Backbone Creek, Ohio, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||140 fpm|
|Max Gradient||240 fpm|
A tributary of the East Fork of the Little Miami, Backbone Creek enters the river from river right, just a mile upstream of Stonelick Creek and just downstream of Batavia, Ohio. Tom Monnig and I got the first descent on March 5, 2003. It is a rather short run, and the put-in doesn't look like much. But it has one of the best big drops around, and a lot of good whitewater is packed in above and below the Falls. In less than 1 1/2 miles, it drops 205 feet for an average of 140 feet per mile.
After a quarter mile of lesser gradient a few small ledges appear. The first bigger ledge is a caved in limestone ledge that forms a slide. The next drop starts at an island. Although the water goes to the right, there is a dangerous strainer in this channel. The top of the left channel is usually to shallow to run. The route is down the right channel and turn left through a small channel 40 feet above the strainer. Right below the island is the next rapid. Work quickly back right of center to go over the first 2 foot high river-wide ledge. The next ledge comes quickly and is the biggest one in this set. A nice six foot drop with a sweet boof on river left at higher flows. A boulder garden drop is just below, then the final ledge of about 3 feet. Bounce through a rock-garden rapid just ahead that ends at the confluence with the other big tributary of the creek. From here to the final big drop below the falls about one-third mile below, the creek drops over 80 feet. That's an average of 240 feet per mile in this section. A manky boulder garden leads into another nice sloping ledge. Around the bend the creek drops downhill through the next rock garden with a surprise 4 foot ledge lurking near the end of the rapid. Boof off this four foot ledge into the hole with authority. This is called Died With His Dick In His Hand. Someone (not a boater) died here in a pissing accident. The creek heads into the cliffs on river left and turns left into a massive strainer. Get right and go around it and directly into the next ledges. Get ready after this one -- it's less than 100 yards to the falls. A couple of ledges (about 2 foot and 3 foot in height and about 50 feet apart) appear just ahead. The creek really widens out for these two ledges. These are solid limestone shelves and they are on a tilt, so it's very shallow and fast here, propelling you toward Backbone Falls. Get over to river left quickly to get to the one eddy above the falls to facilitate scouting. This was a waterfall in the 11-13 foot range which used to have a shallow but highly aerated landing pool. When you hit the launch pad, a perfect boof (into a super soft marshmallow fluff landing) was almost automatic. A rock pile which jutted out off of the right bank caused the water to pool up in a pool perhaps 3 to 4 feet deep. That's all in the past. The rock pile was pushed down into and through the next drop, Slit Yer Throat, and in the process, rearranged that rapid and created an extremely nasty, sticky hole. Almost look's like a keeper hole. Another result was the loss of the landing pool. Now the drop is higher and the landing less than a foot deep onto one big flat rock, making Backbone Falls a Class V+ drop. There are a couple other good sized rapids below the big drop. Just around the bend there was a nice 5 foot slide, but it is filled with rock now, and can get sticky. Next the creek runs down through a boulder garden with a significant horizon line. The final drop in this rapid has gotten bigger and more technical and really manky, due to the upheaval of the shelf rock here. Go with the flow! The creek runs into the base of a 40 foot cliff on river left and turns right into the next drop. Take a breath and start looking for strainers. From here on down it's easy class II boogie. Although this creek is mostly clean of strainers compared to other local steep creeks, be careful! We cleaned it out to make it safely runnable a couple years ago only to have to do it again the next year. And Again! and, you get it. You know how Mother Nature is! The floods move everything on this creek.