Rutherford Creek - Columbia Rock Road to Duck River


Rutherford Creek, Tennessee, US

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Columbia Rock Road to Duck River

Usual Difficulty I-II(III) (for normal flows)
Length 3.2 Miles

Rock Crusher


Rock Crusher
Photo taken 05/17/08 @ 8-10 inches



River Description

I'd like to offer a rule of thumb on rainfall, but there seems to be no standard that offers consistency. Sometimes a short afternoon shower can bring it up for a brief but runnable period. Sometimes it will just get muddy and not even offer to rise. When those good half-day rains come it will usually cooperate. Springtime rains can sometimes keep it runnable for a week at a time.Low levels are a small seal launch from the upstream side of the bridge.

There're some very slight ripples just a minute after the put in- sometimes things/ trees get hung there- but basically  it's a very insignificant float for the first few minutes.
Soon there will be bluffs on river right and you might notice an old car halfway submerged- actually there are two depending on river level and foliage. That means the first rapid is near- it can usually be heard a good way before you get there. This rapid is created from the man made dam used to hold back water for the rock crusher on river left- thus this rapid is called "Rock Crusher" or "Crusher Rapid," not hard to scout from boat and can be scouted from bank. The landowners are real touchy since it's a chemical plant that is under presuure from several groups and govt agencies to clean up "stuff" - so I wouldn't get on the bank if anyone's around. The road above was once used freely by locals to park and fish and now they press trespassing charges.

Depending on water level this one is always class II, sometimes II+ and in my humble opinion it reaches class III under the right circumstnaces. At lower levels the water funnels to river left and it's a downstream v with a little curl on rapid left. Good eddies on both sides. Pretty good place for enders and surfing, ferries, peel-outs and such. There are rocks that can bop your head if you flip- especially if you're to the right of the main current. At medium to high levels there a pretty good wave train that forms and it can extend all the way across the pool and under the next bridge- which is about 50 yards downstream. Another place to check for strainers.

Just around the bend and barely out of sight is "Side Surfer" - usually a small crease in the turn of the river that can provide a very easy side surf. It too changes with levels and can wash out with too much flow. The stream turns right quickly, and it empties into a big long pool.

The next rapid is also a man-made dam; it's not been used in years. There are two main lines- one river left through a little short rock jumble that scrapes at lower level. The right line is far right almost aginst the bank, kinda a swing around the farthest right-hand rock and either a quick eddy out or ride the short wavetrain for 20 feet. Depending on water levels again- this spot can offer play opportunities. Called "Little Dam," Class II or less.
The next good while doesn't have any rapids- some swift places and one RR bridge that has some rebar downstream just right of river center. At very low levels it can been seen poking in the worst possible way upstream. There's no reason for anyone to flip there but I stay to the left just becasue I know it's there and it can't normally be seen.

Time to mention a couple things for this non-rapid section. This stream has an abundance of wildlife: deer, ducks, turkeys, muskrats, beavers, geese, blue herons, snakes, turtles and I'm sure something is left out. If you're quiet, it's amazing that the amount of wildlife that has a sanctuary so close to Columbia. The other thing that has to be mentioned: this is one of dirtiest streams as I've ever seen. Trash everywhere.

Movin' along, the stream will start to narrow from its semi-wide slow-moving sections and there will be a 90 degree right turn into the "Canyon." This is a blind turn that cannot be scouted from the boat. I strongly advise getting out and scouting; the potential for a strainer in the canyon is real and would offer almost zero forgivness. Also, the Canyon is long and has a slight bend in it - the far end cannot be seen without some extra steps and effort-  if it's pumping I walk through whatever it takes to see where the canyon empties into a pool. I'd advise anyone to scout for sure on a first-time run. Once you've been there and know what it looks like then a low water day might not require a ton of beatin' the bushes.

The Canyon is again a man-made feature. I understand that it was blasted out sometime in the 40's or 50's. What it does is funnel the river into a rock canyon about 18 to 20 feet wide. The 90-degree turn makes a good hole type feature at the entrance- thus it's called "Entrance rapid."  It's easy to side-surf and tempting to stay for a while- the catch is that eddies are small at the best levels and nonexistent at most levels. Also, the Canyon is shallow at low to med levels and has a rock floor with lots of sharp cornered rocks waiting to smack the flipped boater. So I don't play much and just enjoy riding the Canyon. It can accelerate the flow pretty good and has a second place near the end that also tempts to surf. Class II under most circumstances, II+ maybe at higher levels. Flood stage is scary. Really- I don't want anyone to think I'm exaggerating to be conservative. Flood stage makes this insane and truly life-threatening should any hazards have lodged along the way.

The "Exit Rapid" is the premier playspot. A big recirculating pool as the water empties off a river-wide shelf makes for pretty decent sternsquirts and a great recovery pool. Eddy lines are funky and tend to build and crash. Class II or less
Again- this stream is so dynamic, with changes in water level and at this point the Duck comes into play. The Duck is very near and if the rain is recent and the streams are rising then this play spot is great. If the Duck has already risen it can back up this far into the Rutherford and make a big stillwater pool. The same can be true for the Canyon- sometimes it doesn't "run."

Leaving the "Exit Rapid" and the pool which is also called the "Swimming hole" the next short section has a few industrial hazards: bridge remains and pieces of steel and pipes.
Toward the end are the reamins of an old RR bridge- look up and to the left and there is a gazeebo left over from the days of the industrial site on river right. It's now crumbling and collasping but was once a lunch time getaway for those wroking on that side of the plant. 

By now the Duck is in sight. Dodge the growth and you'll see the big bridge that you parked near. Go river left and get out under the bridge. As at the put in, there are usually fishermen's paths. The climb up with the boat isn't very good. It's a touch treacherous. Well it's never very pleasant and if you pick the wrong line to climb up- it just plain sucks.
Walk under the bridge and walk on the upstream side of the bridge/ road to the waiting vehicle!

 The time actually on the river is about 2 hours or maybe a little more floating straight through at low to med levels. High levels make it go faster of course.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-12-20 15:46:25

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