This photo needs editing.
Difficulty IV-V
Length 3.08 Miles
Flow Range 250 - 3500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 45 minutes ago 2.01 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 01/02/2017 2:21 pm

River Description

Little River is the premier whitewater river in Alabama. What makes it so good? Maybe it’s the incredible 10 mile long sandstone canyon it rumbles through, it could be the drinkable blue green water, and it is definitely the large distinctive rapids that crowd this run. Located atop Lookout Mountain just outside of Fort Payne AL, the canyon is divided by boaters into four sections, the Lower Canyon [ III-IV ], the Upper Mile [ IV ], the Upper Two [ IV-V ], and the Suicide Section [ IV-V ].

This is a large free flowing river with numerous side creeks that also contain quite a bit of quality whitewater. The natural flow often dries up to a trickle in the summer ,but in normal wet winters it will run from early winter all the way into May. It can run sporadically in the summer ,coming up on decent thunderstorms.


Canoeist began running the canyon in the 60’s. The lower canyon was a common destination for southeastern boaters through out the 70’s, though at that time it was considered “an expert run”. The upper canyon was considered unrunnable by the boaters who drove along side it on the winding canyon rim road on the way to the chairlift put-in. These early pioneers must have scouted the numerous big drops that can be seen from the overlooks with fear and anticipation.

Around 1972 or 73 a group from GA Tech made an exploratory run of the upper section. Even though no one was killed, many of the lower canyon regulars considered it a “suicide run”. The name stuck and is with us to this day.


The Suicide Section is indeed aptly named. No matter how many times I’ve run this, I always feel a little apprehensive at the put-in. The run is full of sieves, siphons, undercuts, and slots that you don’t want to go down. Many rapids have alternate routes that are seldom or never run. In addition to that there isn’t really an “easy” water level. At lower levels the run many of the rapids become tight slotty affairs with all the undercuts fully in play. At high levels this becomes a big brawling bad ass of a river with many stomping hammer spots waiting on the unaware. Lost and pinned boats are common at all levels. All this aside many of us who run this all the time count this as our favorite run, run it once and you'll be hooked.

The River

There are two different put-in options. One option is to put in above the AL-35 bridge and run the first big Plunge. This waterfall is usually run over the double drop on river left. Scout the falls and be careful. Boaters have been seriously injured at this rapid. During the dry season the falls have been measured to be 33 feet tall.

According to Brad Roberts "Most boaters I know that run the falls don't run them below 6 inchs on the bridge gauge. There have been some pins on the first ledge of the falls at flows lower than 6 inchs, and some seriously tweaked backs."

The second put in option is more popular than running the falls. This put in is a few hundred yards downstream on river right. A nice parking lot and a fairly easy trail lead to the river here.

Regardless of the put in choice the first rapids of note below the falls are some small rock gardens.In several hundred yards you arrive at a steep rock bound chute called Are You Ready {IV}. If however you find it seriously challenging consider hiking back to your car.

Less than an 1/8 mile from the first rapid is a riverwide ledge Blue Hole. This 8 foot ledge can form a huge hole at some high water levels but usually is an easy boof or ski jump near the river right side of the drop. A streamside trail on river left allows access to the Little river at this point.

From this point the Little River drops through a steep dangerous boulder clogged rapids called Mammoth (IV+) A huge house sized rock blocks the left side of the river bed the river crashes down a boulder field next to this rock with tree clogged slots falling off against and under the mammoth rock.This rapid is often avoided all together by taking a right side sneak that leaves the main channel and creeks around to end up on a big boof at the base of Mammoth. After a small pool a dangerous rapid named Terminal Eddy (IV) comes into view. While one of the smaller named rapids, this drop does have a rather ominous eddy with a large undercut near the bottom.

Almost immediately below Terminal Eddy is Avalanche, a class IV-V drop. Avalanche is the rapid most likely to be unrunnable at lower flows. Most boaters run the class IV left line in this rapid. Depending on water levels there are other options. Scout and portage on the left.

