Soak Creek is a scenic class III stream that can be run by itself but is more typically accessed via the much more challenging Stinging Fork or Little Piney Creek beginning at Piney Falls, Grandview TN. Soak is a remote and fun stream with good water quality, limited access, and the towering cliff bands and side waterfalls that define the streams of the Plateau. The Cumberland Trail parallels the river at times and a mix of state and private land border the stream. Soak Creek is Tennessee's newest state Scenic River thanks to efforts of landowners and supportive organizations (including American Whitewater).
At low flows expect lots of busy Class II and III- rapids with a couple technical solid Class III rapids. There are also a few really nice play waves for spins etc. At higher flows when Stinging Fork or Little Piney Creek are optimum, many rapids on Soak Creek reportedly wash out and make for a simpler descent.
We ran this on 3/10/19 starting at the put-in that is shown on this AW page. We approached the put-in from river left (via Jewitt Rd → Sabo Rd). There was an open gate after we turned right at the T-intersection after crossing Dunlap. The land there has been ravaged by logging and we thought we were driving on private logging roads. But according to the TN Property Viewer, the last part of the shuttle all of the way to creek is owned by the State of TN, probably part of the land that was graciously donated by George Lindemann (https://bit.ly/2ERh1Hf). Hence, I’m pretty certain this put-in is on state land and legal!
Too bad there wasn’t much water in this pretty tiny creek, even though the flow looked plenty healthy at the take out. It looked low enough for me to pose the option of bailing to the group. But undoing the long shuttle wasn’t appealing and the fun slide at the put-in was encouraging. After the slide, it was ELF. If Dunlap looks low while enroute, Soak will be too, as they are similarly sized. Tony noted that we had a significant trib coming in from RR about ⅓ mile below. According to the map, that’s Sweeny Branch and it did help the flow, but it was still ELF. There’s a sieve rapid just above this confluence.
The next mile or so would probably be III+/IV with a real flow, with some sections being pretty stacked and potentially dangerous if wood were to be present in the hard-to-stop rapids. A few more feeders came in and for the first time, the creek was actually felt like it was truly running, but still fairly low. Not too much further, the Stinging Fork came in from RR and the flow was now solid medium. Shortly after, Dunlap dumped in a good portion of water and things started to feel medium high and kinda pushy.
The lower stretch of Soak was significantly steeper than I remembered after paddling in on Dunlap around a decade ago. My eroded memory had me thinking it’d be like Whites or the paddle out on the Piney, but it’s definitely harder, steeper and better than both of those. I don’t think you could call any of it solid class IV at today’s flow, but it’s definitely very close to that mark - in several places. If you have good water at the put-in, this stretch will likely be rockin’. The scenery in this part of the run is definitely noteworthy and memorable, but it doesn’t quite stack up to many of the scenic classics that can be found in this region.
Ran this out of Dunlap Creek when Piney was at ~6.5ft. Felt fluffy. Thought we were gonna just have a flushed-out ride out but it was actually really fun
4/21/15 We putin at bubbas with G and CT in mini, Jared and Eli in grabner, and John H in a kayak. G got into his canoe at the beach after the confluence with Piney falls creek. The creek was low but we all made it down without much dragging except for the second strainer rapid which we ran down the middle then portaged to the right of the trees in the flow. Beautiful bluffs, clear water and class 3 to 3+ rapids, this is a great run. The level on the piney was 1.5 ft and the rock in the middle of the soak confluence had 1.5 ft sticking out of the water.
4/15/15 Piney gauge read just under 2 ft. On Soak at the confluence there is a rock in the center of the river and one just up on river right side, this one on rr needs to be under water for a hike up run. G, Eli, CT and Orlando, in canoes. We hiked up the trail beside Soak. The path is good and flat, we putin at the confluence of Piney falls creek and Soak. Its about a mile paddle out with a handfull of class 2-3 rapids.
There were lots of Trillium flowers blooming along the trail and it was quite scenic.
Estimates for a run from the top are that piney should read 2.5+ ft and the rock in the center of Soak confluence should have just a bit of it still dry.
Dirt road, off Jewitt Rd to Piney River
One decent boulder garden section towards the end, not much else.
Check the gauge at the bridge piling at the Piney Take-out. The minimum on the old gauge was 3.75+/ 4.0. The min. on the current bridge gauge would be higher, but it's unclear what would be a good min. 5.0?
An old-school way to know if it is a min: check all of the following gauges:
N.Chick: 7.0 Tellico: 4.2 Emory: 8500'+ Town, yes, Town :425 This one takes a soaking rain.
For better warmer fuzzy feeling after checking the above gauges, go to Mark D's website,alabamawhitewater.com. He has the TVA Rain Gauges tied in. Check for Watts Bar to have 1.75 inches of rain. Also, look for the Pikeville rain gauge to have 1.6" of rain.
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Good fun at higher water
Great class III canoeing on Soak Creek
A calm scenic spot on Soak Creek
Nice Class III on Soak Creek
Cliffs along Soak Creek
Cool shelter cave along Soak Creek in the background.
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Soak Creek has been named Tennessee's newest Scenic River—the first to earn the designation in 15 years. A tributary of the Piney River, this free-flowing creek serves as critical habitat for the iconic species of the Cumberland Plateau and provides a wide range of outdoor opportunities for all ages as it winds through a scenic gorge and along the Justin P. Wilson Cumberland Trail State Park. The designation helps to formalize the work local landowners, nonprofit groups and state agencies have done to ensure the public has access to this pristine natural treasure for generations to come.
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