Pocket Creek is hands down one of the best runs in Tennessee. Every rapid is runnable. The creek has smooth lines and seems to have been made for whitewater paddling. The run is located towards the southern end of the Sequatchie valley. It flows through a winding canyon studded with arches, cliffs, and old growth forest as it cascades into the valley. The water quality is decent, and the scenery is top notch.On the difficulty, the creek is mostly class 4 drops, with several sections that have class 5 attitude. The continuity of the bedrock stretch and the stacked move intensive nature of the boulder sections create reluctance to rate this a class 4 run. It is harder than Cain/Chick, and is more on par with Little Possum perhaps. While you may not be running lots of class 5 on this creek, class 5 eddy hopping and boat scouting skills are highly recommended. At 0.5 feet the run is probably slow enough to be class 4. Above 1 foot the run is solid class 5.The run from the gauge down starts with a short stretch of flatwater. There is one 2-foot ledge in this stretch. After a few more bends, there is a constriction and steepening of the creek as it enters the first bit of bedrock. Get out on the left ASAP to scout and likely portage. There has been a terrible large-diameter hemlock that has been blocking this spot for some time. This starts whitewater on the run.What follows is roughly a mile of excellent bedrock rapids. This section wraps around the chimneys formation, which can be seen from the park on the rim. This whole stretch is 80% low angle bedrock, and while it is super cool, you have to keep an eddy in sight at all times, because many of the big drops are preluded by these nonstop affairs, and most importantly a logjam around a blind corner could really spell disaster. Don't be brave, scout. Amidst the bedrock back and forth are 7 or 8 distinct rapids. 3 of these are slightly bigger. Two of them are big cascades, and one of them is a clapper drop. Some of them have more than one sizable slide as entrance moves, and can take some time to determine to be clear from the bank. Enjoy this stuff. It is some the cleanest and more sustained bedrock action in the SE arena. Think Island Creek/Little Clear Creek on steroroids. It is also similar to the bedrock sections on Rock Creek and Roaring Creek, but better in every way. At high flows some holes could get sticky, but everything is pretty reasonable at 1 foot.The last of the bedrock is where boulders have started falling in at the last long sliding rapid. Change out your guns for the boulder garden section, which is another mile or more of stout boulder and ledge gardens. There are some classic big hole moves, some stacked ledge sequences with demanding lines, a few sweet slots, an epic s-turn or two, a wonderful double drop, and near the end lurks a VERY steep and chunky double ledge that is official gnar.After the wonderful double drop described above, there are 2 or 3 more smaller rapids before the hike out option on river right. Below double drop there will be a sizable tributary bouncing down a jumble on river left. At this pool there is a faint jeep track on the right that heads out of the gorge. As I have not explored the valley section yet, I will describe the hike out.
On the Jeep trail, you will go 100 yards and intersect a much more defined jeep trail that runs the length of the gorge along river right. Turn right here. The trail makes a long switchback at this point, and immediately on the left is a atv track-turned mud bed that you can use to cut the switchback. Not recommended, but it goes. Back to the switchback. A faint trail may spur off to the creek soon, just stay left. Then the trail will gradually wind back to the left and soon the atv hill climb will come in on your left. Now all you have to do is keep trudging up the increasingly steeper trail. A side creek will eventually become visible on the left. Keep hoofing it steeper and steeper, as the rutted out cobbly trail eventually gains substantial flow as well. At the top of the rim there is a little roundabout turnaround. The hike out is around a mile and gains 700 feet. This is a good place to leave the takeout truck (serious clearance and/or 4x4 recommended). If you don't have 4wd, not to worry. It is a flat and easy 0.8-mile hike to the paved road. Go with the trail, veering left and then right at two subsequent splits before hitting the road.
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Pocket Creek has a small (5 square miles) watershed similar in size to Little Possum and the Bear above the confluence with Daniel Creek. As such, it is difficult to catch, but if you know what to look for, it is certainly attainable. There is a rain gauge down in the Sequatchie Valley in Whitwell that is only a few miles away. Look for around 2 inches of rain with optimum water table, or 3 inches during dry times. amazon.nws.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/hads/dipper/dcpInfo2.pl
There are also some stream gauges that can correlate flows in Pocket Creek. The Collins River in McMinnville is probably the most reliable: waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv Keep in mind that this gauge is way downstream and that it is more useful to indicate current water table conditions. By the time the water has hit here, it will likely be too late to mobilize.
At the putin, where Bridge Creek Road crosses Pocket Creek, there is a gauge on the upstream river left side of the bridge. Look for half a foot for a minimum and a foot for optimum flows. 1.5 feet would be very high and less than ideal.
There is alot of limestone in the valley, and if the water table isn't up and flows are not adequate, much of the water can be lost, resulting in a really long hike up and out, or up to 5-6 miles of boat dragging downstream. The hike out alleviates this problem.
Finally, keep in mind that these size creeks don't hold water long. Being there 3 hours after a 1.5 inch rain will likely yield a higher flow than being there 12 hours after a 3 inch rain.
Permits are not required for this reach.
To the put in:
Hwy 108 out of the valley, and once on top, go a few straight and flat miles to Pocket Road on the left. If you don't have a gazeteer for TN, you are in the dark. Go a handfull of miles on this road to where Bridge Creek Road comes in on the left. The put in is 100 feet down this road.
To the hikeout takeout:
Continue past Bridge Creek Road for 3-4 miles, and once out of the residential area, look for an obvious and muddy jeep trail that cuts off to the left. There is room to park a car here if you don't have a stout rig. If you are going all the way to the rim, drive on this road for just under a mile. Along the way There will be a split to the left, though the right option has a berm. Then there will be a split to the right. The left split goes a few hundred yards to a nice overlook of the gorge. After the second split there will be a quicksand like wetland crossing that is deeper than it looks. If in doubt, park here, as the turnaround is just a few hundred feet further.
To the valley takeout:
Some final words on the hike out option. It reduces the car shuttle to 5-10 minutes, and removes the risk of running out of water in the valley, which is a constant issue with creeks falling off the west flank and into the sequatchie valley. Though it eases logistics, it is a tough little 45 minutes, and if you aren't sure about the trail system and shuttle, wondering around in the dark all night with a kayak is not much fun. Do your homework!
Between 2nd and 3rd drop of Hot Pocket
Kirk on Hot Pocket
First drop of Pocket Pussy
2nd drop of Pocket Protector
First drop of Pocket Protector
Keith below Hot Pocket
Keith below Banana in my Pocket
Gauge on put in bridge
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