on the left.

First Play Hole

Class - II Mile - 0.5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is a fluffy shallow pile. It is hard to stay in at high water, and fun at low water. The best play is on the river left. If you wash out there is a another hole just below you.

Second Play Hole

Class - II+ Mile - 0.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This hole is a much better play spot. Also shallow except at really big water. Nothin but flat spins at normal levels, with the best play on the right. At high water the right side gets trashy, but the entire rest of this river wide hole is nice. Flat spins adn blast wheels at big water. The occasional low angle blunt in the middle of the meat at really big water.

Electric Slide

Class - II+ Mile - 0.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is a big riverwide slide. It is a pretty low angle, so not too fast. The slide tends to push left, and you want to eddy out on the right at the bottom, so keep working you way right. At low water it is hard to work right, but there is plenty of time to hit the eddy at the bottom.

Big Daddy and Horseshoe

Class - IV Mile - 0.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This is the most difficult rapid on the river. It is a difficult Class III at low water, and a pushy Class IV+ at higher levels. There is a river wide horseshoe shaped ledge across the left 3/4 of the river. Run the chute on the right, and after you drop in, start working left along the base of the ledge. There is a big hole on the river right at the bottom, you will have to break through the diagonal that feeds it. The hole is pretty meaty at big levels, but fun play at lower water. The ledge was originally called Big Daddy I believe, but we have always called it horseshoe, so now we have named the ledge Big Daddy, and the play hole Horseshoe.

Mill Creek Falls

Class - I Mile - 1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
This water fall comes in from the river left. There are several waves leading up to it. The waterfall is not on the river, just flowing in.

Splat Rock

Class - II Mile - 1.15
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
There is a great rock splat/wheel rock on the river right just after the falls. Hit it on the fly.

Crap Chute

Class - II Mile - 1.2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The river is divided by a rock in the middle of the river, run between the rock and the river right bank. The hole looks like a good hole for enders or cartwheels but is unfortunatly too shallow, with a rock in the back of it.

End of the Gorge

Class - II Mile - 2
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
There are several wavetrains and surf wave on the way out of the gorge. Nothing too big, but enough to stay entertained.


Class - Mile - 4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
The takeout is at the boat ramp on the left just after the foot bridge. You will pass under a falling down old foot bridge, then a concrete bridge that is also in disrepair, and then a good bridge. This is private property, so be respectful.


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10 years ago

There is a strainer across the entire creek just after you pass a barn on your left where the cows come down to the creek. This strainer is maybe half way through the run after all the real rapids. It's not super dangerous, but just a heads up to everyone.

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clay wright
13 years ago

heard there was barbed wire up in runout this week, watch for it in case it gets put back up. C

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Scott Williford
13 years ago

I don't remember how to change the main page, so I will do this for now. With all of the people who seem to be interested in running this now, I thought I would add some more info. When I first posted this run, I lived 15 minutes from the putin or takeout. This run holds water well, is fairly short, and has a few good rapids. I could do it before class, and after work, sometimes both. If you are looking for a ton of quality whitewater, don't drive a long way to do this one. If you are looking for a beautiful gorge, with some fun whitewater thrown in, you are in the right place.

I know the driving directions are vague, you will see why when you get there. I have heard there are road signs now, so if someone wants to send me the names, I will add them. When I first posted this, there weren't any signs.
Good luck to everyone paddling this creek, I loved it for a couple of years, probably got in almost 100 runs.
By the way, the height on Waterloo falls came from a hiking guide book I had, looks to be more like 30 or a little over to me.

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Allen Brown
16 years ago

If you put in at the bridge above the falls (the one you have to drive over) you add an additional 5 foot waterfall. I have always asked permission from the man who owns the metal staircase at the base of the 40 footer and he has always said yes. You have to walk very close to his living room to get to the metal stairs, so get permission. P.S. by putting in at the bridge you shorten your shuttle, add a 5 footer and only lengthen the run by 1/4 mile, just dont blunder down the 40 footer. This run is the the Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to the Streams of TN by Benner & Sehlinger of Menasha Ridge Press.

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clay wright
16 years ago

Nice run . . . several fast slides with a couple
drops you can run most anywhere. Hard to
boat scout - blank horizon lines with fast
shallow water draws you in and over. Follow
the flow (or scout early)!

Waterloo Falls does look tempting; might be
sweet! might pitch and piton :-( I'd guess 30',
but a ledge 10' down looks hard to clear. Hit n
bounce or try to clear it an risk pitching . .
. ..No-shuttle option: paddle to big trib falls
and hike back out. Start river right, then right
up the slides, then river left trail, ferry back to
the stairs at Waterloo Falls.
Today's level just over 0 at lower bridge, right
at 1 on upper.
Best gauge at Waterloo Falls Rd bridge on
downstream side. Lower gauge only goes to

Thanks for the beta, Scott!

Gage Descriptions

2.0 feet will be scrappy with one really good play hole at horseshoe.
18.0 feet is my personal highest recorded run. Class IV+-V at this level.

Normal runs 4.0-8.0

The guage is of a river that Spring Creek flows into, it is the main trib. I am working on a gage an the correlation, but this river has proven to be an accurate indicator.

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





Scott Williford


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1193726 02/28/04 Scott Williford n/a
1197905 07/04/10 Matt Muir Cleaned up text formatting; added photo and abstract.