The river picks up and has several good class III and IV rapids below Avalanche for a hundred yards. However, when the power-line cables come into view you are almost at the top of Cable Falls. Cable Falls is a classic class V rapid. At most levels it consists of a narrow slot drop of about 12 feet at the top left followed by short moving pool and a launch pad. As with the other rapids on this run there are other routes at lower and higher flows. Both drops have some pinning and undercut potential. While it would be extremely difficult a boater and boat could be extracted here with a winch from the parking lot on river right. Scout Cable Falls from the left.

Almost immediately downstream is a class II rapid and the lead in to Pinball, a serious class V drop with a huge hole and nasty undercut. Pinball is often partially snuck then walked on river left but a river right option is sometimes available. Pinball is the last real rapid on the Suicide Section. A determined boater can hike up from the river on the right bank near the base of Pinball where a small creek flows down from the canyon rim.

From the base of Pinball the Little River almost takes on a lake like aspect and the flow becomes sluggish and uninteresting for almost a mile.

No real rapids exist between Pinball and the Upper Two put in.

While some boaters will hike or climb off the river at various points below Pinball the only really logical access points are the Chairlift and Canyon Mouth.

All rapids are runnable at an optimal water level. The gauge for the Little River is near Blue Pond, AL. This at the Canyon Mouth takeout and thus the flow is not always correlated to the river in the canyon or side creeks.

Will Reeves, Nov. 2002

Little River Canyon is located about 15 miles east of Fort Payne, Alabama off of Highway 35.

Atlanta, Georgia to Fort Payne, Alabama
Little River Canyon National Preserve
Take 75 North to Exit 125.
Turn left after exiting.
Follow road approximately 4 miles.
At the Red Light -- turn left -- then a quick right to Hwy. 411.
Follow Hwy. 411 to Rome, Georgia.
On the East side of Rome, leave Hwy. 411 to Hwy. 20.
Follow Hwy. 20 through Rome to the Alabama state line.
At the Alabama state line, Hwy. 20 turns into Hwy. 9.
Follow 6-7 miles to the intersection of Hwy. 35 to Fort Payne, Alabama.
Turn right on Hwy. 35.
Follow 16-20 miles to Little River Canyon National Preserve.
Little River Falls will be on your left immediately before the bridge.

SHUTTLE DIRECTIONS the Suicide put in is on the west side of the canyon, turn off AL 35 on the rim road it is the first parking area on the left.

The most foolproof shuttle is to follow the rim road south along the canyon to Eberharts Point [the old chair lift ] this is very scenic but slow and winding.

National Park Service page for Little River Canyon National Preserve.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - 5.3 Mile - 0

Blue Hole

Class - III Mile - 0.25
The first riverwide ledge and the last point for an "easy" hike back to the put-in.

Mammoth Rock

Class - IV+ Mile - 0.65
Rapid Thumbnail Missing
Boulder Garden

Terminal Eddy

Class - III+ Mile - 0.7


Class - IV+ Mile - 0.9

Cable Falls

Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.1


Class - 5.0 Mile - 1.2


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14 years ago

I think the guage has been fixed and is back to the old levels.

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Robert Maxwell
15 years ago

The Little River at Blue Pond gage was recalibrated after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Here is the new correlation for the Blue Pond gage and the Hwy 35 bridge gage. These levels should be considered in flux, because the Blue Pond gage will be recalibrated in the near future, as water levels permit. (3/1/05)

Blue Pond = 35 Bridge

500-650 cfs = -2.0
650-800 cfs = -1.0
800-1100 cfs = 0.0
1100-1300 cfs = 2.0
1400-1500 cfs = 4.0
1600-1700 cfs = 6.0
2000-2100 cfs = 7.0
2100-2200 cfs = 8.0
2600-2700 cfs = 12.0

I have an Excel 2000 spreadsheet that predicts the levels for Little River and several other rivers in the southeast. If you

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clay wright
16 years ago

Falls first run by Bo Eakens, right side run by the late Rich Weiss in a glass slalom boat (shallow). Bo and I ran 2 lines off the center around 13'' - still scrapey.

