Jennings Creek, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||V (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||200 fpm|
|Max Gradient||330 fpm|
Jennings Creek is a tributary of Stinking Creek, which drops into the Clear Fork of the Cumberland. The entire run herein described is in Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area, and may be subject to closures to certain user groups due to managed hunts and wildlife rest periods. For more information, chech out http://www.state.tn.us/twra/.
Jennings was first run in May of 2009. Due to the difficulty of logistics for hiking in, the large rains required, and unusual location, this run evaded a descent for a long time. The creek drops a total of 470 feet, with most of that occuring in the first mile and a half. While the steepest mile clocks in at 330 feet, the 1/3 mile on Jennings drops an average of 550 ft/mile, which yields a non-stop class 5 environment with big drops and little room for error. The remainder of the run after the confluence with Meadow Creek is on Stinking Creek, and this section drops 250 feet per mile through continuous quality class 4 boulder gardens with a blind and pushy feel. The overall continuity and pressure of this stretch creates a class 4+/5 environment with good flows. This run would not be much fun at low water, nor at high flows. Like many microcreeks, medium is what you are looking for.
This creek has a 1.5 mile hike in. Do not try to pull it off without bringing a detailed map with you and some orienteering skills. If you do the homework it is reasonable, and if you don't, expect to get lost quick. An awesome map can be found here: http://www.twraregion4.org/TWRAWmas/files/RoyalBlueOffRoadVehicalMapMarch2007TWRA.pdf
Starting from the top of Little Cumberland Mountain, take trail 12 to its juncture with trail 8. Take trail 8 down into the watershed for under a mile. The trail will cross a small rivulet, and then shortly after, Meadow Creek. Veer right at the crossing, climbing out the Meadow Creek up into the plateau again. After a few minutes, the trail will reach a swampy spot and turn a hard 90 degrees to the right and away from Jennings. Break off the trail here to the left and take it all the way to Jennings Creek. In the future, the best route may be marked. The off trail portion here is only a few hundred yards.
The creek is flat up top, but around a bend comes the first big drop, which is runnable, but screams around a turn into a gigantic landslide sieve that is comprised of house sized boulders. Portage this entrance drop and then the sieve on the right if possible, to set up for the first good drop below the sieve. Below the sieve is an island. To the left is another sieve, and to the right is an excellent 8 foot boof off of a ledge with hemlock branches hanging over it. A great first drop, but from here to Stinking Creek the creek is continuous with 6 drops of varying size and consequence.
Right below the boof, the creek pushes into Blind Tony, a steep and congested drop best run on the far left over a ledge, then through a tight slot, driving up on the left to stay out of the hole. It can also be run on the right through a very tight slot, but the left is safer.
Immediately after Blind Tony is Split Personality, a long and steepening slide with a boulder at the bottom splitting the flow. This rapid drops 20 feet. The right is clean and the left is a little scary looking. While a boat COULD make it through, it might not. This is a fast and crucial drop and the portage is on the right.
There is a small eddy below Split Personality on the right, but most of the flow slams down a tight corridor into the next big slide, Adult World, which drops around 20 feet. This is a fast slide with a tricky entrance. Enter center to avoid a crack on the right, and then fall off to the right, blasting a big hole at the bottom and planing while stroking away from a suspect boulder in the center.
After Adult World, the creek bends to the right and hits an excellent boof on in the center of the channel. Watch the hole at high flows.
The final drop of the run is The Chunnel, a brief experience in the art of undercut Tango. Drive with speed down the left side, keeping it left, away from a huge overhang that engulfs the whole creek. Meadow Creek spews in from the left through a 1 foot wide slot and Stinking Creek begins.
Stinking Creek has 1.3 miles of steep, congested, and blind boating similar to a smaller version of the West Prong or Big Creek. The moves are smooth, fun, and quality, with several boofs, s-turn rapids, slots, and busy features. While all of the rapids go, and are for the most part clean, there are maybe a few undercuts, and most dangerous are a few pieces of wood that are in play. While on the first descent no portages were neccesary, there was one limbo and one thread move to avoid some ill placed logs. This is classic heads up boating.
The last 3/4 mile of Stinking is flat, but there are two BARBED WIRE FENCES that span the creek all the way across. Don't let your guard down here, as the hardest class 5 on the run has nothing on barbed wire on your neck. This stretch occurs around the beginning of the powerline cut. Don't be complacent here.
Jennings Creek is the closest class 5 to downtown Knoxville, at only 40 miles away. It is hard to catch, and a little bit interesting to get to the put in, but it is a great little creek worth doing more than once, if the opportunity occurs more often. It is yet another creek to the north of town that opens up the paddling options when only northern Tennesssee gets the rain.