Tallulah, Georgia, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||150 fpm|
|Max Gradient||230 fpm|
|TALLULAH RIVER NEAR CLAYTON, GA|
|usgs-02178400||300 - 1000 cfs||V||21h23m||429 cfs (running)|
Despite all the hype and arm waving on this run it is not the killer creek that people keep making it out to be. We used to clean the trees out and it is hard and dangerous like any other class V but it is not any worse.
Put-in is about 2300 feet.
Takeout elevation about 2000 feet.
Most of that gradient drops in less than two miles between the campground above Coleman River and Coleman River Junction.
There are some nasty and dangerous drops on this river. Lots of undercuts. None of the drops are particularly huge. Nothing over about 8 feet tall, but this stretch is considerably more dangerous than the gorge downstream. Almost every drop contains a sieve or an undercut. If thats not enough there is a lot of really badly placed wood throughout the run.
The good news is that this run is roadside. The bad news is that lots of very good boaters have walked off this run. There are steeper rivers and there are harder rivers, this one is just dangerous. Something not unlike the Lower Meadow or Deckers in West Virginia. Be careful.
The run is very flashy. It goes up fast, and drops almost as fast. Don't expect it to hold
its water longer than a day or two. Getting on the Upper Tallulah while its going up has led to
some epic runs, and some destroyed gear.
Here is one account circa January of 1999. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
"Figured you'll hear about it soon enough, so I thought I'd put in in writing so everyone gets the same story...
Rusty, Clint, Kevin, and I were paddling the upper Talullah with Rodwell's friend Chad and Chad's friend Jason. We were scouting most rapids, as the water was fairly high and the lines were getting more difficult as we worked our way toward the takeout. We scouted a long continuous stretch of 4ish stuff that was starting to look 5ish in some places because of the narrow lines, pushy water, lodged logs, sieves, and undercut rocks (just about runs the gamut of undesirable elements).
When most of the party had run down, Rusty and I picked a line and Jason decided he would follow. Both Rusty and I had clean runs to the midpoint and eddied out. Kevin was still there, but the others had gone further down. I looked back up to wait for Jason and noticed he was having trouble in a particularly narrow slot we weren't even sure we'd fit through initially. I yelled to Russ and Kevin to hang out, Jason might be having trouble. When I looked back up, he was still in the same spot, seemed broached, and was bracing strenuously, like he was trying to keep his head up and was having trouble doing it.
I shouted that he was in trouble, and we all headed for the shore. As we ran back up the road, I noticed his paddle floating past us and knew he was probably out of the boat. "This was no place to be out of your boat" would be a terrible understatement. As we approached the pin spot, there was no sign of Jason. His boat was floating upside down in what appeared to be a recirculating eddy, but he wasn't in the eddy or on the shore. The middle of the stream was blocked by a house sized boulder that was surely undercut (and we won't even talk about the left line), so we started worrying that he was in there somewhere. I kept looking downstream to see if he'd swum past us and we just hadn't seen him, when I saw him surface in the eddy below the rock, about 10-12 feet downstream and floating face down.
We thought he was out, but he pushed his head up high enough for one breath and put his face back down in the water. I hit him with a rope, but wasn't sure he'd be able to hold onto it. He let it float beside him for a short distance and entering the water began to look like the only option, but he rolled over and grabbed the rope and I swung him into shore. Rusty and I pulled him out of the water and up onto a flat spot on the bank. His eyes were open, but were pretty glazed over, and he was obviously still dazed. He panted for a few minutes and started coming back around. So here's what had happened...
The small recirculating eddy was not what we thought it was. It was a sort of toilet bowl that took anything too heavy to sit on the surface and flushed it down (we estimated from the time it took sticks to surface Rusty dropped into it) maybe 8-10 feet and spit them out somewhere below the rocks downstream. We had scooted over this phenomenon unaware, but Jason had apparently hit a rock on the approach drop and lost his momentum. The recirculating action of the eddy pinned him to the undercut and held him there. He tried bracing out but couldn't, and once he flipped, there was no option but to punch - he couldn't roll upstream because of the current, and he couldn't roll downstream because of the undercut.
When he punched out, he realized something was wrong. The water was pushing him straight down instead of downstream. He held onto the rock, but was sucked back into the water. He was pulled in until just his hand was above the water, holding onto the rock. At that point, he decided he couldn't pull himself out, so his only option was to let go and take his chances on getting washed through the flume. From the timing, I'm guessing he was letting go at just about the same time Rusty and I were scrambling down the bank.
Well, he was #*&$% lucky, and there were no logs lodged in the hole (they certainly were lodged everywhere else). He passed through and surfaced just before he was about to lose consciousness. As we were pulling him out, he said he could hear us talking to him, but he had a large blind spot in the center of his vision from the lack of oxygen.
I tied into Rusty's rescue harness as he tried to get the boat out of the eddy. At one point, the boat stood up completely on end and spiraled down toward the hole until only about a foot of it was above the surface (and we're talking about a Freefall Lt here). We thought it was going to disappear completely down the hole, but it eventually popped back up and recirced until Russ got a hand on it. I later found his paddle in an eddy downstream.
BTW - We noticed the same hydraulic configuration about 100 yards downstream from that point as well, on the other side of the river.
We walked the rest of the run at that point, since the rapids (or should I say "rapid", since it was pretty much continuous from there to the trucks) were only getting more heinous as we went along - and everyone figured we'd used up about all the luck we were allowed for that day.
Oh yeah, Chad was in a two-point broach below all this at the same time Jason was swimming/caving. It's really an impressive stretch of water. ;-) "
Be careful out there
From Clayton go west on US 76. Take a right (North) on Persimmon Road. Go a few miles then take a left (west) on Tallulah River Road. Drive upstream past the confluence of the Coleman River til you see big drops. Put in above the scary stuff and take out below it. Its worth driving up to take a look at the run before setting shuttle.