Some challenging lines:
Right to left line at Avalanche (through a narrow gap) - low flow only.

Left line at Cable Falls - very tight (low flow -only route)
Right line at Cable Falls (not too low, check for trees on this tight double drop).

Left to right at Cable Falls second drop - boof out from left bank into overhung cauldron driving hard right. ( Low flow only!) Right line kinda lands on your head.

Left lines (2) at top of Humpty Dumpty (top and bottom). Bad hole below very last left channel / slot.

Right line at top ot Humpty Dumpty (med-high flow) boofing through the crack.
Have fun -

Gage Descriptions

A gauge is painted on the Southeast corner of the bridge piling of the Hwy 35 bridge. Just upstream of Little River Falls. On the bridge gauge a reading of 0 or a few inches below zero is a low level. A reading of 1 foot is juicy. Seldom run above 1"

Thanks to Ted Hayes and John Reeves for putting up a new and more readable gauge next to the old one,this was a much needed improvement.

The USGS has an online gauge at Blue Pond at Canyon Mouth Park, the take out for the lower canyon.

AL Power Reservoir info line will also give a guage reading at the same site 800-525-3711 (1-800-Lakes-11), then 6, wait for warning message, then 2, 2.

According to local boater Bill Thornton:
"There seems to be a lot of questions about levels on LRC. Since I live 35 miles away and have been running this forever I thought I'd give my observations.

-6" to -2" Suicide is too low, most of the rapids are unrunnable, upper 2 is still pretty fair for play boating, decent splats and rock moves can be found for desperate boaters. Better call ahead for partners, crowds are sparse.

-2" to 0 " is a very doable though low level on the Suicide sec. Many rapids are harder and steeper at this level like, Are You Ready, Terminal Eddy, some are too low to run by their normal routes like, Cable Falls, Avalanche. There are a lot of under cuts in play at this level though there are no big holes and not much push, still over the years most accidents have happened in this range. Terminal Eddy is particularly dangerous at low levels. There will normally be a pretty good crowd of locals here if it is a nice day.

2" to 6" the river is filling in and the rapids open up to some degree. At the top end of this level holes are starting to get some punch. There will be a good crowd at this level, Locals, Atlanta, Chattanooga boaters crowding the river

7" to 1' Though some rapids are easier at this level, Terminal Eddy, Avalanche, most of the run is big and pushy. At the high end of this range the Suicide is quite serious with a lot of big holes and pushy water and little slack between rapids. This is the level that claimed Dale Adams at Road Block. Boaters are thinning out at the higher end of this level, people are dropping off to run creeks.

Above 1' Very serious, Large holes, lots of crazy shit running together. Hard to find anyone at the put-in, go run a creek.

Above 2' Seldom if ever run at these levels. Look for Alaska and Idaho boaters at the put-in.

2' to 5' the lower canyon is very nice at this level mostly big class 4 except for Bottle Neck. Very pushy, Very big waves and holes in a wide riverbed at upper range of this level"

Rob Maxwell has done a great job coming up with this conversion chart

-1 = 380 to 490 cfs
0 = 520 to 578 cfs
1 = 663 to 717 cfs
2 = 758 cfs
3 = no data points
4 = 873 to 950 cfs
5 = 940 to 1140 cfs
6 = 1135 to 1265 cfs
7 = 1220 to 1265 cfs
8 = 1350 to 1595 cfs
9 = no data points
10 = 1600 cfs
11 = 1580 cfs
12 = 2100 to 2240 cfs
13 = 2960 cfs

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2006-10-20 Low Fatality Other Read More




william w. thornton


Adam Goshorn


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1189863 01/28/06 william w. thornton n/a
1207102 01/02/17 Adam Goshorn